Some games have foul lines. On or inside, the ball is in play. (baseball)
Some games have touch lines. On or inside, the ball is live. (soccer)
The ruling is made by an official with regard to the ball and not the player. Unless you’re playing pick up ball, where the loudest and most authoritative kid usually prevails.
But golf is different. Golfers contend with two kinds of lines: boundaries and hazards. Hit it out of bounds and all is lost – stroke, distance, plus penalty – although you might be able to rescue your golf ball. But hazards you can play out of, if you dare.
They pose an interesting challenge:
- is it safe?
- is it wise?
- is it fair?
Golfers regularly navigate hazardous territory. Errant golfers more than the rest. We trudge through long, bug-infested, reptile-inhabited grasses, foraging for our ball. If we find it, we’re gonna try and play it. Even if this is unwise or the shot is low probability. Without grounding our club, we’re going to blast it out of the muddy water, drive it through the reeds, and sail it up and onto the green. So what if our shoes, socks and outerwear are decorated with goose poop. We got it out!
I have enjoyed watching players at the Junior PGA Championship this week.
8 fairway, from the tall grass
They have me reminiscing about my heyday, which bears little resemblance to the way these kids play. Nearly always, they hit the fairway. It gets more interesting when they land in a hazard. Then they must elect whether to play it or take a drop.
Dropping it is safe, but it costs you a stroke. Playing it is risky, but it doesn’t. In the hazard, they decide. I love this moment for these kids (score and outcome aside). It offers them something our culture rarely does – a gray moment all their own.
So much for us is black and white and safe all over. Fair or foul. In or out. Rulings move the game along. But what of stepping over the barrier and into the hazard? What of stepping through difference to investigate options? What of stepping beyond comfort to engage whoever and whatever we find there?
Today I read this from inward/outward:
Breaking down the barriers between the givers and the receivers of aid, between those who have and those who have not, is an essential expression of the solidarity that liberates the privileged from their blindness and the marginalized from their invisibility. ~ Theodore W. Jennings, in Good News to the Poor
Have we mistaken the hazard markers for out of bounds stakes? We, the “haves,” who know that OB stakes are white and hazard markers are red, are not meant to be blind to color but to see all of life in its shades. It’s so very like God to use a gray zone to sharpen our vision:
is it safe?
is it wise?
is it fair?
Those, we’re meant to distinguish. Out of bounds? nope. Hazardous? perhaps. Worth it?