Rio 2016 golf course unveiled

Golf’s return to the Olympic programme after a 112-year absence came a step closer on 22 November, as Rio de Janeiro unveiled the stunning new course that will host the Olympic golf competition next year.

Picture by Rio2016/Alex Ferro

Designed by American golf course architect Gil Hanse, the 970,000m² facility is set to play host to many of the world’s top players next summer. And after the Games it will be used to help increase public participation in the sport in Brazil.

Built entirely with private funding, the 18-hole Rio 2016 Olympic Golf Course, which includes facilities for 15,000 spectators, was unveiled by the city government at a ceremony in Barra da Tijuca, not far from the main Olympic Park. The challenging course includes two artificial lakes, and a host of other features and obstacles that promise to bring the best out of the world’s top golfers as they battle for Olympic gold next August.

“It’s a very demanding course,” said Paulo Pacheco, president of the Brazilian Golf Confederation (CBG). “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 course is perfect, it's challenging and offers beautiful views, close to the sea and surrounded by mountains,” added Victoria Lovelady, Brazil's top-ranked female golfer.

The honour of playing the first ever shot on the course fell to Rio 2016 Olympic Games mascot Vinicius.

In the lead up to the Games, the grass will be trimmed three or four times per day and watered every 48 hours to ensure it is maintained to the highest standards. The CBG will be responsible for the course up to May 2016, when it will be handed over to the Rio 2016 Organising Committee to make the final preparations for the Olympic tournament, which will take place on11-20 August.

After the Games, the course will be jointly administered by the CBG and Rio’s city government, and will be redeployed as a public facility for a minimum of 20 years. The aim is to use the course to help promote golf in Brazil at all levels. As well as access for social projects, the course will provide a space for top-level players and other golf-related professionals to work and train, a top-level competition venue and an attraction for golf-related tourism.

“This will be the biggest park in the city,” said Rio mayor Eduardo Paes. “Our aim is to get families and children interested in golf and help grow the sport in Brazil.”

Constructed on a piece of reclaimed land, the golf course project involved the planting of about 650,000 seedlings to help rejuvenate the area. Prior to the construction only 10 per cent of the area was covered by native vegetation and 118 species of plants and wildlife had been catalogued; on completion those figures had increased to 67 per cent and 245 species respectively, making it one of the biggest environmental rejuvenation projects undertaken in the country.