Rio 2016 Olympic Golf Course - Brazil

Rio de Janeiro Olympic Golf Course,
Avenida Moysés Castello Branco Filho,
700 Barra da Tijuca,
CEP: 22793-365,
Rio de Janeiro,

  • +55 (21) 3030-4653

  • Paulo Pacheco (President of the Brazilian Golf Federation)

  • Gil Hanse, Amy Alcott

  • None

Gil Hanse was one of eight prominent architects who bid for the right to design the Olympic course back in 2012. Many believe he won the contest due to his commitment to relocate to Rio de Janeiro to oversee the construction of the layout. True to his word, Hanse moved to Brazil in January of the following year. Former professional golfer Amy Alcott also joined the design team to give the project the important benefit of her female perspective.

Privately funded, the new golf facility is located at Reserva de Marapendi in Barra da Tijuca (the district that hosted the largest number of Rio 2016 Olympic Games venues) which sits around nine kilometres from the Athletes’ Village and seven kilometres from the Main Press Centre and International Broadcast Centre. It’s a development that was plagued by land use and ownership issues, resulting in a build time that took twice as long as originally anticipated.

The event itself was the first golf tournament at an Olympics since 1904 so it was historically important, involving 60 male and female golfers (based on world rankings) who competed in separate 72-hole individual stroke play tournaments with a limit of four golfers per country.

In the male event, Justin Rose won the Olympic Gold medal for Great Britain after an absorbing final round tussle with Sweden’s Henrik Stenson who claimed the Silver medal. USA’s Matt Kuchar won Bronze after carding a final round 63, equalling the course record which Australian Marcus Fraser set in the opening round.

South Korea's Inbee Park won the women's event, carding a final-round 66 to finish on 16 under, five clear of Lydia Ko of New Zealand. China's Shanshan Feng claimed bronze.

After the Games, the course became a public facility for a minimum of twenty years, operated jointly by the Brazilian Golf Confederation and Rio de Janeiro’s city authority. The aim is to promote the game of golf within the country at all levels, allowing both ordinary players and elite golfers to make use of the course. There’s also expected to be an influx of golf-orientated tourists, keen to play the same course as the Olympians.

“It’s a very demanding course,” said Paulo Pacheco, president of the Brazilian Golf Confederation. “It has plenty of undergrowth and is very open so the wind will present a real challenge to the golfers, who will also have lots of bunkers to deal with. This layout is narrow and will demand great precision from the players.”

The sandy-soiled layout has been constructed with saltwater-tolerant Paspalum greens and Zoysia Zeon fairways and tees, and this combination of grasses is one that course superintendent Neil Cleverly calls “an interesting choice”. During the grow-in, he wasn’t allowed to use herbicides and was only permitted a minimal amount of chemicals which meant a lot of handpicking of weeds and the experimental mixing and matching of his own “juju juice” to help grow the grass.

Set out on a rather flat property, where elevation changes never extend to more than thirty feet at most, the course is routed in two returning nines, with the architect using what little natural contours were available to create interesting features, such as positioning the greensites for holes 5, 11 and 15 along a ridge that runs through the site, to the north of the largest irrigation lake. The same ridge also comes into play at the par three 6th, where a number of the tee positions offer only a blind shot into the green.

Both nines begin with a long, testing par five. Even though the opening hole plays with the prevailing wind, it will take a couple of mighty blows from any of the professionals to reach the green in two shots. The 18th is also a par five. Despite it measuring almost 50 yards less than the opening hole, it generally plays into whatever wind is blowing so it provides a formidable conclusion to the round. Additionally, and in homage to the Old course at St Andrews, the architect has integrated a “Valley of Sin” swale into the front of the home green, which is a really nice touch.

Other feature holes on the course include short par fours at the left doglegged 3rd, where there are three distinct pinnable areas on the green, and the 305-yard 16th, which plays to a small, hourglass-shaped putting surface. Beginning at the 490-yard 11th, there’s a demanding trio of par four holes to be negotiated and this exacting little stretch is immediately followed by a long, difficult par three that’s intended to yield few birdies. Golfers are advised therefore to remain firmly focused on the task in hand at the start of the back nine as all sorts of silly numbers could be run up before reaching the home stretch.

