Brazilian golf official defends state of Olympic course

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Things are not as dire at the Olympic Golf Course as recent reports would suggest, at least according to officials with the Brazilian Golf Confederation.

In an e-mail to GolfChannel.com, Brazilian Golf Confederation president Paulo Pacheco said the Gil Hanse-designed course is currently going through a “soft opening” and that “the maintenance of the course will continue at the same quality level.”

An Agence France-Presse report this week said the course is suffering from a lack of patronage and financial support, noting the company that maintains the layout (Progolf) hasn’t been paid by the Confederation in two months.

The report also noted a lack of infrastructure, including an unfinished clubhouse.

“The field will not die ‘in 3 or 4 weeks,’ as some sources indicated,” Pacheco said in the statement. “We are not promoting the OGC with great publicity precisely because it does not yet have the structure at the international level.”

Pacheco did acknowledge that ongoing financial and political turmoil in Brazil has impacted the development of the Olympic course and “greatly interferes with third-party investments.”

Cost is another issue cited in the AFP report. According to Pacheco, green fees currently range from $50 to $81, and around $10 to play the adjacent four-hole layout twice.

As part of the course’s “legacy” plan, juniors can play the four-hole course for free. According to Pacheco, there are 2,000 juniors enrolled in the “Golf for Life” program, which will be hosted on the Olympic course when it officially opens next year.

“The OGC is part of the legacy of the 2016 Olympics,” Pacheco said. “We know of the difficulties of implementing sports projects in times of crisis, but we never stop looking for solutions and it is far from our minds giving up such a representative project for golf in Brazil and in the world.”

Pacheco also said the Confederation has not requested any financial assistance to help maintain the course from the International Golf Federation or any other international agency.

The IGF has offered Pacheco and the Confederation support in the Olympic course’s transition to a public course, according to a statement released this week.

“As has been the case since the very beginning of this project, getting an accurate picture of the current situation on the ground and the best parties responsible for the short- and long-term success of the Olympic Golf Course has been difficult,” the IGF statement read. “The current economic and political situation in Rio has contributed to this difficulty.

“We have been disheartened by the recent reports regarding the status of the Olympic Golf Course and can only hope that the [Confederation], Rio 2016 and the city of Rio can work together to find both a short-term and long-term solution.”