One of 14 daily-fee courses in the Tournament Players Club network, TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Illinois debuted as host of the John Deere Classic in 2000 to critical acclaim. And it remains one of the favorite courses among PGA TOUR players, even those not named Steve Stricker.
“I rate the course a nine (out of 10), and that’s worth telling people about,” said Champions Tour player and sports broadcaster Peter Jacobsen when he saw the course shortly after it opened in 1999.
The par-71 layout, which measures up to 7,268 yards, was designed by former PGA TOUR player D.A. Weibring and Chris Gray of PGA TOUR Design Services. They turned a breathtaking piece of real estate that once was a 386-acre horse and cattle breeding farm into a strategically handsome parkland layout on the sylvan bluffs above the Rock River without disturbing much of what glacial ice had left behind.
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Weibring, who won the Quad Cities Open (forerunner of the John Deere Classic) three times, and Gray used a little more than half the available land — about 170 acres — to route the course through pristine hardwood trees. Of those 170 acres, only 60 were altered during the building phase, with more than 80 percent of the hardwoods left undisturbed. Though it features generous fairways, the layout is protected by natural water hazards, smart bunkering and creative mounding. There are no sharp doglegs, rewarding players who can shape the ball, particularly off the tee. The green complexes are framed by chipping areas, requiring creativity.
The Rock River complements small ponds and deep ravines.
(An interesting side note: about 70 miles upstream from the course a gentleman named John Deere started his plow company.)
“The course rewards a guy who shapes the ball well into the greens and hits a lot of quality shots,” Weibring, an Illinois native, said after overseeing a renovation in 2006 that included pinching in a few fairways and moving back some tee boxes for greater variety. “It’s not a place where you can fool anyone. It’s a good, straight-forward golf course, no tricks.”
“It’s a shot-maker’s course,” he summed up.
Stricker would agree. The former University of Illinois star and current captain of the U.S. Presidents Cup Team won there three years in a row from 2009-11, a run that remains the only time anyone has captured the same PGA TOUR event three straight years. He opened with a 60 in the 2010 edition on the way to setting the tournament record of 258.
That same day, with the course softened by rain and with little wind to speak of, Paul Goydos fired the fourth 59 in TOUR history. It was the first time a 59 and a 60 were shot on the same course.
“Guys enjoy coming and playing,” Stricker, winner of 13 PGA TOUR titles, said. “It’s there in front of you. It’s not tricked up. It’s fair. If conditions are favorable, then good scores are going to be shot.”
The easiest hole tends to be the par-5 second. Measuring 561 yards, it plays downhill and doglegs slightly right as it flanks the Rock River. The small two-tiered green can be reach in two shots, though accuracy is a must with wetlands on the left and a bunker and trees on the right. The hardest hole usually is No. 9, a long par 4 of 503 yards, which features an uphill approach through the trees to an elevated green guarded by bunkers on both sides.
All the holes have names, and the par-3 16, called “Mother Earth,” is the signature hole. It plays up to 158 yards and is set along the Rock River and guarded by a large bunker in front and another on the right. It is a tough and picturesque hole, exactly what TPC Deere Run is all about.
“It has all the things I think you’d like to have in a golf course,” Weibring said not long after the renovation in ’06. “There are elevation changes, great views and scenery, hardwood trees. You have the Rock River complemented with small ponds, deep ravines … and there’s no real estate. I always want our projects to engage you, to present playability, variability and balance, and I think TPC Deere Run does that.”
Journalist and author David Shedloski of Columbus, Ohio, has been covering golf since 1986, first as a daily newspaper reporter and later as a freelance writer for various magazines and Internet outlets. A winner of 23 national writing awards, including 20 for golf coverage, Shedloski is currently a contributing writer for Golf World and GolfDigest.com and serves as editorial director for The Memorial, the official magazine of the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio. He is the author of three books and has contributed to three others, including the second edition of “Golf For Dummies,” with Gary McCord. He’s a fan of all Cleveland professional sports teams, the poor fellow.