Jacobson Completes Course Enhancements At Cantigny

Golf course architect Rick Jacobson has completed his renovation of four holes at Cantigny Golf in advance of this year's Western Junior Championship and next year's U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship.

Conducted by the Western Golf Association, the 89th Western Junior, one of the nation's top junior championships, is scheduled to be played July 17-21 at Cantigny. Among those who have competed in the Western Junior are Jim Furyk (1987 champion), Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Fred Couples, Tom Lehman, Rocco Mediate, Hale Irwin, Andy North, Jay Haas, Craig Stadler and Fuzzy Zoeller.

With two major amateur tournaments scheduled to be played at Cantigny over the next two years, course officials turned to Jacobson to develop a master plan for improvements to one of the Chicago area's most highly-regarded public courses. The course opened in late 1989.

"Cantigny is set on a beautiful piece of property, but due to advances in ball and equipment technology, the course needed to be updated to give the best amateur players in the world a memorable challenge and to give everyday players a more enjoyable overall experience," Jacobson said.

Jacobson reshaped and relocated bunkers on holes Nos. 1, 3, 4 and 9 on the Woodside nine, which will be used in the events. He also renovated No. 1 on the Hillside course, which will not be used in the tournaments.

On Woodside No. 1, a dogleg-right par-4, Jacobson took the two existing bunkers on the right side of the fairway and split them into three bunkers in order to provide a stronger challenge to players trying to cut the dogleg. He also built two new bunkers on the left side of the fairway in order to "pinch" the landing area and to visually "turn" the dogleg to the right.

On the 226-yard par-3 No. 3 Woodside, the large bunker in front of the green was replaced with three smaller bunkers to frame the green and provide for a strategic approach. While all three bunkers appear to be greenside, only the middle one is, providing a challenge for stronger players. The other two bunkers are separated from the green by chipping areas so that higher handicap players have a broader margin for error on the hole.

Jacobson renovated Woodside No. 4 by re-contouring the fairway, narrowing the landing area for longer hitters, and reworking the greenside bunkers to improve aesthetics and drainage. Fescue grasses were planted behind the green to provide a native prairie backdrop to help frame the uphill par-4.

Meanwhile, on Woodside No. 9, Jacobson added three fairway bunkers in strategic areas – one on the left and two to the right of the tee-shot landing area. He also added environmental plantings in the left approach to delineate the limits of the existing water hazard. The renovation of three bunkers short and right of the green completed the transformation of No. 9.

A protégé of Jack Nicklaus, Jacobson founded Jacobson Golf Course Design, Inc. in 1991 as a full-service golf design firm specializing in new course designs as well as master plan renovations and additions to existing facilities. Jacobson’s first job in golf course architecture was with a firm operated by Roger Packard, the original designer of Cantigny.

Jacobson’s renovation work is well-regarded. This week, he accepted an award from Golf Inc. Magazine for 2005 Renovation of the Year, private club category, for his work at Sunset Ridge Country Club in Northfield, Ill. Jacobson renovated Pete Dye’s Des Moines G&CC for the 1999 U.S. Senior Open and has renovated a number of the Chicago area’s classic private courses, including North Shore and Bob O’ Link country clubs. Bob O’Link is a Donald Ross original and North Shore is a Colt/Alison creation. Golf Inc. also recognized Jacobson’s complete renovation of the Blackhawk Trace course at Indian Lakes Resort in Bloomingdale, Ill. as one of the top public course renovations in 2004. The same publication named Jacobson’s renovation of North Shore second among the private club renovations.

In recent years, Jacobson has opened a number of successful original designs, including Vista Links in Buena Vista, Virginia (2004); Makefield Highlands GC in suburban Philadelphia (2004), and Patriot Hills GC in Stony Point, NY (2003). In 2004, Golf Magazine named Jacobson’s Spirit Hollow GC in Burlington, Iowa, one its "Thrifty Fifty" – i.e. one of the nation’s top 50 courses costing less than $50 to play.

Cantigny is located on Mack Road in west suburban Wheaton on the estate of Robert R. McCormick, former publisher of the Chicago Tribune. The facility is owned and operated by the non-profit Cantigny Foundation. The course was built to honor a pledge in Colonel McCormick’s will. He deemed that his estate would serve as a source of recreation, education, and welfare for the people of the state of Illinois. For more information about the course, call 630/668-3323 or visit www.rrmtf.org/cantignygolf.