Despite an extremely successfully 2023 event at Olympia Fields, the BMW Championship is currently not scheduled to return to the Chicagoland area. Tournament sites have been announced for Colorado, Maryland, Missouri and New Jersey through 2027.
That means a stroke play event on the PGA Tour will not be contested in the Chicagoland area until 2028 at the earliest. The 2026 President’s Cup will be contested at Medinah Country Club.
Liberty National Golf Club in New Jersey, which overlooks the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline, is scheduled to host the 2027 BMW Championship and has attracted numerous high profile professional tournaments since its opening in 2006. The club has hosted the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour and the President’s Cup.
A Downtown Chicago Golf Course
Nearly a decade ago, the idea of combining Jackson Park and South Shore golf courses into a single entity began to take shape. With the success of Liberty National, the idea of having a world-class facility located on the lakefront with beautiful views of our great city seemed to make sense as a way to attract premier professional events.
However, when the Obama Foundation pulled back from previously-discussed plans to merge two golf courses on Chicago’s South Side into a Tiger Woods designed course near the Obama Presidential Center, the new lakefront golf course project was put on hold. But with the help of artificial intelligence, we thought it might be fun to see what a course on the shores of the great lake might look like.
Tiger Woods Involvement
Initially, TGR Design, a design firm led by iconic golfer Tiger Woods, agreed in 2016 to consolidate the existing 18-hole Jackson Park and nine-hole South Shore golf courses into one course meeting PGA Tour standards. The collaboration came about after a call from President Obama to Woods.
The team was to be led by NBC Golf Channel Analyst and award winning golf course developer, Mark Rolfing, who was to serve as the President and Founder of the Organization.
The ambitious $70 million project had garnered mixed reactions from local residents. Environmental concerns and worries about making the courses financially inaccessible to long-time, local golfers were voiced.
Then Valerie Jarrett, CEO of the Obama Foundation, clarified to Crain’s Chicago Business that the foundation has stepped back from these stagnant golf course plans, stating that she had only heard “rumors” of the project still being under consideration.
Courtney Williams, a spokesperson for the Obama Foundation, did state that the foundation is now “singularly focused” on the completion of the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park, targeted for 2025. Williams added that the foundation remains committed to community investment projects.
Mayoral Support Wanes
The redesign of the golf courses has been at a standstill for years, with initial enthusiasm from former Mayor Rahm Emanuel waning. Fundraising obstacles and lukewarm support from political leaders like former Mayor Lori Lightfoot have also contributed to the project’s stagnation.
Local Alderman Desmon Yancy, representing the 5th Ward, noted the community’s lack of clarity on the status of the golf course plans and suggested a comprehensive dialogue with the neighbors if the project were to proceed.
In 2023 a local advisory referendum showed strong support for preserving existing green spaces in the area, which would have been affected by the golf course revamp. The proposed design would have required altering the South Shore Nature Sanctuary.
“It’s evident that there’s a lack of community understanding regarding the golf course plans,” Alderman Yancy said. Yancy suggested a “pause” and a thorough process of community engagement if the project were to move forward.
Controversy flared in 2019 when Alderman Leslie Hairston, Yancy’s predecessor, falsely declared that the South Shore Nature Sanctuary was “dead,” causing an uproar among locals.
The Original Vision
The South Shore & Jackson Park Golf Course Restoration project was to include not only include the 18-hole championship Tiger Woods golf course but also ultra-modern practice facilities. The Jackson Park Golf Course was the first public owned golf course in the whole of the Midwest. It was highly underused until 1920, and by 1925, the course was named the world’s busiest golf course.
The idea to revamp these historic golf courses is not a new one – Jackson Park was opened in 1899 while South Shore Golf Course was opened in 1907 mostly as a framework plan initiated by the Park District in 2000 which contained several ideas for the South Lakefront area, one of which being upgrading the two golf courses.
The Chicago Park District is responsible for six public golf courses, namely; Sydney Marovitz, Jackson Park, South Shore, Columbus Park, Marquette Park and Robert A. Black. A practice facility/driving range at Diversey Range, a driving range at Jackson Park and a practice facility at Douglas Park.