Rio 2016 Organizers Appoint Hanse to Design Olympic Golf Course

By Community | March 8, 2012

The Rio 2016 Organizing Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games has selected U.S.-based Hanse Golf Course Design to design the golf course in Rio de Janeiro for the Olympic Games in 2016, when golf returns after an absence of 112 years.

Hanse Golf Course Design was selected from eight finalists as the candidate that most aptly met the selection criteria that were issued by Rio 2016. The proposal was cited for its design characteristics, including accentuation of the natural dune formations and retention of the natural contours of the land.

“I’m excited that the selection panel felt that our efforts were the ones that best matched the criteria set by organizers,” said company founder and president Gil Hanse.

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. The design also considers the location of permanent buildings and the experience of players and spectators.

Hanse, 48, 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.

Hanse said he will relocate to Rio while the golf course is under construction.

“I think that was something that resonating with the committee is that — I’m not a big fan of poker terms, but we were all in,” Hanse said. “This really was important to us. I think that showed the commitment and the resolve that we have.

“I’m excited to find out and explore more. Thankfully golf courses have been built in Brazil so there’s a wealth of knowledge there. And I think in the discussions going forward with the designs, I mean, I’d be thrilled if the other finalists are willing, to sit and talk; what did they see. I don’t know that we had all the answers. We had answers that were good enough for the committee to be committed to understand that we were a good fit for them.”

Hanse, Alcott and their team 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.

“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.”

Hanse Golf Course Design tackled the challenge of designing a course for use by both elite and amateur athletes; one of the main legacy objectives. It addressed the environmental sustainability directives for the Games and efficiently conformed to the building restrictions on the land. Hanse Golf Course Design also effectively integrated native vegetation to the design, reducing the areas where frequent maintenance will be required.

Hanse said construction on the course, which will include features similar to Royal Melbourne, is expected to begin in October and end by mid-2014. Tests events are expected in 2015.

The Olympic course will host a 72-hole stroke-play event for men and women with 60 players in each field. The course will be built at the Reserva de Marapendi in Barra, about 3 miles from the athletes’ village and 4.3 miles from the main press center and the international broadcast center.

“We are going to have to try to figure out how we spread the play over two weeks; that we don’t have a concentration of divots, ballmarks, etc.; that we are able to create enough variety and flexibility in the design of the course that we have two compelling competitions,” Hanse said of building a course for two competitions. “At the end of the day, if it felt like they were on two different golf courses, that would be really cool.

“I think that would be something that you would see — it’s no secret my favorite golf course in the world is the Old Course. And if you contested the ladies Open Championship and the men’s Open Championship in back-to-back weeks over the Old Course, you would have two very different stories and two very different outcomes. And if we can somehow come even close to scratching the surface of the Old Course in what we do, then I think that will be successful.”

The designers made their final presentations to organizers last month and the winner was chosen by a selection committee comprised of Nuzman, Dawson and other local Olympic representatives.