Playing the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Golf Course – read the full story by Nicolas Iorio

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Reviews for Rio 2016 Olympic Golf Course

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Description: The Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games golf course is set out on rather flat terrain, where elevation changes never extend to more than thirty feet at most... Rating: 8.8 out of 10 Reviews: 6

My Brazilian wife had wanted us to holiday in Rio with the kids for years to see the New Years fireworks and take the kids there for the first time. It's a beatiful, busy and danagerous city al in equal measure so I had mixed feelings about going back. But seeing they had the 5.5 ball rated Rio Olympic course available and an agreement I could play golf with my son as I wished, it seemed like an ideal opportunity to escape the Covid smitten English winter. So was it worth it? Does t deserve it's number one ranking above Gavea in Rio? Would I like to play it again?

With some reservation the answer is yes. yes and yes.

Lets start with the bad so we can get that out the way. As mentioned by an earlier reviewer the arrival to a rather weeded looking car park and already slightly dilapidated looking club house area had me filled with trepidation. The proshop had no record of our booking via the Grand Hyatt (seems a common theme in RIo) and you have to ask repeatedly to get the hefty green fee discount through the hotel (we only got on our 4th round when I realised they hadn't understood before).

We also had one round where the course was a little busy and the other users of the course had no idea of etiquette or speed of play. We literally waited for 45 minutes for one group on one hole alone before eventually driving past in the buggy and skipping a hole on to the next. A few holes later a similar group again on track for a 6 hour round held us up. They need marshalling and standards for things like this although we played millionaires golf the other 3 times which felt like paradise. It is a long track too and I would strongly recommend the extra cost of the buggy due to the strong Brazilian sun and heat. The course runs in two loops of 9 so water is available at the 9th hole but otherwise you need to stock up on water for each nine and plenty of sun cream is needed.

The greens were also a little patchy in places due to unrepaired pitch marks, they were medium paced at best and one day they had gravel like stones on them that meant the putts got pushed off line badly. In general though they rolled ok most of the time (maybe like a decent standard private members course early in the season) we played and didn't detract too much from the great design.

Finally, a few holes are bewildering to play the first time as you look across the moonscape and you don't know where to go ff the tee. This is primarily on the 1st (aim between the bunkers that are ahead of you and look like they may be on the forst hole) and 18th (your line depends on your length off the tee) which are adjacent but also a bit on 2 (aim a bit right of the bunker on the left side of the dogleg). Some marker posts/more elevated tees would probably help a bit although the routing on 1 and 18 means your line and choice of shot is strongly affected by how far you hit it as well as the wind direction on the day.

Having said all that I still think the course deserves a 5 ball rating as Excellent and addressing the above could take it higher. I think it also shades the breath taking elevation changes of Rio rival Gavea to take the number one place in this City.

As other reviewers mention it is a bit of a moonsacpe with limited elevation changes but the pictures don't do it justice as a result. It has fanatastically designed green complexes with plenty of slope, the breeze often gets up (playing as much as 3 clubs for us on one day) to add almost links like challenge and the combination of fairway bunkers, water hazard, the odd few bushes and scrublike wasteland provide challenge when added to serious length off the back tees. The designer has also built lots of humps and bumps into the fairways to add to the links like feel.

The conditioning of fairways and tees was generally excellent and lovely to hit from and the practice ground was excellent where you can hit off real turf with practice areas for short game too. It's worth taking the time to arrive early for a proper warm up just to use the practice facilities.

There are also a good selection of tee options and I would strongly suggest you choose wisely to maximise enjoyment of the course.

My scratch golfing son played the Black tees at 7,163 yards long each time. The par 5's are all over 550 yards going as high as 608 and it has 5 par 4's that range form 483 to 522 yards long which provide serious challenge when playing in the wind. His best score was a level par 71 with 6 birdies in it and worst a 75. By comparison for challenge, in the month before we left on holiday he'd shot a 62 on the 7,000 yard tees of the Edinburgh course at Wentworth (admittedly his best ever by a good margin and he says he doesn't think he could repeat it) and a 65 on the white 6,900 yard tees of the tough West course. So this course is harder than it looks especially when windy and will test any highly proficient golfer very well.

They then have the decent blue tees at 6,618 yards, white at 6,287 yards and yellows/reds at 5,902 yards. I tried the blues and whites across my visits and found the greater challenge of the blues better as it brought more of the hazards into play for me. The white or yellow tees are a good choice for less skilled golfers or a more relaxing round and allow the course to be enjoyed by a good range of proficiencies. When I played off the white tees I found it quite scorable even with a 1-2 club breeze although I hit the ball quite well that day too.

