Rio de Janeiro will soon be home to a new world-class golf course, a term that’s bandied around a bit too often in the tourism industry, but which is in this case quite literally true. While Rio is already home to at least three courses, this is a whole new ballgame. Brazil’s newest greens will be the first course constructed for Olympic competition since the 1904 games in Saint Louis, Missouri, the sport’s last appearance on that most prestigious of world stages.
After more than a century out of Olympic competition, golf was finally reinstated in 2009—along with rugby and women’s boxing. Already guaranteed a trial spot at the 2016 and 2020 summer games, the decision to include golf in subsequent Olympics will be made in 2017, depending primarily on its success here in Rio.
Rio de Janeiro, suddenly one of the world’s priciest and most popular cities among jetsetters and luxury travelers,—never mind Brazil’s own growing list of newly minted millionaires—was thrilled by the opportunity to invest in a quality course. And they wanted to do it right. Thus, eight big-name designers made the final cut: Gary Player, Greg Norman, Gil Hanse, the Hawtree family, Renaissance Golf, Robert Trent Jones II, Thomson Perret, and the hands-down favorite to win, Jack Nicklaus.
The criteria proposed by both the Olympic Committee and City of Rio were, perhaps, unusual. The course will be open to the public after the games are over, so the city wanted something that would be accessible for players at every level, not just experts. Because it will be adjacent to Reserva de Marapendi, a gorgeous natural park, potential designers also had to make the course environmentally sustainable and conform to building restrictions.
Thus, the final selection of relative unknown Gil Hanse, stunning for some serious fans (not the least of which was Hanse), was not a surprise for everyone, professional players we happy to hear the news. Hanse, perhaps best regarded for the Castle Stuart course in Scotland, is also known for minimalist designs which rely heavily on the natural environment. The Pennsylvania-based designer also built the Boston Golf Club, and was hired to renovate the North Course at the Los Angeles Country Club and Donald Trump’s Blue Monster Course in Miami.
Hanse will be teaming up with Hall of Fame player Amy Alcott, who won five major titles on LPGA Tour before becoming a course designer. Work begins on the Olympic in October, 2012, with trials beginning in 2015.
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