Olympic Course in Rio all but complete

After months of delays caused by legal and logistical problems, the new golf course that will be played in golf’s return to the Olympic Games next year in Rio de Janeiro is virtually ready for play.

International media representatives got their first look this week at the course where the first golf medals will be awarded in the Olympics since 1904 in St. Louis, and those on hand seemed impressed by the condition of the Gil Hanse-designed layout.

“This has been on some days a nightmare and some days a pleasure,” said Neil Cleverly, superintendent of the Olympic course. “We haven’t made it tough. We made it so it fits the environment.”

The par-71, 7,290-yard course is located in Reserva de Marapendi in Barra da Tijuca, a suburb west of Rio de Janeiro. The layout is said to have a links-type feel.

There will be two 72-stroke play events during the Olympic Games, featuring 60 of the top men and 60 of the best women’s players in the world.

Organizers were faced with numerous challenges, including a lawsuit filed by a Rio public prosecutor who charged that the city government and the golf course developer violated environmental rules. The course is located on a nature reserve.

Recreational golf doesn’t really exist in Brazil, but international golf leaders are hoping the Olympic tournaments will introduce the game to Brazilian youngsters who will be inspired to take it up.

Protesters have contended that the course was built with little regard to the flora and fauna of the nature reserve, but Cleverly disagrees.

“We’ve encouraged wildlife to come back to the area,” he said.

The Olympic course will be open to the public after the completion of the Games.

–Story courtesy of The Sports Xchange, TSX Golf Editor Tom LaMarre

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