I loved seeing the wild life on the course, lots of Capybara and birds although we got attacked by them once when looking for a ball near some ground nesters. There are apparently also snakes and alligators too although we didn't see them.

The course was just pure enjoyment from after the bewildering first tee shot right to the finish. Four super par 5's where birdies only came from excellent long shots or with wind assistance. Lots of long challenging par 4's. Two super risk reward shorter par 4's. Five mostly excellent par 3's ranging from 135 yards to 230 yards long and providing plenty of challenge for the tee shot. I find it hard to pick out a favourite hole and each time I played I wanted to go back and do it again, finding myself wishing the round could go on and on.

If I compare this to top courses in England it doesn't have an easy direct comparison. It's a bit links like, a bit Florida like (but like one of their very top tracks), a bit modern champion design like (eg a very good version of the Grove). If it was based in England I think it would definitely make the top 25, maybe on a par with the Saunton East course and perhaps just below the West course at Wentworth and a bit more again below a Royal St Georges. But it is definietly better than all English courses I have played outside the top 25 and for pure golfing fun I would put it up there with pretty much anything I have played. So overall I think this an excellent course which would be bordering on the outstanding if they could address some of the challenges mentioned above.

I really hope this course goes on to thrive in Rio. It is an excellent design and would make a fantastic private members course in future if it cannot survive in public ownership when the lease runs out in 15 years time. It deserves to be loved and nurtured and Rio has a lovely jewel in its golfing crown. If you go to Rio, put this track top of your golfing list.

January 05, 2022
8 / 10
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Bob McCoy

Since the 2016 Olympics there had been negative rumors about the survivability of the course, so we were apprehensive. Our fears were heightened when we were greeted at the entrance to the course by a tall, broken down wire gate. Then we saw the clubhouse landscape overgrown with weeds. Thankfully that was the last negative we experienced here. I am happy to report that the course is definitely alive and is absolutely worth playing.

Contrary to reports, the course was in really good condition. There was healthy grass everywhere (see group picture below). Despite having been aerated 10 days earlier, the Paspalum greens were smooth and putted well.

Weather-wise, we were again really lucky. During the night there had been a massive rain storm. From our hotel rooms we could hear torrential rain, with loud thunder and cracks of lightening. Fortunately, the course drains well.

We started out at 9:15 a.m. with clouds, 75 degrees, and no wind. After a few holes the sun came out, the temperature rose to 90 degrees and the wind was in the 10-15 mph range.

Rio Olympic is only the second public course in Brazil (courses in Brazil total about 75). It is run by the Brazilian Golf Confederation and the Rio government under a 20-year lease. There have been about 2,000 rounds per month, mostly from Brazilians.

On one side of the property is the roaring Atlantic Ocean. You can hear thunderous waves while on the course, so the ocean feels quite close. However, water is not visible because of a buffer of dense, tall trees and then a large lagoon. Thus you are actually several hundred yards away from a sandy beach and then the ocean. On two other sides of the course are several high-rise apartment buildings with tall mountains in the distance.

The course looks like a moonscape from the clubhouse and first tee. It is mostly wide open and flat. There are scrub bushes and the occasional grouping of some medium-high trees visible in the distance. The openness, plus its adjacency to the huge ocean, means the course is exposed to the elements. Wind is a constant challenge here.

The course measures 7,163 yards with a par of 71. Water comes into play on five hole with a large lake on the front side and a lagoon on the 10th hole. There are 79 bunkers with no greenside bunkers on two holes and a bunker in the middle of the fairway on another hole.

The rough had uneven sand and wild low-growing vegetation. You could find your ball, but the recovery shot was a test. The greens average 36 yards in depth with the largest being #7 at 52 yards and the smallest being #9 at 21 yards.

As we played the course, we became really excited about its design and playability. Even though the terrain looked flat, a low ridge of about 30 feet in elevation does run through the course. The soil is sandbased, so Gil was easily able to move around a lot of material to give the fairways some movement. There is an elephant buried in the 16th fairway. He also built many moguls and mounds (some large) to create visual and playing challenges. Thus there are some blind shots on this flat terrain.

The green shapes, contours, and surrounds were intriguing with a lot of variety. Some greens were elevated and some at fairway level for links-type run-in shots. All the greens had some sort of slope with ridges and nobs. Some were moderate in character and some really busy. Missing or rolling off a green resulted in a tricky recovery shot, sometimes from a long distance caused by all the short grass surrounding all the greens.

