uncluttered soul

finding peace in the midst of chaos

When Life Presents Us With An Unplayable Lie


“We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.” -Charles R. Swindoll


I enjoyed a round of golf the other day with a few good friends.

Having worked hard all week it was nice to relax, and forget for a few hours the demands of everyday life.

We gathered for the assault on the practice range, where errant shots are soon forgotten, and confidence is bolstered for the ensuing battle. Yes, I do mean battle.

Unfortunately, what takes place on the first tee seldom resembles the Tigeresque shots created in the inconsequential environment of practice.

We teed off just a few minutes before 7 am, under beautiful blue Arizona skies, armed with cold beverages and a strengthening spirit of friendly competition.

As in life, each golfer’s end result manifests solely from an individual desire, intent, and skill or lack thereof, required to create the necessary shot. Fittingly, the first shot was straight down the middle of the fairway. The second was short and right, the next long and left, and then mine sailed obediently toward the second fairway.

Now you may be wondering why my tee shot landed in the second fairway when I was playing the first hole. I’d love to tell you that it gave me a better angle for my approach shot to the green, but golf is an undertaking that relies substantially on an individual’s honesty.

So, given my skill as a golfer, and my respect for the game of golf, the truth is simply that I have an idea about where my ball should go, but it usually ends up somewhere else.

A bit like life no? No matter how much we learn, practice and apply, satisfactory results are never guaranteed.

For those that don’t play, I must tell you that golf can be very frustrating. For those that do, need I say more?

What I enjoy about golf is that in every round there will be without fail a shot that is worthy of a highlight reel. It will awe your opponents, put a smile on your face, and inspire you to pursue the madness again in the future.

It comes unexpectedly, and makes all of the dubious shots of your round unimportant.

It is always a moment to savor.

Even Tiger Woods puts his tee shot in the water at times, and while lesser skilled golfers like me continue to explore the outlying expanses of golf course design, lesser skilled golfers like me will continue to create individual moments of magic.unplayable

As in life, we will also explore the inevitable consternation of an unplayable lie.

I didn’t waste any time.

My approach shot to the second hole landed just on the edge of a green side bunker that I wasn’t aiming for, and created a few moments of laughter for everyone.

As in life, it was an unforeseen bump in the road that had to be dealt with.


Here’s a peek inside the USGA rulebook:

Rule 28. Ball Unplayable

The player may deem his ball unplayable at any place on the course, except when the ball is in a water hazard. The player is the sole judge as to whether his ball is unplayable.

If the player deems his ball to be unplayable, he must, under penalty of one stroke:

a. Play a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played (see Rule 20-5); or

b. Drop a ball behind the point where the ball lay, keeping that point directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind that point the ball may be dropped; or

c. Drop a ball within two club-lengths of the spot where the ball lay, but not nearer the hole.

If the unplayable ball is in a bunker, the player may proceed under Clause a, b or c. If he elects to proceed under Clause b or c, a ball must be dropped in the bunker.

When proceeding under this Rule, the player may lift and clean his ball or substitute a ball.

Penalty for Breach of Rule:
Match play – Loss of hole; Stroke play – Two strokes.


Golf is a game of strict rules, yet, as the old cliche proclaims, “rules were meant to be broken”. One has only to turn on the evening news to see the rampant disregard for rules in our world.

Yet, golf  has a way of encouraging the integrity of an individual, and every setback on the course provides another opportunity to understand the importance of, and practice of, honesty.

The player is the sole judge as to whether his ball is unplayable.

Well, this was indeed an impossible situation, and a very easy one to judge. I don’t think even a professional golfer would have risked injury by attempting to advance this ball from where it lay. Honesty was not a choice here. It was the only solution.

But what if I did have a choice? Life, being all about choices, continually offers up temptation to bend, or even break the rules.

I could have quietly improved my lie, and chipped in for birdie.  After all it’s just a friendly game of golf. A bit like sitting at a red light at midnight. No cars in either direction. Who’s it going to hurt?

Or, I could have taken a drop and the 1 stroke penalty, chipped on to the green, and two-putted for a 6.

Either way, the choice, and responsibility for that choice, were mine, and mine alone.

So! Next time you find yourself in a situation with seemingly tame or nonexistent consequences, explore the opportunities that mindful choices create. Revel in responsibility.

Nine Ways To Experience A Red Light At Midnight

1: Wait until it turns green. You knew this had to be #1. So what do you do? Get upset because of the delay, disregard the intent completely, or find ways to immerse yourself  in the moment?

2: Smile, close your eyes, and breathe. Be thankful for the opportunity to find some solitude in your busy life, and use the few moments to relax and reflect.

3: Pray. Assemble your thoughts with a thankful heart, and present them to your God. He/She is always listening.

4: Call someone you love, and tell them how much you love them. Kindly pay attention to time zones.

5: Look for the Big Dipper. How many times in your life have you scoured the heavens in search of the Great Bear? It never gets old, and almost always leads to further exploration.

6: Change the radio station to one that you haven’t listened to. Open your quieted mind to something new and different.

7: Ask yourself this question, “If the whole world were to follow me, would I be pleased with where I took it?”.

8:  Imagine that you’re the only person left on earth. Not only is the intersection deserted at midnight, but the world as well. Could you have done better in your relationships?

9: Replay in your mind the miraculous tee shot on the 14th hole. Commit what you see to memory, and embrace the eagerness to do it again.

It’s been said that golfers who possess a current USGA Rule Book fall into one of three categories.

1: They carry the book in their golf bag, understand its intent, interpret and apply its rules correctly.

2: They carry the book in their golf bag, and freely offer it to assist another golfer in interpreting the rules correctly.

3: They leave the book somewhere, and forget about it.

Whatever way you interpret life, the choice is always yours, and yours alone.


August 12, 2011 - Posted by | thoughts

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