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Rio 2016 Olympic Golf Course

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rankings
  • AddressAv. Gen. Moisés Castelo Branco Filho, 700 - Barra da Tijuca, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 22793-365, Brazil
  • Championships hosted

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

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.

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Course Architect

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Gil Hanse

Hanse earned a Master's degree in Landscape Architecture from Cornell University in 1989, achieving the William Frederick Dreer Award, which allowed him to spend a year overseas with Hawtree Ltd.

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