How Golfers can Qualify for the 2016 Olympic Golf Tournament

After over 100 years of absence, golf will return to the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. Some of the game’s biggest names will finally have the chance to get their hands on an Olympic gold medal; the first awarded since Canadian George Lyon won gold at the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis.

So what do we know about the forthcoming Olympic competition, its qualification system, the tournament itself and where it is likely to be played?


2016 Olympic Games Golf Tournament in Rio

1. Organisation

The first thing to note is that the structure and organisation of the Olympic golf tournament has already been agreed upon by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Golf (along with Rugby) will be part of the 2016 and 2020 games for definite (as reported in an article in Golf World in October 2009), with its future participation after that somewhat dependent upon the success of this first tournament, with the IOC set to review its continued participation in the games in 2017.

The IOC have also confirmed that there will be individual golf tournaments for men and women. The format of the competition will be a 72-hole stroke play, the same format used in most professional tournaments across the world. In the event of a tie, each competition will be decided by a three-hole playoff. The field for both men and women’s tournament will be limited to 60 players and there are already guidelines in place which outline how golfers can qualify for the Olympic tournament.


2. How golfers will qualify

The IOC have decided that in order to qualify for one of the 60 places in the field, golfers will have to qualify for the Olympic Golf tournament via their world ranking, though to ensure a greater variation in the countries representatives competing, qualification is staggered.

The top 15 ranked players in the Official World Golf Ranking would qualify for the tournament, regardless of which country they come from.

The remaining 45 players would then be selected  based on their world ranking, but only if the country they represent does not already have two players competing in the Olympic tournament.

In effect, what this means is that in order to get a more balanced field in the Olympics, and to open up the sport for more countries to compete, it means that a lot of big name golfers will miss out, who are just outside the world’s top 15.

2016 Olympic Games Golf Tournament in Rio

For example, if the IOC were to use the Official World Rankings as of 31st December 2011 as their criteria for qualification, this is how the field for the men’s tournament would line up:

Qualified from World Top 15:

1.Luke Donald (GB & NIR),

2.Lee Westwood (GB & NIR),

3.Rory McIlroy (GB & NIR),

4.Martin Kaymer (Ger),

5.Adam Scott (Aus),

6.Steve Stricker (USA),

7.Dustin Johnson (USA),

8.Jason Day (Aus),

9.Charl Schwartzel (S.Af),

10.Webb Simpson (USA),

11.Matt Kuchar (USA),

12.Nick Watney (USA),

13.Graeme McDowell (GB & NIR),

14.Phil Mickelson (USA),

15.K.J.Choi (Kor),

16.Ian Poulter (GB & NIR)


Now what is notable from this list is that there are five golfers from Great Britain and Ireland, six from the United States and two from Australia amongst the 15 qualifiers. This would mean that no other players from the US, GB & Ireland and Australia would be allowed to enter the tournament.

So, the likes of Paul Casey, Justin Rose, Hunter Mahan, Bubba Watson and perhaps most importantly for the game itself, Tiger Woods, would all miss out whereas some of the lesser known names in golf would qualify

The other 45 qualifiers (world ranking in brackets following country): 

17.Sergio Garcia (Esp: Wr 17)

18.Alvaro Quiros (Esp: Wr 22)

19.Robert Karlsson (Swe: Wr 24)

20.Kim Kyung-Tae (Kor: Wr 25)

21. Anders Hansen (Den: Wr 34)

22. Thomas Bjorn (Den: Wr 35)

23. Freddie Jakobsen (Swe: Wr 39)

24. Louis Oosthuizen (S.Af: Wr 40)

25. Francesco Molinari (Ita: Wr 41)

26. Ryo Ishikawa  (Jap: Wr 51)

27. Matteo Manassero (Ita: Wr 58)

28. Toru Taniguchi (Jap: Wr 61)

29. Vijay Singh (Fiji: Wr 63)

30. Joost Luiten (Ned: Wr 64)

31. Nicolas Colsaerts (Bel: Wr 72)

32. Padraig Harrington (Ire: Wr 85)

33. Camilo Villegas (Col: Wr 89)

34. Raphael Jacquelin (Fra: Wr 106)

35. Jhonattan Vegas (Ven: Wr 111)

36. Shane Lowry (Ire: Wr 119)

37. Gregory Bourdy (Fra: Wr 124)

38. Andres Romero (Arg: Wr 125)

39. Brendon de Jonge (Zim: Wr 144)

40. Thongchai Jaidee (Thai: Wr 151)

41. Danny Lee (NZ: Wr 152)

42. Juvic Pagunsan (Phil: Wr 157)

43. Siddukur Rahman (Ban: Wr 158)

44. Bernd Wiesberger (Aut: Wr 162)

45. Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Thai: Wr 177)

46. Jeev Milka Singh (Ind: Wr 187)

47. Felipe Aguilar (Chl: Wr 193)

48. Robert Jan Derkson (Ned: Wr 208)

49. Lu Wei-Chih (Tai: Wr 211)

50. Adam Hadwin (Can: Wr 238)

51. Fabrizio Zanotti (Par: Wr 241)

52. Ricardo Gonzalez (Arg: Wr 245)

53. Arjun Atwal (Ind: Wr 246)

54. Liang Wen-Chong (Chn: Wr 251)

55. Marcel Siem (Ger: Wr 253)

56. David Hearn (Can: Wr 254)

57. Mark Tullo (Chl: Wr 262)

58: Ricardo Santos (Por: Wr 269)

59. Martin Wiegele (Aut: Wr 270)

60. Mardan Mamat (Sgp: Wr 288)

The interesting question here looking at this field is if Olympic golf will have the same appeal, watching Martin Wiegele and Mardan Mamat battle it out against Luke Donald and Lee Westwood, while there is no place for the likes of Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Jim Furyk, Bubba Watson or Ian Poulter in the competition?