My only criticism involves hole definition on a few shots. We were somewhat confused on where to aim while on some tees and in a few fairways. The first and adjacent 18th holes spring to mind. Perhaps more elevation can be added to those two tees.

Overall, we were really impressed with what Gil and his Caveman Construction company did on a flat, featureless property. He and his team demonstrated a lot of imagination that produced memorable variety.

The Odyssey

December 31, 2020
9 / 10
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Jim McCann

It was a big thrill to tee it up here last year during a whistle-stop 24-hour stay in Rio de Janeiro, on my way to São Paulo. Paulo. My colleague Brian and I were delighted to play in the company of author Marcelo Stallone, a member of nearby Gávea and an influential figure in Brazilian golf. He’s also a very tidy player (having represented his country twice in the past at the Eisenhower Trophy) and he now competes in the R&A Senior Amateur Championship. It was great to have him with us to point out lots of little things during the round that we would otherwise have missed.

You would expect a course designed by Gil Hanse and built by ProGolf (the firm that constructed West Cliffs in Portugal) to be good and it didn’t disappoint in any way. The eighteen holes are located next to the Marapendi Lagoon, on a rather flat property with holes routed around a couple of lakes and several wetland areas. There are also a few tree-lined fairways in the southwest corner, along with some sandy scrapes and waste areas dotted throughout the entire site, and it actually provides quite a links-like playing experience.

Paspalum putting surfaces are absolutely enormous, tying in beautifully with their surroundings to offer lots of recovery options around the greens. And the contours continue to flow effortlessly with the tee to the following hole located at grade, close to the hole just played, which was very pleasing on the eye. Bunkers are generally of a good size, flash-faced with clean-cut edging, and they’re not overly obtrusive, even though there were plenty of them.The short par four 3rd is a very good hole, with water left off the tee, followed shortly after by the par five 5th, which runs along the other side of the same lake to a raised green. The par four 9th is another terrific hole, played to a funky small green. Holes 11 to 13 provide a really tough start to the back nine, with this trio of par fours measuring six yards short of 1500 yards in total, and there’s another fantastic short par four at the 16th before turning to head toward the clubhouse.

I loved the big sign on the fairway next to one of the water hazards which read “DANGER: THERE ARE ALLIGATORS IN THE LAKE!” The scorecard also has a message saying: “BEWARE: Don’t come closer to the wild animals (snakes, alligators and cabybaras)”. All fair enough, I suppose, informing players of the wildlife out on the course, but maybe encountering these reptiles and rodents isn’t nearly as dangerous as dealing with one or two of the local golf politicos (as was alleged by somebody later in the week)…

Jim McCann

May 18, 2020
8 / 10
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Built for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games this is probably the only golf course in the world built exclusively for a tournament and that is embedded in the DNA of the course. That should be understood by anyone that wishes to test himself against a course designed to sort men from boys.

It’s unclear if the course will continue existing after the 20 years contract made by the city and the developer so I would recommend players interested in visiting the course to put it as a priority on their bucket list.

The architect Gil Hanse opted to create a course with no average length par fours, there are four short par fours averaging 335 yards and five long par fours averaging 462 yards a difference of 127 yards.

The longest par four is number 12 a 496-yard beast that will probably require three shots to reach the putting surface. I played it against a normal wind and hit a good driver and a perfect three wood that left me 30 yards short of the green. That was the first time ever that I couldn’t reach a par four with two good shots and it was a strange feeling.

Fairways were seeded with a secret weapon, a brand new grass called Zeon Zoysis developed by David Douguet at Bladerunner Farms in Poteet, Texas. The grass and the sandy soil are the base for perfect turf conditions, when I say perfect it is not a figure of speech, as long as you find the fairway the ball sits up like it’s on a tee. The bad news is that the errant shots will find huge natural areas with dense vegetation and a lot of sand, from there an approach back to the fairway is always a good idea.

The course has many blind shots and it will be useful to take a caddie. The first tee is a good example, without a map or explanations you will have some difficulties to understand where the hole is, and the same happens on the second shot, so always take your time and study the options before pulling the trigger.

Number 12 was my favorite hole, not that I like to suffer but it was very interesting to play a hole that should be a 4.5 shotter. To counterbalance that the architect gave us number 16 a short par 4 that could be a 3.5 shot hole giving the combo a yin yang identity.

The course sits near the ocean so wind is a huge factor and it directly affects the majority of the holes. For this reason it is very hard to describe how to play this course, my best advice is to warm up properly, be open-minded and enjoy the many variables that the architect throws at you. Don’t try to categorize this course because it is something built to be unique so Mission Accomplished Mr. Hanse.

