PGA Tour In Chicago? Tiger Woods-Designed Golf Course Plan Near Obama Center Has Pros, Cons

Written By Joe Boozell on September 16, 2021
pga golf course chicago

Could we see PGA Tour events come to Chicago? There is momentum to merge two golf courses on the south side of Chicago into one course that would be designed by Tiger Woods.

The courses would be near the Obama Presidential Center, which is on track to break ground this fall.

The Jackson Park and South Shore courses would combine into one par 70 course able to host PGA Tour events. It would have views of the skyline and Lake Michigan, and serve as an attraction to golf fans and boost for golf betting in Illinois.



Golf Magazine said the course could be “the greatest urban golf course in America.”

And while former President Barack Obama has not spoken publicly about the potential course, Woods has said Obama approached him with the project.

However, many oppose the plan.

For starters, some worry about taking away affordable neighborhood golf courses from the south side. It currently costs about $21-$35 to play either course, depending on the time and day of the week.

Developers would also need to cut down plenty of trees in order to bring the vision to life, something the local group Jackson Park Watch opposes.

Brenda Nelms, co-president of Jackson Park Watch, told Crain’s Chicago Business:

“I think there would be suits, depending on how it was structured. Even though it has Tiger Woods’ name on it, I don’t think there would be as much public acquiescence as there was for the Obama Center.”

These plans were unveiled in 2016. Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Park District CEO Mike Kelly asked nonprofit Chicago Parks Golf Alliance to raise $30 million to fund the project.

As of 2019, the alliance had only raised $1.2 million. Other concerns aside, this is a glaring obstacle.

Golfers on board for a Chicago PGA course

Ald. Leslie Hairston, 5th, said of the project:

“The community is ready to see the work begin. I’ve been talking with the golfers all along. They’re excited to get started. We’re just waiting to get all our ducks in a row.”

Hairston added that she expects Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the park district to start prioritizing the proposal soon. Though where funding will come from is an unanswered question.

There could also be issues with trying to thread the needle of building a course that is nice enough for PGA Tour events, but also playable for the average golfer.

Ed Stevenson, the former executive director of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage, said:

“It’s a design challenge to be multiple things to multiple groups of people.”

He also said that the goals are “potentially conflicting.”

Development projects tend to take a long time in Chicago. Just ask anyone who’s been following the Chicago casino project.

But prepare to hear more about this proposal in the coming years.

Chicago course could spur golf betting interest in Illinois

Golf betting currently makes up about $10 million of monthly sports betting handle in Illinois, give or take, depending on the month.

If there was a PGA Tour-caliber course on Chicago’s south side, it could serve as a way to attract more golf fans ⁠— and bettors ⁠— in Illinois.

Illinois was the No. 3 sports betting state in the US in July by handle. People bet $369.1 million for the month, which was lower than the previous periods. However, that can mostly be attributed to a slow sports calendar.

The PGA Tour will open up a sportsbook at TPC Scottsdale, as it’s diving all the way into sports betting. And eventually, there will be retail sportsbooks at Chicago sporting venues.

A match made in heaven? There are plenty of details to work out, but it’s certainly a fun thought experiment.

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Joe Boozell

Joe Boozell has also been a college sports writer for since 2015. His work has also appeared in Bleacher Report, and Growing up, Boozell squared off against both Anthony Davis and Frank Kaminsky in the Chicagoland basketball scene ... you can imagine how that went.

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