2016 Olympic Games Golf Tournament in Rio - Landmarks

3. The Course

At first, it was mooted that the Itanhanga Golf Club, which has hosted a European Tour event in 2000, would be the venue for the tournament, however that has now been scrapped in favour of building a brand new development.

According to the official Rio 2016 website, the new complex will be based in Reserva de Marapendi, 5 kilometres from the athletes village. The IOC invited bids from parties interested in designing the course in October 2011 and late last month, they announced that they had agreed to review eight design bids from: Gary Player Design, Greg Norman Golf Course Design, Hanse Golf Course Design, Hawtree Ltd, Nicklaus Design, Renaissance Golf, Robert Trent Jones II and Thomson-Perret Golf Course Architechts.

The Rio 2016 website has said that an announcement on the winning golf course design bid will be made in “early 2012” but so far no news as to who the winning bidder is, has been announced.


The Conclusion?

In short, there is a lot of work to be done before 2016 to really set the golfing world alight at the prospect of an Olympic games. Currently, the prospect of listening to Tiger Woods commentate, while we watch Mardan Mamat play on a course that has not even been designed yet-let alone built- hardly fills the keen golfer with much enthusiasm for the event.

Over time though, this attitude will change. Once the course design is finalised, the course built and hopefully some of the world’s best stars at the top of their game, the 2016 Olympic Golf Tournament may well be the roaring success that both the Olympics and the Golf community at large, need it to be.


Images by rhurtubiaWill Clayton

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If you enjoyed this post please leave us your comment below

Troy Vayanos January 22, 2012

I think it’s great that golf is finally at the Olympics. The qualifying process looks okay to me and should encourage the world’s best players to participate and strive to win a gold medal for their country.


Tommy Priest January 22, 2012

Thanks for your comment! Just hope the best get there.


Kevin Markham January 31, 2012

Nope, I just don’t get it. At what point will the Olympics stop introducing greater and greater numbers of sports. Golf? Seriously! I love the game but the Olympic ‘spirit’ has become a joke as what was once an amateur endeavour is now dominated by professionals. Soccer, tennis… they just don’t fit when there’s so much sponsorship involved. In fairness, I stopped watching the Olympics years ago. I don’t get the point when the host nation (and its citizens specifically) has to pay for the even for decades afterwards.

Anyway, rant over. What I would love to see is golf included, but amateur contestants playing matchplay through a round-robin system of groups. But then no one wants to watch nobodies!


Tommy Priest February 2, 2012

Thanks for your comment (s). I tend to agree – the Olympics are no longer played in the spirit for which the were intended – amateurs playing for the love of their sporting discipline. The Olymplic Committee apparently feels that by opening the sport up to all competitors (mainly professionals) they will increase their coffers and offer more exciting and telegenic competition. Too bad for us.


Rod February 7, 2012

Why Poulter is in in the Top 15 list, if he is actually 16th?


Tommy Priest February 19, 2012

We like Ian all the same….


Haden Taylor May 11, 2012

Has the IGF announced when the Olympic player fields will be selected?
I assume it will be some weeks or months before the competition
begins. But have they set a date, or announced when they plan to set a date?


Tommy Priest May 30, 2012

Good question. We will get back on that.


Mary O'Brien August 3, 2012

if i want to qualify for womens how do i get noticed to do so? im 16 and determined to do it wither it be 2016 or 2020 I WANT TO QUALIFY 🙂


Zach Woods August 13, 2012

Well this sucks, I was really wanting to qualify. Now Since it looks like only pro’s will qualify. I think it should be like how the q school process was. Have to qualify through different courses and such. But I am happy golf is back in the olympics. Just bummed I don’t even get the chance to qualify.


Tommy Priest September 27, 2012

Personally, I agree – the Olypics should be for amateurs.


golflover October 17, 2012

How does an amateur of an underrepresented country qualify for golf? aka. a woman from Saudi Arabia?


Tommy Priest October 25, 2012

We’ll try to answer that. Thanks for the input.


Grahame Harris November 14, 2012

Why can’t a small country (eg Laos, Cambodia, Botswana, Luxemburg etc.) enter a team and pre-qualify to open the Olympics to all interested countries?


Bree January 13, 2013

I would like to qualify in the 2016 or 2020 Olympics. It has been one of my dreams to do so since I was younger and i have been practicing a lot. How can i be noticed to be in the Olympics?


Tommy Priest January 13, 2013

The system is difficult but pretty straightforward.
o answer your question – either you become one of the 60 top players in the world (and hope that two of the top 15 are not from your home country, or try to be one of two choices from your home country for the remaining spots. We suggest you contact your country official golf association, or olympic association or the international golf federation in Lausanne. Let us know what happens!
Take another look at our blog post describing the process. If you have any questions, write us again.


Jeremy Pell July 2, 2013

I live in the united states but am from brazil I have dual citizen ship and want to play in the Olympics for brazil. How do I get in touch with someone to qualify?


Kelly smith February 23, 2016

Amateurs only… the pros have it all and now a gold medal? 1980 us hockey team beating the Russians for the gold or The Fricken Dream Team. Where’s Bobby Jones when we need h8m?


Erika April 4, 2016

Should be amateurs only. Pros have a stage to compete. Olympics should showcase the best amateur players

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