Unveiled: High marks for stunning design of Jackson Park-South Shore restoration
By Ed Sherman
The supreme challenge for any golf course designer is to serve the extremes in golf.
Confronted with a piece of property, the designer must have the vision and imagination to create a course that will test the best of the best players in the world, the .0001 percent of the elite. At the same time, the layout must be made fun and enjoyable for players who dream of breaking 100, and all points in between.
And oh yes, the designer also must deliver an 18-hole experience that is truly memorable, leaving golfers of all abilities longing for a return round.
Tiger Woods’ TGR Design has achieved those goals, and then some, with its design for the 18-hole renovation of the Jackson Park and South Shore courses. The Chicago Parks Golf Alliance and TGR Design representatives unveiled the proposed layout Wednesday night during a public meeting at the South Shore Cultural Center.
Let’s just say 2020, the year of the targeted debut for the course, can’t come soon enough after seeing TGR’s plans. A golfer’s imagination truly is in overdrive in trying to envision the final result.
Among the highlights:
–The par 70 course will have six sets of tees. They stretch to a meaty 7,354 yards for PGA Tour-caliber tournament players to 2,989 yards for newcomers to the game. The majority of players will play from tee boxes at either 6,722 or 6,126 yards. Tee box No. 4 is at 5,582 yards, closely replicating the 5,508 yards at the current Jackson Park set-up.
–You want memorable? How about five new holes on what currently is the South Shore course. It includes two signature par 3s that hug Lake Michigan. There isn’t another 18-hole course South of Whistling Straits that has more views of the water, and few anywhere in the world for that matter. Have your cell phone cameras ready.
–Speaking of views, at many points on the course, golfers will be able to take in the Chicago Skyline and the new Obama Presidential Center. Several tee boxes and greens also will be elevated to dramatically enhance those vistas of the city at its finest.
–Recreational players will enjoy playing much wider fairways and larger greens than the current Jackson Park/South Shore configurations. However, for the elite player, the design puts a premium on placing your ball on the right spots on those fairways and greens. The design also provides for many different angles and shot options to attack a hole.
–The design highlights and enhances the parkland aesthetics of the current layout. There also is a conscious effort to preserve the boundary trees that give a distinct look to Jackson Park holes.
–Besides the 18-hole course, there also will be a six-hole “Family” course with holes ranging from 50 to 85 yards. The current Cecil A. Partee Clubhouse will be renovated into a year-round golf learning center, complete with indoor simulators and putting greens. These facilities will provide the perfect venue to introduce new players to the game.
Let’s break down the design even further:
The front 9 provides some challenges right out of the gate. From the back tees, three of the first four holes are par 4s in excess of 448 yards; No. 3 is a 504-yard par 4. Those holes also will be plenty tough from tee boxes 2 and 3.
Combined with a 197-yard par 3 second, the first three holes form a triangle around Jackson Park.
TGR then varies the pace with No. 5, a potentially drivable 334-yard par 4. This keeps in line with one of the signature features of the design; a mix of short and long par 4s. The idea is to stimulate the golfer’s brain with risk-reward options. Do you try to drive the green? Or is the better approach to lay up to a certain distance and use a wedge for the second shot?
At 163 yards, the 8th hole is a tricky par 3 over water. If you miss the green on the left, there is a contoured run-off area that will give players the option of hitting various shots in an attempt to save par. These run-off areas are a nice feature of the design.
After the par 4 9th hole, golfers then will use a tunnel under Marquette Drive to play the next five holes on the South Shore portion of the course. It gets your attention right away with a 514-yard par 4 10th hole that run adjacent to South Shore Drive.
Veteran South Shore players, though, will notice an immediate difference in these holes: Wider fairways and bigger greens.
The fairways at South Shore currently average about 20 yards wide. South Shore’s greens average 2,420 square feet.
How about this for a comparison: For the 2015 U.S. Open at Oakmont, one of the hardest courses in the world, the average fairway width were 26 yards. Pebble Beach is famous for its small greens, which are about 3,600 square feet on average. And South Shore is much smaller on both fronts.
So regular South Shore players will welcome wider landing areas and larger targets for the greens. However, keep in mind that also means more options for pin positions, opening up the possibilities for 3-putts if you’re not on the right spot on these greens. The golf Gods giveth and taketh away.
The heart will start pumping a bit faster when golfers hit the par 4 11th. They will tee off by South Shore’s stable building. Then once they get to their balls on the fairway, they will be struck with their first stunning view of Lake Michigan. They will have to re-focus quickly to hit a downhill approach shot in the green.
Up next is the 12th, which has the potential to be one of the best par 3s in the world. It is a 211-yarder that hugs the lake on the right side. It is at the furthest point on the course, giving the feel as if you’re out on a separate peninsula. Quite simply, this hole is why you love golf. The experience will leave an indelible impression in your golf memory bank.
But wait, it doesn’t stop there. The 13th hole features a tournament-only tee box requiring the elite players to drive over the beach on the 543-yard par 4. Yes, that’s not a typo. Par 4 at 543 yards. The designers, though, have allowed for a risk-reward opportunity, enabling the players to cut off some of the fairway with a well-placed drive.
For everyone else, the tee box will be in front of the beach, playing at a more manageable 362 yards from Tee 2. Still, it won’t be an easy hole, with the lake front sitting tight against the fairway.
Then there’s one more dramatic Lake Michigan hole with the par 3 14th. The 173-yarder runs a bit more East to West, offering stunning views of the lake and the skyline. Also notice that there will be a pond nearby, creating a new natural habitat area.
With the South Shore portion of the course complete, golfers will make their way west for the grand finale on the Jackson Park side. It will be the long and short with the par 5 15th, stretching deep at 657 yards from the back tees, followed by the par 3 16th, the shortest hole on the course at 155 yards.
The last two holes have the potential to generate some real drama down the stretch in a tournament. The 17th will be a testing 470-yard par 4.
The 18th hole, with the Obama Presidential Center in clear view from an elevated tee, will be a 594-yard par 5. A pivotal eagle 3 definitely will be in play on this exciting hole.
All in all, this design checks all the boxes. It will be a course that players from all ability levels can enjoy. And the unique urban setting with Lake Michigan and Chicago Skyline views will make for a truly memorable golf experience.
The unveiling of the TGR design takes this dream a big step closer to reality now. Please continue to follow this blog as we chronicle the building of what is the biggest and most exciting project in Chicago golf history.