Officials who are designing, promoting and raising money for the new course are courting local golfers and vowing to keep it affordable. “There are some really loyal South Shore and Jackson Park golfers, and they deserve a better product,” said the golf analyst Mark Rolfing, founder of the Chicago Parks Golf Alliance, the nonprofit group that is working with the city’s park district on the project. “I would never be involved in an initiative that wasn’t going to be affordable. That is imperative. When it’s done, they are going to be so proud of the place.”

The Chicago Parks Golf Alliance has entered into a public-private partnership with the Chicago Park District; the district will decide who manages the course once the project is completed, and the course will remain park district land.

The planners behind the project have a difficult task: trying to win over locals who love the Jackson Park courses for what they are, which is uncrowded, simple and a little threadbare. There are no lavish clubhouses or restaurants. The landscape is nearly as flat as a prairie; the fairways, punishingly narrow.

The perks of these courses are the location in the heart of the South Side, the panoramic views of the downtown skyline and Lake Michigan — and the proud sense that the courses and Jackson Park itself belong to the neighborhood. “We South Siders have been enjoying these two courses for a long time,” said Jacqueline Lewis, 73, as she loaded clubs into her car after playing a round.

If the courses are replaced by a new one, Ms. Lewis said, she has a bad feeling about what will happen. “I think the word I’m looking for,” she said, “is displacement.”

This year has brought a surge of debate in Chicago about how to redevelop Jackson Park, a 543-acre grassy expanse designed by Frederick Law Olmsted that was the site of the World’s Fair in 1893. These days, it contains gardens, a children’s hospital, tennis courts and the two golf courses. By 2021, it will hold the Obama Presidential Center, expected to be a major tourist attraction.

Many people here were elated by the Obamas’ decision to bring the library to the South Side, a move that could help shift a longstanding pattern in Chicago: While neighborhoods downtown and on the North Side have become glitzier, some on the South and West Sides have decayed, losing population and small businesses.

Some preservationist groups have approached the subject of the new golf course warily.

The Jackson Park Advisory Council has endorsed the plan. “It’s a win for folks who live on the South Side and it’s a win for the park,” said Louise McCurry, the group’s president. But other organizations have said they are unsure if the new course will be good for the neighborhood.

“There are a lot of people in our group who have articulated the concern that this is a very comfortable, duffers-level course that’s fun to do and it’s within their capacity, so why do you need this more elaborate course?” said Brenda Nelms, a coordinator for Jackson Park Watch, a community watchdog group.

Juanita Irizarry, the executive director of Friends of the Parks, the group that successfully fought off the Hollywood filmmaker George Lucas’s effort to build a museum dedicated to narrative art along the lakefront last year, said that the golf course plans had “raised alarm bells.”

“It feels to us that for this administration, the focus is on revenue generators above all else,” she said, referring to the Emanuel administration. “And we don’t think that’s the right starting place.”

Photo

Dr. Michael Washington at the South Shore golf course. The course and an adjacent one in Jackson Park are to be transformed into a high-caliber club polished enough to host P.G.A. championships and lure out-of-town visitors.

Credit
Alyssa Schukar for The New York Times

The project will largely depend on private donors. The Chicago Parks Golf Alliance is hoping to raise roughly $30 million, of which $20 million will be spent on building the new course and $5 million for an endowment for maintenance and pricing discounts. (The other $5 million is for alliance operations and programming.)

Mr. Rolfing said he planned to hold more town hall-style events to get input from the community, and that so far the response had been enthusiastic. He described the current courses as aging and in need of repair, with irrigation and drainage problems. The new course will improve views of the lake, and the practice facility will be suitable for tour professionals.

On a recent morning at the 18-hole Jackson Park Golf Course, two employees lingered in the building near the first tee, where golfers could buy a $1 cup of coffee and a $6 Polish sausage at the snack bar.

Keith McGrue, 60, a South Side resident, said he had heard chatter from regulars who wonder what a Tiger Woods-designed course could bring.

“A lot of people have been playing here for 25, 30 years,” Mr. McGrue said. “The question becomes, Who benefits from the change? Who loses out and who wins? Most people that play here, especially the black folks, live in the neighborhood. This is our golf course.”

Alan Brothers, 71, who was playing at the South Shore course, said that he was hoping for the sort of growth that a new facility could bring to the South Side.

“This neighborhood has been in need of economic development for a very long time,” he said, pointing to the south, where several blocks away, four people were shot dead in a restaurant in March in an apparent act of gang retribution.

“That’s what’s going on around here,” he said. “So any sign of civilization is a good thing.”

Continue reading the main story

Source