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What’s the Deal with the South Shore Golf Course?

The city wants to create a top-tier golf course in Jackson Park, but it’s on shaky ground—literally.

Photo: Chris Walker/Chicago Tribune

The Chicago Park District’s gamble to revitalize its golf program sounds bonkers. It’s hired Tiger Woods to figure out how to combine the Jackson Park and South Shore courses into one megacourse, a $30 million bet that the dwindling number of suburbanites who keep the sport alive will drive to the South Side for 18 holes.

Who thinks this is a good idea?

The PGA Tour is drooling over the prospect of sweeping shots on the Golf Channel of balls arcing past the Obama Presidential Center. And the park district is using that as an opportunity to get in the organization’s wallet—the PGA and its supporters could foot up to $24 million of the landscaping bills. The 500 mostly African American golfers who frequent the two courses now wouldn’t have to worry anymore about waves washing away the sixth and seventh holes at South Shore.

Tiger Woods
Photo: Joe Cavaretta/South Florida Sun Sentinel

Wait, it’s falling into the lake?

Sure is. Most of Chicago’s coast is an undulating line of concrete pads, but federal money to replace crumbling ones hasn’t reached as far south as Jackson Park. There the shoreline is a slurry of blacktop and cement scraped from Lake Shore Drive, now held together with a webbing of trees felled by beavers. Initial surveys show that Band-Aid won’t last for another 10 years, but sources say the park district, hesitant to see what the bill would be to repair it, has delayed detailed engineering studies. A 2,000-foot section of neglected shoreline at Sydney R. Marovitz Golf Course in Lake View, which is half as long, cost almost $13 million to fix in 2015.

Who would pay for that?

Unlike the fairways and greens, this mess would leave taxpayers on the hook at a time when the state is broke and the presidential center is first in line for any money on tap for Jackson Park. And the shoreline is only part of the proposal, which also asks taxpayers to cover the cost of widening Lake Shore Drive in Jackson Park.

Is this grand plan doomed?

Probably not. Mayor Emanuel has had good luck in the past getting rich donors to pitch in for improvements to Chicago’s shoreline (think Ken Griffin footing the bike path bills) and could pull it off again.

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