The plan to build a new PGA-caliber golf course next to the Obama Presidential Center in Chicago’s Jackson Park has hit a roadblock. Seven years after its announcement, the project has made little progress, with limited political support and fundraising, as well as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. While supporters still hope to revive the plan, residents are growing increasingly impatient for the restoration of the two existing courses.
The proposal for the new golf course, designed by Tiger Woods, was initially backed by former President Obama and received significant attention. However, without the necessary financial support and government involvement, the project has stalled. The lack of progress has raised questions about its future, especially after Valerie Jarrett, CEO of the Obama Foundation, stated that the foundation was not pursuing the golf course project.
The Chicago Parks Golf Alliance, which was responsible for raising funds for the project, declined to comment on its current status. Its website is down, and the last update on its Facebook page was over three years ago. The group had previously raised over $1.2 million, but by 2021, its fundraising had dwindled to less than $50,000 in gross receipts.
The project faced further delays while the Obama center itself was held up by legal challenges. In addition, the city administration was preoccupied with other issues, such as the pandemic and protests, which diverted attention and resources away from the golf course plans.
Supporters argue that the restoration of the existing courses is essential for both golfers and the community. They believe that the courses could provide not only recreational opportunities but also jobs and youth participation. Although skeptics question the affordability of a high-end golf course for average players, proponents assert that the Chicago Park District has pledged to keep greens fees below $50 for residents.
However, opponents raise concerns about the potential loss of mature trees and habitat in the South Shore Nature Sanctuary, as well as the overall cost of the project. Estimates suggest that the proposed underpasses alone could cost $30 million, and the Park District’s plans also include a $28 million restoration of the nearby shoreline.
Despite the lack of progress on the new golf course, the Jackson Park Golf Association continues to support the restoration of the existing courses. Leagues and clubs continue to utilize the courses, organizing special events and introducing underrepresented youth to the game. They remain committed to keeping the courses playable and accessible, regardless of the fate of the new golf course project.
As the wait for a resolution continues, residents and golfers hope that the focus will shift towards revitalizing the existing courses and improving the overall golf experience in the community.