This I Believe: Honesty is the Best Policy

Feb 25, 2020

My truthfulness could have cost us a trip to the Illinois State Tournament. Golf is a game of integrity. In tournaments, players track their own scores, as verified by their opponent playing partners. Golfers typically play in groups of four with all four players from different competing schools.

ln 2018, my golf team was competing at Regionals, striving to advance to Sectionals. Only the top three teams advance. The rules of golf are straight forward. If you break a rule, penalty strokes are imposed. A primary rule is that players cannot change the location of the ball from where it stops. Golfers must play the ball where it lies. However, when the weather is bad and course conditions are poor, some rules can be modified by tournament organizers for that day only. 

A common rule modification for wet conditions is "lift, clean, and place." This rule allows golfers to pick up their ball, remove debris, and place it within 6 inches of the original position before hitting the next shot. At the start of the tournament, the rules official made an announcement to my group as we approached the first tee. He said because of conditions, we were allowed to "roll" the golf ball. The term "roll" is sometimes used in noncompetitive casual play to refer to "lift, clean, and place." In the official golf rules, there is no such thing as a “roll." The players in my foursome utilized “lift, clean and place" on the first hole.

After one hole, the coach from a different team told us there had been some confusion and we were not allowed to "roll" or "lift, clean, and place." Five hours later, after finishing the 18th hole, we headed to the scorer's table. I sat down at the table to verify the scores in my foursome. The scorer stated that despite the confusion, anyone who had used "lift, clean, and place" would be penalized one stroke per use.

I had a choice. In golf, every stroke matter. I could lie like some other players. Honesty could mean our season would come to an end. But, as an Eagle Scout, I had a duty to live by the Scout Oath and Law. The first point of the Scout Law is "a Scout is Trustworthy." The Scout Oath concludes with a promise to keep myself "mentally awake and morally straight."

I self-imposed the penalty stroke on my card. I chose to be honest about my “lift, clean, and place’ despite the confusion and pressure to have a lower score. While it was difficult to accept a penalty under those circumstances, I maintained my integrity, which is more important than winning. Fortunately, my team still advanced to Sectionals despite our penalty strokes.

My experience at Regionals reminded me that golf (like life) is about integrity. Honesty, while difficult at times, is always the best policy. At the end of the game and throughout our lives, it is our trustworthiness and integrity that really matter.