Watching golf on TV is fine, but watching the pros take on a course that you’ve played yourself? That’s a whole different experience, and one you can enjoy after a trip to TPC Deere Run. Located just a few hours from Chicago, the home of the PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic is open to anyone who wants to tee it up. Think you can make a run at Paul Goydos’s course record 59? Get to Silvis, IL and find out.
If you’re going to host the world’s best golfers, you need to have a first tier practice area, and TPC Deere Run does. The range can easily accommodate two dozen golfers, and it has a strip of artificial turf at the back so that you can hit balls even when the grass is out of commission. Steps from the driving range, you’ll find a large pitching green with a bunker and an expansive putting green.
Amenities & Customer Service
One of the first things that I noticed about TPC Deere Run is the huge amount of employees working hard to make golfers happy. There were multiple people at the bag drop and in the pro shop making check in quick and painless.
On the course, you will find numerous “Course Advisors” (aka rangers or marshalls). Judy was on the first tee giving us the information we needed to get off to a good start. If you’re lucky enough to meet Judy, listen to what she says – everything was spot on. As we played we met other Course Advisors who were keeping pace of play brisk.
TPC Deere Run has two comfort stations – after holes 3 and 12 – which have restrooms plus ice/water machines. The ice is a very nice touch, especially when it gets toasty. There’s also a fully stocked beer cart and halfway house, but the prices are decidedly on the high side.
It’s one thing to play where the pros play, but it’s another to play a course that’s set up for the pros. At TPC Deere Run, you can play before and after the John Deere Classic and get the full PGA Tour experience.
Our team tackled the course six weeks prior to the JDC as it was just rounding into tournament shape, and it was a blast. The fairways were fast and firm, and, despite being recently aerated, the greens were smooth and quick (about a 10.5 on the stimp).
What really made my eyes pop was the rough. We were informed that the rough was “just starting to grow out,” and it was already thick and challenging. Thinking about shooting a low score in thicker rough proves that “These guys are good” is an understatement.
Beauty & Scenery
The Illinois/Iowa border may not conjure images of rolling hills and beautiful elevation changes, but TPC Deere Run has both. This is a gorgeously manicured parkland course with tons of aesthetic variety. Playing in the early summer was great, but I can imagine that it’s breathtaking during the fall.
Of all the good info that we got from Judy, the best was that TPC Deere Run is “target golf.” It’s evident from the moment you step to the first that this isn’t a course for bomb and gouge but one that you need to work your way around with strategy and accurate shotmaking. Everyone in the group agreed that the correct shot is always obvious. Where local knowledge comes into play is knowing where you can miss without being penalized too severely.
TPC Deere Run has four distinct sets of tees – 7066, 6502, 6008, and 5179 – and two sets of combo tees at 6269 and 5563. If you pick the appropriate set, you’ll have a variety of clubs in your hands on the tee. There are only three par 5s, and they’re all around 500 yards from the blue tees, but the par 4s range from 326 all the way to 456.
Fairways at Deere Run are generous, but straying from them is costly. As I mentioned, we saw the rough in “just starting to grow out” condition, and it was tough. If you come to play in tournament conditions, you need to drive it accurately. While the back nine is more open visually, both sides present equivalent challenge off the tee.
I’ll say it again: the rough at TPC Deere Run is tough. It’s thick and it’s sticky and you need to eat your Wheaties and say a couple prayers if you want to hit many greens from it.
Where Deere Run cuts you a break is in the trees. While many fairways are tree-lined, there is plenty of room inside the trees to play a shot out. This is a critical feature because it helps pace of play, makes the game more fun, and allows you to save a stroke with a great shot.
Playing from the fairways is preferred to the trees or the rough, but it’s not always straightforward. There are sloping lies everywhere which make alignment and good contact a challenge.
The greens at Deere Run tend to be long and narrow. This puts a huge premium on accuracy because missing greens will lead to big numbers. Because the greens are so long – five are over 40 yards front to back – you also need excellent distance control to have realistic birdie opportunities.
Nothing at TPC Deere Run showed me the quality of PGA Tour golfers as much as the green complexes. There is simply nowhere to hide if you miss a green. The greens are elevated, the bunkers are deep, the rough is thick, and the closely-mown run off areas can easy send your ball 20 yards from the green. If you are going to miss a green, try to miss long or short rather than left or right. It’s very easy to hit shots back and forth over the narrow dimension of these greens.
The greens themselves have some sizable breaks but are all relatively easy to read. Most of the greens aren’t segmented with huge ridges and plateaus, so even long putts have a chance to get close.
To review: drive it accurately, hit really good approach shots, and make putts, and you might have your name on the record board next to Mr. Goydos. For players looking to get the PGA Tour experience, TPC Deere Run really delivers. The course is a fun test, and the opportunity to play it in tournament conditions is one that golfers should take advantage of.