An illustration of the proposed Olympic course (Credit: Rio 2016)

In what may be a stunning surprise to many, US-based Hanse Golf Course Design won the bid to design the golf course in Rio de Janeiro for the Olympic Games in 2016.

Hanse GCD beat out seven other finalists for the project, including heavyweights like Gary Player Design, Greg Norman Golf Course Design, Hawtree Ltd., Nicklaus Design, Renaissance Golf Design, Robert Trent Jones II and Thomson Perrett.

For the average golfer, Gil Hanse is a virtual unknown. But for those in the know, the 48-year-old is famous for hands-on creation and restoration of some of the finest golf facilities in the world.

“I’m a big fan of Gil Hanse,” said PGA TOUR golfer Phil Mickelson of the decision. “I think he’s one of the best architects in the business.  He understands how to make a golf course playable for the average player but challenging for the good player.  He does it better than probably anyone. For him to get the Olympic job, I give the Olympic Committee a lot of credit, because it would have been easier to go with a big name. And instead, they went with the best. I thought that was pretty cool.”

Fellow designer Jack Nicklaus — whom many considered to be the overwhelming favourite to win the design bid — offered his congratulations to Hanse.

“I would like to offer my sincere congratulations to Gil and his design team. Obviously, Gil’s commitment and desire to do the best possible job, along with his all-in commitment to the committee in Brazil, was an important determining factor to the group. I am sure he will do a fine golf course. The Olympics, and the legacy that golf course will have the opportunity to create, will be in good hands. I wish Gil well, and I wish everyone involved in the development of this very important golf course the best.,” Nicklaus said.

Hanse Golf Course Design was formed in 1993 by Gil Hanse. He was joined in 1995 by his partner and Vice-President, Jim Wagner. In 2009, Hanse was elected “Architect of the Year” by Golf Magazine, and in the same year his Castle Stuart golf course in Scotland was considered to be “the Best New International Course.”

Hanse’s Olympic  proposal was cited for its design characteristics, including accentuation of the natural dune formations and retention of the natural contours of the land.

“The design effectively addresses the planning of temporary overlay structures and internal flow systems for the venue and contains a strong legacy component with the prioritising of a golf academy as an essential tool for the development of golf in Brazil,” said an official statement from The Rio 2016™ . “The design also considers the location of permanent buildings and the experience of players and spectators.”

Hanse boasts a portfolio of internationally renowned golf courses recognised by elite and amateur golfers alike. Hanse Golf Course Design has teamed up with LPGA and World Golf Hall of Fame member, Amy Alcott, for the project. Alcott amassed 29 professional victories on the LPGA Tour including five major championship victories.

They will work closely with environmental and sustainability engineering firms in the final design process and advocate the use of native vegetation and a minimum of land movement. Hanse has committed to relocating to Rio while the golf course is under construction.

“As it marks the return of golf to the Olympic Games after over a century of absence, this course represents the beginning of a new chapter in the history of the sport. It will enable Rio to host important events in the international calendar and it will be an example of sustainability and preservation of an environmentally protected area,” said the President of Rio 2016™, Carlos Arthur Nuzman. “This course will be an excellent facility for the practice and development of golf and will inspire millions of youth across Brazil and the globe. We look forward to welcoming the athletes and spectators to the course in 2016.”

Peter Dawson, President of the International Golf Federation, said, “The IGF would like to thank all of the architects who worked so hard on their bids and whose presentations demonstrated great vision.  The selection process adopted by Rio 2016™ was extremely thorough and reflected the importance of the project. I am delighted Hanse Golf Course Design has been appointed to design the Olympic golf course which promises to provide an outstanding venue for the Games and a tremendous legacy for our sport in Brazil.”

Plan of the 2016 Olympic Golf Course (Click for larger view)


About the project:

To take part in the selection process, companies were required to provide evidence of golf course design experience, compliant with Rio 2016™ international rules and to furnish proof of the qualifications necessary to develop the project.

Candidates’ proposals were examined by a selection panel formed by Peter Dawson, President of the International Golf Federation; Carlos Arthur Nuzman, President of Rio 2016™; Augusto Ivan, Adviser to the President of the Municipal Olympic Company; and Arminio Fraga, member of the Rio 2016™ Golf Advisory Committee.

The golf course will be built at Reserva de Marapendi in Barra da Tijuca, the district that will contain the largest number of Rio 2016™ Olympic Games venues. It will be a unique Olympic Games venue, located approximately five kilometres from the Athletes’ Village and seven kilometres from the Main Press Centre (MPC) and the International Broadcast Centre (IBC), South of Avenida das Americas and North of Lagoa de Marapendi. After the 2016 Olympic Games, the course will be used as a public facility with the chief purpose of promoting golf in Brazil and the globe, representing one of the most important Olympic Games legacies for sport development in the country.

About Richard Fellner

A four-time winner of the Australian Golf Media Awards, including Best Photojournalism, Best Opinion, Best Column and Best Photographic Presentation, Inside Golf Group Editor Richard Fellner is the quintessential Golf Tragic, having played the game for over 50 years (but has never gotten any better!) He has played and reviewed courses all over the world, and has interviewed many of the great players of the game (including Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Greg Norman). Richard is a member of both the Australian Golf Media Association and the Golf Society of Australia, and has been a featured guest on many Australian "sports talk" radio shows and networks, including ABC Grandstand, SEN 1116, Melbourne Talk Radio 1377, 2GB and others. Follow Richard Fellner on Quora


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