American architect Gil Hanse has taken the wheel as architect over the 2016 golf course construction in Rio de Janeiro. He was chosen over many notable designers such as Greg Norman, Jack Nicklaus, and Gary Player.
While such a prestigious contract would be a victory on its own, it’s worth noting that this is the first Olympic golf course to be designed in over 100 years. Golf was unceremoniously dropped from the Olympic lineup following the 1904 St. Louis Games. Hanse was the lucky winner of seven other finalists.
“I’m excited that the selection panel felt that our efforts were the ones that best matched the criteria set by the organizers,” said Hanse. The criteria issued by Rio 2016 called for certain design characteristics including accentuation of the natural dune formations and retention of the natural contours of the land.
Hanse’s design effectively addresses the planning of temporary overlay structures and internal flow systems for the venue. The design also contains a strong legacy component with the prioritization of a golf academy as an essential tool for the development of golf in Brazil. This extremely conscientious design also takes into account the location of permanent buildings and the experience of players and spectators alike.
“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” the committee said in a statement. “It addressed the environmental sustainability directives for the games and efficiently conformed to the building restrictions on the land.”
In the end, it was Hanse’s “respect for the land” that made the difference in his appointment. “We like to build golf courses that are environmentally sensitive,” he said.
The new course will be built in the Barra da Tijuca neighborhood, which will hold most of the Olympic venues. After the 2016 Games, the Hanse course will be used as a public facility.
While it’s true that Hanse isn’t perhaps the biggest name vying for the job, perhaps Phil Mickelson put it best: “I give the Olympic Committee a lot of credit,” said Mickelson, the four-time major champion. “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.”
After a 100+ year Olympic sabbatical, Rio 2016 is certainly the time to show off the best of what golf has to offer.