DORAL, Fla. – Gil Hanse has been selected to design and build the golf course for the 2016 Olympics Games in Brazil, but the 48-year-old architect hopes to create something much more profound.
“We want this to be received well those two weeks, but we really want it also to be something the Brazilians are proud of,” said Hanse, one of eight finalists for the Olympic bid. “If it can lead to, in 2024 or whatever, you know, there's a Brazilian in contention for the Olympics for the gold medal, then we have done an even better job.”
That job will be particularly challenging considering that Hanse will have less than two years to create a championship-ready venue from scratch. Hanse, who will move to Rio to oversee the project, said he plans to break ground in October and have the course ready for play by the middle of 2014 in time for a “test event” in ’15.
“The time line that's been articulated is comfortable. It's not great, but I think given that climate, warm season grasses, we should be able to get the golf course up and running by the middle end of 2014,” he said.
As for what kind of course will await golf’s return to the Olympics, Hanse said he envisions a traditional-style layout that will emphasize the recovery shot and a finish that will likely yield more birdies than bogeys.
“The setup and the finish that we have proposed envision a lot of half-par holes. So short par 4s, short par 3, reachable par 5,” he said. “You get really good swings. Some people are afraid to finish golf courses that way because they don't want guys walking off going birdie, birdie, eagle, and I think it would be awesome if they did that.”
Hanse, whose Castle Stuart design in Scotland is considered one of the best courses built this decade, was chosen over bids from Gary Player, Greg Norman, Jack Nicklaus and Robert Trent Jones II.
“I'm not usually a fan of modern designs. I mean, there are some greats, like (Ben) Crenshaw, (Bill) Coore, and I think Mark Parsinen and Gil Hanse are great ones who recognize that golf is not about longer and harder,” Phil Mickelson said last July at the Scottish Open.
“It's about fun, creativity, memorable shots, holes, challenges and it doesn't have to beat you up all the time. It should almost be a prerequisite to play Castle Stuart before you're allowed to design golf courses nowadays.”