Jackson Park from the air.  (Courtesy of the Chicago Parks Golf Alliance ) The view of Lake Michigan from the 14th fairway at Jackson Park Golf Club in Chicago.  (Courtesy of the Chicago Parks Golf Alliance ) An aerial view of the nine-hole South Shores course.  (Courtesy of the Chicago Parks Golf Alliance ) The Western Golf Association helped Jackson Park establish a caddy program in 2017.  (Courtesy of the Chicago Parks Golf Alliance ) The most recent updated plans for Jackson Park.  (Courtesy of Chicago Parks Golf Alliance)

The future of Jackson Park: Tiger Woods ready to revitalize golf in south Chicago

The Obama Presidential Center. A Tiger Woods golf course. Major road reconstruction. New walking paths and natural areas.

Yes, the plans to revitalize Jackson Park along Lake Michigan on Chicago's South Side are grandiose. And, in legalese, that means years, not months, of discussion, planning and construction.

We-Ko-Pa Jackson Park's future plans as of March 23

In that vein, this link will be live throughout the entire process. Keep it bookmarked, and as news breaks, check back regularly for updated information.

Woods spoke about the project during The Masters in April.

To outsiders, the plans for Woods to transform the Jackson Park Golf Club and nearby nine-hole South Shore Golf Course into an 18-hole championship course worthy of major events seem to be mired in political bureaucracy. To insiders like Brian Hogan - a local attorney who co-founded the Chicago Parks Golf Alliance with NBC Sports announcer Mark Rolfing to raise funds for the project - momentum is moving in the right direction. Rolfing spoke with Woods about the project in May after seeing him at the Tiger Jam in Las Vegas.

"We believe this is the right thing to do, in terms of recreation, aesthetics and economics, so let's take our time and make sure we do it right," Hogan said. "Combined with the Obama Presidential Center, this is a monumental opportunity."

We-Ko-Pa Proposed Tiger Woods routing at Jackson Park

A major obstacle was hurdled in February when Beau Welling, Woods' chief designer, presented a revised routing that addressed several key community concerns:

  1. The clubhouse was moved, allowing golfers to return after nine and 18 holes, a necessity for golfers who only want to play nine holes.
  2. More natural areas - from 5 1/2 acres to 11 1/2 acres - will be created to appease environmentalists.
  3. New footpaths and trails will lead to greater access for the local community. Developers hope the clubhouse becomes an important part of the neighborhood.
  4. It was reiterated that green fees for children ages 17 and younger would be free and locals would pay less than $50 to play 18 holes.

"I've never seen him more excited for a golf course," Welling said. "I think Tiger set out (in design) to be involved in meaningful golf projects. I can't remember a project, or know one, that has as much potential as this one does."

On April 11, the Chicago Park District’s Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the full South Lakefront Framework Plan - launched in June 2016 to comprehensively review proposals for the Obama Presidential Center, golf course and all surrounding park features. Although it passed as expected, there's still much work to be done behind the scenes before any shovels hit the ground.

It's likely that local golfers will play on this summer without interference, while more meetings unfold. Jackson Park, a par 70 of 5,444 yards, dates to 1899. South Shore, a par 33 of 2,733 yards, dates to 1906. Both have ties to Tom Bendelow and solid reviews on Golf Advisor.

A 2016 review by user 'msronce in 2016 summed up the Jackson Park experience perfectly, writing: "It's the only 18-hole course in the city. Staff is friendly. There was no cart attendant on Sunday and without a turn near the club house you can get hungry/thirsty. It's average at best but allows you to get a round in without traveling to the burbs. I would recommend to a friend with the above qualifications."

User dannyhs called South Shore the "Wrigley Field of golf in Chicago", writing in his 2016 review: "What a great fun little course. Priced right too! There's really nothing to complain about here. What negatives there are, the atmosphere and convenience make up for it. Parking lot, cashier, 1st and 9th (holes) all located together. Good practice area near the shore with bunkers, and greens to warm up or practice. Lots of views of Lake Michigan, Chicago and Indiana. Lots of history in this place, architecture and course have a lot fun facts hidden in them."

This season, Jackson Park will expand its youth caddie program that launched last year. The $40 caddie fees are subsidized by the Western Golf Association, Hogan said, meaning golfers who request a caddie only pay the tip.

How soon construction moves forward depends on a number of factors, notably the approvals and funding for the Obama Presidential Center and the construction of a $25-million underpass to fix traffic safety issues leading to Jackson Park. The projects by Woods and Obama are intertwined in many ways.

"President Obama and Mrs. Obama don't just want to build a building," Hogan said. "They want a vibrant space for career development and cultural entertainment. We think about the course the same way. That's why the WGA is involved with the caddie program. There are many themes that line up. There won't be any less permitting (for the course) with or without the Obama Foundation (and Presidential Center). Has it drawn more attention to the project? Yes, in a good way. You have the star power of President Obama and Tiger Woods, but this has always been a grassroots and community project."

Mar 15, 2018

Join the conversation

Post a comment 

Tom Jordan's avatar
Tom Jordan wrote at 2018-04-23 02:40:05+00:00:

With his comeback, Tiger Wood's cachet is on the rise. The park district would be crazy not to go forward with this project.

Related Links

Jason Scott Deegan

Senior Staff Writer

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 700 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Twitter at @WorldGolfer.