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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Thursday, July 2, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports

A Grip on Sports: The local golfing scene welcomes another scenic, and practical, addition

An aerial photo shows the newly opened clubhouse at The Idaho Club in Sandpoint.  (Idaho Club/Courtesy)
An aerial photo shows the newly opened clubhouse at The Idaho Club in Sandpoint. (Idaho Club/Courtesy)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Any list of the best sports-related items around the Inland Northwest has to include the abundance of outstanding golf courses. The area features challenging and scenic tracks that range from the Palouse to near the Canadian border. In some ways this is a golfing paradise.

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• What made us think of that? Is it the pandemic, which has made it tougher to get out and play in 2020? That’s part of it. But that’s not the No. 1 reason today. That comes courtesy of our friend Jim Meehan, the S-R’s long-time golf writer.

Jim’s column this week isn’t about a round or a hole or even a course. It’s about the newest clubhouse in the area, the wooden palace that is now open at The Idaho Club.

If you are unfamiliar with it, there is good reason for that – other than it’s recent opening.

The Idaho Club has roots in the Sandpoint area that date back to the mid-1980s, when the course, then known as Hidden Lakes – an apt name if there ever was one – opened with a double-wide mobile home as the clubhouse. But who cared? The course was good enough, and challenging enough, to overcome any eyesore factor when you paid your green fees.

And it’s even better today.

That’s because the course was redesigned and reworked by Jack Nicklaus before reopening as The Idaho Club in 2008. It’s the only Nicklaus signature course in the state and contains touches he holds dear.

The truly signature one? Subtle gradations on the greens. Play the course and you’ll understand. Sure, the Pack River’s influence is obvious. The forced carries. The tight fairways. Heck, even the occasional moose. But the greens. Now those are sublime.

Nicklaus is proud of such things. How do I know? He talked about them when he was in the early stages of rebuilding the course, back in 2006. I was lucky enough to visit with him on one of his trips to the area back then, as he walked the course, stood on what would be the greens and personally directed changes, whether it be shaving down a bit of a slope or adding a small, hard-to-discern depression where it wasn’t to be expected.

At that point the club had a beautiful clubhouse, replacing the trailers that greeted players back in the early days. The wooden clubhouse from that era fit in well with the backwoods nature of the course. But nearly a dozen years ago it basically disappeared, consumed in a fire that left, as Jim says in his column, rubble.

But now it’s been replaced. With something even grander, befitting an even grander course.

There are traditional courses in Spokane. There are rolling links-type courses nearby. There are resort courses scattered throughout the hills and backcountry. And there is this gem hard by Lake Pend Oreille in Bonner County, made even more memorable by its newest feature.

Golf in this area is hard to beat.

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WSU: John Olerud is, obviously, the best baseball player in Washington State history. You can also argue he is also one of the best college baseball players ever. But what is unarguable is his place as a two-way player at the college level. No one has ever been better as a pitcher and a hitter. He’s the Babe Ruth of the college ranks. Theo Lawson has this story on Olerud’s WSU career, which was just recognized as the best two-way career in the sport. … Looking for a football fix? My friend, and former Washington State beat writer, Christian Caple examines the upcoming season in depth for The Athletic. … Morgan Weaver made her professional debut as the NWSL returned to action yesterday. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and college sports, the name of the rivalry game with Oregon isn’t Oregon State’s biggest issue right now. … It seems Under Armour is having buyer’s remorse concerning its gargantuan marketing deal with UCLA. Well, too bad. … We can pass along another introduction of a Colorado assistant coach. … An Arizona State assistant has some Spokane ties. … In basketball news, Utah has undergone a lot of roster churn recently. … Arizona is making an addition to its Ring of Honor. … No matter what happens this year, the college sports landscape will probably change.

Gonzaga: Around the WCC, the University of San Diego added another transfer earlier this week.

Preps: Inspirational stories often have, at their core, something no one else would want to undergo. Such is the case with Brandon Thomas’ inspirational story. As Ryan Collingwood tells us, the Central Valley High football player is dealing with bone cancer. It was bad enough it has cost him his right leg.

Mariners: Could this be the season the M’s make it to the World Series? Hey, it could happen. Though, I’m guessing if they get close, the pandemic would force another shutdown.

Golf: As we said, we have fond memories of the Idaho Club. Jim may have them as well. Though there is enough water around the course to make that debatable for anyone. What we’re sure of is he has a golf column today about the course’s new clubhouse. We linked it above and again here.

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• Where did the warmth go? Woke up this morning to the cat trying to get under the covers. It wasn’t being friendly. It was just freezing. Until later …

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