I feel like there’s a signature photograph for almost every PGA event, an image that reflects either the spirit of the course or the spirit of the region where the event takes place. The John Deere Classic holds a bit of both. While the mow lines along the side of No. 17’s green go a long way in showcasing the performance capabilities of machinery from course-and-event sponsor John Deere, I see beyond the cosmetics. I appreciate the look but those short grass falloffs and collection areas will be beautiful to me, no matter how artistically mown.
TPC Deere Run, even more so than most within its brand, is designed for the purpose of challenging professional golfers, an ever-difficult task during an era of competitive golf I increasingly refer to as “post-architecture.” Technology rollbacks not forthcoming, the elements of course design that an architect can use to make PGA players do that which they hate most — thinking about shots — are limited. You can grow the rough, you can speed up the greens, you can add hundreds of bunkers...but one design element continues to thwart them better: shortgrass runoff areas, like the ones most dramatically seen here at Nos. 13, 14 and 17. The latter two earn extra points for their respective roles as drivable par four and reachable par five; going for the jugular comes with the risk of ending up at knifepoint yourself, at the bottom of such a gathering area.
Having failed in my long approach to No. 17, I found myself in the rare situation where both I and Bryson Dechambeau were in equal trouble.
Unfortunately, I could not say the same throughout the majority of the round. TPC Deere Run apparently requires other strategies to keep the professionals at bay (if a -4 cutline can be referred to as “at bay”)...strategies less manageable for the average hack.
A frequent offender would be the tree-lined fairways. Why am I inclined to challenge the considerable second-cut on a dogleg right if a tree at the elbow hangs over my line to the green? I found myself considering this conundrum several times after having made rare, quality tee shots. The best / saddest example of this phenomena occurred at No. 4, where — as an astute golf course architecture aficionado — I decided that going left of the centerline tree would be optimal over going right. After all, why would anyone try to draw around the trees infringing off the tee to the left to a skinner slice of fairway, if there wasn’t ample reward? Needless to say, I was disappointed to learn that the wide-open right side of the fairway was the correct answer. It made little sense...almost as little sense as having bought a yardage guide at the pro shop and not looking at it before teeing off (dammit).
I tend to reflect more kindly upon water hazards than the majority of “woke” golfers. That said, the few ponds at Deere Run are among the most tacked-on that I’ve ever seen. It seemed ironic that I began No. 2 with a spectacular vista of the Rocky River, and ended with a greenside bathtub seemingly dug by the John Deere variant of the Bobcat mini-earthmover. The tractor on an island off the left of green No. 18 seemed almost as natural to the landscape as the pond it was sitting upon. It’s only fair that I recommend a replacement hazard since I’m complaining so vehemently: If Nos. 2, 10 and 18 featured shortgrass falloffs akin to the holes praised a few paragraphs ago, I’d celebrate them accordingly (as a note in case you suspect bias: I didn’t lose any balls to water).
I did lose several balls to the dense rough, but I take no issue with the cut. The fairways themselves are plenty wide for a reasonable drive. My playing partner, a local, suggested the dense turf was maintained at similar weight throughout the year. Wearing a Dubsdread shirt, he claimed Deere Run featured the thickest he’d ever played. Its thiccness fell somewhere between Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion and, if I interpret the subtext of Ms. B’s “WAP” verse correctly, it will swallow Titleists in a similarly emphatic fashion.
I’m not sure I enjoyed TPC Deere Run as much as previous reviewers, but I certainly won’t write it off. At less than $75 for a Sunday round during the Summer, it’s perhaps the best opportunity for the meager traveler to play a PGA host, or a TPC representative.
Is the course actually a cut above (lawnmower joke) other TPC chapters? I’ll report back.
Date: July 28, 2021