RIO DE JANEIRO – As the sun inched its way above the nearby mountains, Gil Hanse watched Martin Kaymer play his approach shot into the first hole at the Olympic Golf Course early Tuesday morning.
For the soft-spoken architect it was something of an epiphany moment.
“I thought, they are actually here, they are actually playing our golf course. The pride really started to flow at that point,” Hanse said.
After years of delays, the Olympic course will be debuted to the world this week for the men’s competition in Rio and so far the response from the world’s best players has been encouraging.
“Feedback is starting to come in, I’m hearing a lot of ‘fun,’ a lot of ‘interesting,’ a lot of ‘variety,’ I don’t know if anyone would come up to me and tell me they didn’t like it,” he laughed. “On Thursday morning I’ll be shaking like a leaf.”
Whatever nerves Hanse may have as the world’s best set out on Thursday likely won’t compare to the anxiety he endured as the project was stalled for months because of land disputes and environmental concerns.
The toughest times were in the spring of 2013, when delays threatened to keep the course from being completed on time after Hanse had moved his family to Brazil for the project.
“When my daughters were here that’s when the realization set in that this was going to drag on and as a father and as a husband you get to the point where you’re like, ‘Oh my, what have I done to my family?’” he said. “Not only are you struggling with what’s happening on site and everything not going to the speed you would want, but you’re also thinking, 'I brought people I love most in the world into this.' Those were the hardest days.”
Despite the delays, players this week have lauded both the condition and design of the par-71 layout, which includes a closing stretch of a drivable par 4 (No. 16), short par 3 (No. 17) and a par 5 (No. 18).
“It was always too important not to get finished and we’re pretty close to ideal,” Hanse said.