Avenida Moysés Castello Branco Filho,
700 Barra da Tijuca,
Rio de Janeiro,
- +55 (21) 3030-4653
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
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)…
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.
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 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 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.
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 Monster 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