March 20, 2018
8 / 10
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Javier Pintos

I have been in contact with the construction of this golf course since the very beginning as the Construction Superintendet worked with me at Punta Blanca in Dominican Republic. Neil Cleverly from England is maybe the best paspalum grass grower in the world, he knows exactly how to treat it and how it is going to react to every product he puts in the ground. Why I start with this? Because it was rumored that the course was not being taken care and if for some months there was lack of care, it doesn't show it today. The paspalum grass all over the course is healthy and pure, with no weeds and despite the greens been aerified some days before, they rolled perfectly, just a little bit slower than usually as paspalum recover very quickly from this process.

We were staying at the Grand Hyatt close to the Rio 2016 Olympic Golf Course - Photo by reviewer course and the very first nice touch was that we were taken to the course by boat! It was a fun 15mins navigation and a 5 minutes walk to the practice range. We were a group of 16 TTOOs being showed Rio de Janiero as a destination and the visit to the Olympic Course was one of the highlights of the trip, it was really worth the wait.

Club House is sort of a modern building, construction in the style of Nordelta in Argentina and kept just simple, it bends perfectly well with the geography and the setting on the course.

One of the good news was that a couple of days before 30 Club Car Precedent carts had arrived what will for sure will give older players a better chance to enjoy the course. It is located near the ocean although there are no views of it, it is a wide open place with almost no trees so in hot days heat can be a real problem for older people and those phisically handicapped.

And it was an extreme windy day, so tough that on 17th I had 119yds to pin, hit a perfect 9 iron and was left 20yds short of the pin with a fried egg lie on the short bunker. It is one of the great holes, a very short par 3 where wind can make it easily a bogey hole.

The only thing I didn't like about ddesign was those 3 consecutive long tough par 4s (11-12-13), playing 11 and 13 in the same direction and 12 180 degrees opposite to it. From the white tees all of them were over 430yds, I feel it won't be funny for 15 handicappers although you can just play for bogey.

Both short drivable par 4s are awesome: 3rd with water on the left plus bunkers and bushes on the right will make you face a Rio 2016 Olympic Golf Course - Photo by reviewer tight tee shot while 16 usually playing downwind is maybe easier but that small green similar to 10th at Riviera will for sure give you extra work to get your birdie.

The par 5s play 3 in one direction (downwind for me) 1-5-10 while 18th played totally into the wind and from the back tee would have been extremely difficult.

I found tough 2nd one of the best holes, where the tee shot doesn't solve the problem, second shot to a green protected by bunker on the right and water on the left into the wind was one of the toughest shots I faced.

7th was my favourite on the front 9, a green complex with some of Alister Mackenzie's style with a false front and 430yds into the wind it was fun and one of the best pars of the day.

10th has an extremely tough tee shot as the fairway is quite narrow in the landing area, but once you get there the chances of birdie are high.

This course has a legacy, it was the first one to welcome back golf to Olympic Games and that is a trademark that any other course will have. They have to use this as a strong promotion tool and make golfers from all over the world to go play it. It is worth the game, it is a nice challenge and for those used to play in the wind and fast conditions, it will be familiar.

Think in Rio de Janeiro as a destination, combine it with Buenos Aires to play Jockey Club, Olivos and Buenos Aires GC. You will find one of your best golf holidays ever.

December 01, 2017
10 / 10
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Nicolas Iorio

Gil Hanse won the bid for the design of the Rio 2016 Olympic Golf Course and many consider him to be: “The designer of the moment.” Among his works I can mention: Castle Stuart (Scotland), the re-design of the Blue Rio 2016 Olympic Golf Course - Photo by reviewerMonster at Trump National Doral (Miami), Crail’s Craighead course (Scotland) and the new Black course at Streamsong (near Orlando). When you play the Olympic golf course you realize why Hanse fashioned what he did. The ground is quite flat, surrounded by lagoons and only a few meters away from the sea, where the strong prevailing winds come from. So a golf “links” is what Hanse attempted to create, but it’s more from the strategic point of view than from an aesthetic one. It does not have impenetrable rough, protected by sand dunes, but the fairways have gentle undulations allowing the ball to run and the greens are firm and fast enabling many shots typical of links golf.

Playing the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Golf Course – read the full story by Nicolas Iorio

November 13, 2016
10 / 10
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