Tiger Woods Golf Course In Jackson Park Loses Support

The Obama Foundation recently pulled back from previously-discussed plans to merge two golf courses on Chicago’s South Side into a professional-grade course near the future Obama Presidential Center. The ambitious $70 million project has garnered mixed reactions from local residents. Environmental concerns and worries about making the courses financially inaccessible to long-time, local golfers have been voiced.

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.

Last week, 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Williams, a spokesperson for the Obama Foundation, did not directly address whether the foundation had officially withdrawn its support for the golf project. Williams 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.

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.

Last year, 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.

Past enthusiasm for the project has dimmed, with no significant progress since the Obama Presidential Center’s groundbreaking in 2021. The plans had initially been viewed as a likely priority after the center’s commencement, but movement has been minimal.

“It’s evident that there’s a lack of community understanding regarding the golf course plans,” Alderman Yancy said in May. 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 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.


Walter Lis

Walter Lis is the managing editor of Chicago Golf Report. Launched in 2010, Chicago Golf Report is the most visited website on Chicago golf and is one of the top ten most popular local golf websites in the country. We are a digital-only news and information resource covering everything golf in Chicago and its suburbs, providing the latest news about local golf facilities, golf events, golf instruction and even golf business.

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