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March 14, 2023

Tiger Woods to open education center at renovated Cobbs Creek Golf Course

Restoration of the historic, city-owned property, set to be completed in 2024, has faced criticism from environmentalists

Recreation Golf
Tiger Woods Cobbs Creek Provided Image/Cobbs Creek Foundation

Tiger Woods' charity and design firms will design and operate a 30,000-square-foot Learning Lab and short course at the renovated Cobbs Creek Golf Course when it opens to the public in 2024.

Tiger Woods' charity and design firms are planning to open a 30,000-square-foot education center at the historic, city-owned Cobbs Creek Golf Course, which is undergoing a $65 million renovation project set to be completed in 2024. 

The TGR Foundation, which Woods founded in 1996, will develop and operate the TGR Learning Lab, providing kids and teenagers across the region with access to STEM education, college prep and career readiness programs. TGR Design, meanwhile, will build a separate, short course to encourage community members to learn how play golf.

The Learning Lab will be open year-round with programs on college and career readiness for kids and teens in the community and throughout the city. There will be classes on robotics, artificial intelligence, cyber security and multimedia design. 

The TGR golf course will introduce new players to the sport, with an emphasis on building skills and imparting the game's core values, according to the Cobbs Creek Foundation. 

"I'm excited to work with the Cobbs Creek Foundation and the Philadelphia community on this special project that combines my passions, golf and supporting youth through education," Woods said in a release. "Through the campus, we will provide meaningful education opportunities for local youth while expanding access to the game I love." 

The TGR Foundation's work, largely based in underserved communities, connects students to their passions through educational opportunities and programs focused on project-based learning, skills development and professional development. The foundation operates an additional TGR Learning Lab in Anaheim, California. 

"We are honored to be working with the TGR Foundation to create new opportunities for local youth to learn, grow and thrive," Chris Maguire, chairman of the Cobbs Creek Foundation, said in a release. "Together we will celebrate this course's historic past and create a bold and bright future for the city of Philadelphia." 

Located along Lansdowne Avenue in West Philadelphia and divided by Cobbs Creek, the golf course opened in 1916. Home to PGA events, it was also at the forefront of integration, welcoming Black golfers before many other courses — or even the PGA — did. It became a treasured course for a generation of Black golfers like Howard Wheeler and Charlie Sifford, the first African American to win a PGA tour event. 

The course began to decline in the 1950s, when the U.S. military annexed about 15% of the property to use an anti-aircraft battery. The course had to re-route some of its holes and lost the reputation it had gained in previous decades. Flooding from the creek also caused severe erosion on many of the course's greenways over the years, causing it to fall into disrepair. 

A fire at the club house in 2016 made it entirely unplayable, and it was closed to the public in 2020 due to safety concerns. At the beginning of 2022, the city of Philadelphia signed an agreement with the Cobbs Creek Foundation to begin a $65 million renovation plan, including $15 million to restore the creek. 

The restoration plan has faced many hiccups and hurdles over the last year, particularly from environmental activists concerned about the removal of trees in the area, which can contribute to heat disparities in the surrounding community and contribute to flooding, which the course has already experienced.

In January, the Philadelphia City Planning Commission approved exemptions allowing the Cobbs Creek Foundation to construct taller buildings and clear them from restrictions on steep slopes, a provision meant to prevent runoff and erosion. The latest iteration of the project includes a driving range in addition to the education center. 

The zoning exemptions were amended after being unanimously passed by City Council, making them temporary. This means that the Cobbs Creek Foundation will only be able to construct these taller buildings until 2024, the year the golf course is slated to open to the public, the Inquirer reported.