TPC at Deere Run: Play the golf course that felled Michelle Wie
There aren't many PGA Tour venues accessible to average golfers of average means. It's only natural that the world's greatest players tee it up at the world's greatest golf courses. And greatness rarely comes at a discount.
The Tournament Players Club at Deere Run, site of the John Deere Classic, is one of the rare exceptions. For just $60, including cart, the Average Joe can play for a $5 Nassau where Joe Pro plays for nearly a million.
But resist the temptation to think accessibility and affordability imply lower quality or a lesser challenge. This is, after all, the course that almost killed Michelle Wie.
One of the nine TPC courses open to the public (out of 25), Deere Run debuted with much fanfare in 2000. It absolutely justifies the hype.
Illinois State graduate and budding course designer D.A. Weibring consulted with PGA Tour Design Services in turning the one-time horse farm into a Tour-worthy golf course. The layout winds through and over ravines and bluffs along the Rock River. The vegetation is lush, with dense woods lining nearly every hole.
"If you hit your ball in there, we recommend that you not go in to look for it," the starter advised. "There's poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac and ticks. Just drop another one, take your stroke and play on."
Sound advice. Although the fairways are wide, on many holes the first cut of rough is almost non-existent. Just a few yards off the short grass lurks brush so thick you'd need a machete to find your ball.
The natural setting lends itself to one spectacular hole after another.
On the 561-yard second, the river flows serenely behind a huge fairway that bends gently to the right on the second shot, toward a green protected by a small desert's worth of sand. A small brown shed behind it harkens back to the property's agricultural roots.
An oak towering out of the fairway makes for a thrilling tee shot on the 454-yard 4th, and there's another inspiring view of the Rock from the pin. The green on the 158-yard 16th is cut into a bluff overlooking the river, with a precipitous drop making the left side a particularly penal hazard. This might be the prettiest short par 3 in the entire Midwest.
The 468-yard 18th is a fantastic closer. Position is paramount: To have a clear view of the green past the trees on the right, you have to aim for the far left of the fairway, short of a large bunker. A large pond guards the left side of the green, which slopes down toward the evil water. Shaping a shot of any kind into a left pin position takes guts, even for Tour pros.
TPC at Deere Run: The verdict
Two years ago the green fee was $130, but it was cut by more than half to encourage daily-fee play - a rather amazing turn of events for one of the Midwest's must-play courses. The quality of the golf and the immaculate conditions make this one of the best $60 plays in the country.
The front nine is tighter than the back, with nearly every hole hemmed in on all sides by foliage. The back nine is more open, but there are many more fairway bunkers in play on the back. There is not an awkward tee shot on the entire course; all the trouble is laid out clearly before you (except on that oak-blocked No. 4). The fairways are picture-perfect and generous, but if you miss them you'll pay with double-bogey or worse.
The greens are ideal, receptive but fast, often pear-shaped with narrow fronts that make for some devilish pin positions. The closely shaved run-off areas will test all the short shots in your bag.
The clubhouse is a grand fieldstone structure housing a first-class restaurant and bar. It is well worth coming early and staying late only to avail yourself of that TPC luxury. After all, how often do you get to play where the best in the world play?
Stay and play
The TPC at Deere Run partners with the Moline-Downtown Radisson for stay-and-play packages. Contact the hotel (309-764-1000, www.radisson.com/molineil) for rates and information. The newest hotel in the Quad Cities is the Stoney Creek Inn (309-743-0101 or 800-659-2220), a family-friendly lodge-style inn full of Northwoods charm. Rooms begin at around $80.
The restaurant at the TPC is all dark, rich woodwork and businessmen in button-down shirts trying to impress clients. It's well worth a try. For what might be the best slab of beef in Iowa (just across the river from Silvis) at a reasonable price try Farraday's Restaurant at the Isle of Capri Casino (319-359-7280). After dinner and drinks you can mosey up to the poker room for play a few hands of Texas hold 'em.
The Tour event now played at the TPC at Deere Run began life in 1971 as the Ed McMahon Quad Cities Open.
April 3, 2007