We call it Transition Day

by Sandy Compton

In years when it can be arranged ­ and this was one of them ­ friends and I plan and carry out "Transition Day," a rite in which the trappings of winter are laid aside and those of coming, warmer times are bravely shouldered and carried into the field.

Transition Day doesn't happen every year. Timing must be right. Equipment must be stockpiled, uniforms coordinated, transportation arranged. Weather must be watched and prayed over. Wives, if we have them, must be apprised of plans.

These plans and traditions stem from what binds the souls and spirits of men ­ or in our cases, overgrown boys. They address our common passions, ignite our urge to dominate natural forces, fire our competitive spirits. These are the rare days of life when we brave the elements and the scorn of those who would think us foolish to ski in the morning and play golf in the afternoon.

So, you thought we were going off to fight the Klingons?

You might think so, if you knew the time and strategizing that go into Transition Day. It might go better next year if we hire an equipment manager. There are skis, poles, boots, clubs, bags, balls, shoes, parkas, Dockers®, polypropylene, goggles, tees, dark glasses, ski gloves and hats, golf gloves and hats. There are cars, lunches, dinners, tee times (changed at least three times), score cards, lift tickets, beverages, schedules and details enough to make a convention manager crazy.

In spite of it all ­ and because of it all ­ it is a fine way to begin the golf season, for it reminds us that golf really consists of the fine art of paying attention to 101 details while trying to have fun.

Golf is not a sport, a pastime or a pursuit as much as it is an endeavor. An endeavor is defined as "a conscientious or concerted effort toward an end; an earnest attempt." The end toward which the effort is extended is the placement of a small, hard ball into 18 successive holes separated by many yards of terrain that is often designed with the express purpose of keeping those engaged in the endeavor from accomplishing their end.

The tools golfers use in these "earnest attempts" seem sometimes to be designed with the same intent as the course, and the antics of the human body and mind in conjunction with such tools can lead to some of the most sublime moments of frustration ever conceived. They can also lead to some of the most satisfying moments ever conceived, and that is why, as they say, we keep coming back.

I am a better skier than golfer. For what reason, I don't know. (If I figure that out, I'll be a better golfer.) I play golf with very few people, people I trust to understand when the frustration is upon me and I begin growling and flaring my nostrils. In fact, there are many times when I say to these people, "That's it. I'm taking up something sane, like rock climbing."

I am pleased they are patient with me, because they also share in the moments of satisfaction; those times when something, anything, besides my drive, finally goes right; when the ball goes in the general direction I intend it to; when I actually make a putt of more than three feet.

It is in those moments, when endeavor has met success, that our friendship is stirred to joy; but it is in those other moments, when I can't buy a putt from outside 18 inches and every club I hit moves the ball at a 45-degree angle to the line of intent, that our friendship is sealed. It is then they say, "You know, Sandy, it's only seven months until ski season."

That's what I call friendship.

We've had several "spring transitions" since I began playing golf, including a day when the skiing was so bad, we made one run and opted for an extra nine holes. This year, after the winter we had, we needed a successful Transition Day, and we had one. On the mountain, it was cold enough to be January, and the snow was bullet-proof. On the course, my game alternated between bad and horrible, and the other guys' wheels came off on the back nine. As long as I can keep playing with these guys, I guess I'll keep playing, because, overall, we had a great time.

The point is not that misery loves company, but that the company made the misery worth it. That, and the three good shots I hit. Golf season is here again. n

Sandy Compton exercises his nongolfing talents as a writer and editor. He's also author of two books set in this area, Caleb's Miracle and Jacob's Passage, avaiable at local stores.

On local links

Following is a listing of area courses I can personally vouch for, listed in order of their distance from Sandpoint.

Elks Golf Club of Sandpoint: A user-friendly 9-hole course on the outskirts of Sandpoint, reasonably priced and nicely groomed. Big challenges are four long holes with tight right out-of-bounds, and retrieving balls without violating "no-hunting" rules on No. 3. Coolest features: a good, friendly pro and the best golf-'til-you-drop twilight rate around. 208/263-4321

Hidden Lakes: Sandpoint's own 18-hole "monster course." Water on 17 holes, a beautiful natural setting and challenging layout. It's hard to hit out of bounds, but finding a misplayed ball can take weedwhackers or scuba gear. Biggest challenge is No. 11, a par 5 with water where the second shot should land. Best feature: The moose. 208/263-1642

Mirror Lake: A 9-hole wonder at Bonners Ferry. Play this one twice, because after your first nine, you'll want to see if you can do better. Big challenges are the hard, slick, undulate greens, and the 7 out of 9 fairways that slope one way or another. Best feature: Reasonable green fees. 208/267-5314

Stoneridge Golf Course: 18 holes with a split personality just west of Idaho State Highway 41 at Blanchard, designed by Jim Kraus. A wide-open front nine sets you up for a trip into the timber on the back. Big challenge is adjusting your game at the turn to keep out of the woods. Best feature: It's remote enough to make me think I'm on vacation in another state. 208/437-4682

Thompson Falls Golf Club: 90 minutes east on Highway 200, this 9-hole course in Montana is worth the drive. It's set in the trees along the Clark Fork River with spectacular scenery and some very tough holes. Big challenges are small, fast, sloping, elevated greens and getting to No. 5 with some remnant of your sanity intact. Best features: No crowds, low fees. 406/827-3438

Finally, here are courses I haven't played, but that shouldn't be held against them:

Twin Lakes Golf Course is 18 holes south of Stoneridge on Highway 41. 208/687-1311.

The Ranch Club Golf Course is west of Priest River on Highway 2 with 9 holes. Phone 208/448-1731

Rimrock Golf Course is a new 9-hole, par-3 course between Athol and Coeur d' Alene on Highway 95. 208/762-5054

Priest Lake Golf Course has 9-holes just west of Priest Lake on Highway 57. 208/443-2525

­ Sandy Compton

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