With Olympic fever still rife and the start of the Paralympics in London still fresh in our minds, let’s revisit a popular old topic we talked about last several months ago, the situation regarding golf and its inclusion in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
Since we last examined this topic, there have been several major announcements regarding the golf tournament at the games and in this article, we’ll examine this news together with some of the issues being discussed about the return of golf to the Olympic fold for the first time since 1904.
The big news here was that in early 2012, Gil Hanse defeated seven other finalists to win the chance to design and produce a golf course worthy of hosting the mens and women’s golf events in 2016.
Hanse, who works with American Hall of Fame golfer Amy Alcott as an advisor, won the bid according to the selection committee because the bid “tackled the challenge of designing a course for use by both elite and amateur athletes,” and “addressed the environmental sustainable directive for the Games and efficciently conformed to the building restrictions of the land.”
The course has already been designed (below) and will be a 7,226, par-71 course, which plays 6,494 yards from the women’s tee.
Mr Hanse has already likened the site of the course to the Australian sandbelt, which is home to courses like Roual Melbourne and Victoria. In a recent interview Mr Hanse said “the sand affords you so many other opportunities to be creative; it facilitates drainage especially.”
Hanse will move to Rio with his wife to oversee the project and it is expected that work on the course will start in earnest in October 2012, with the course finished and ready for play in the middle of 2014. Test events have been scheduled for 2015 in readiness for the Games.
There has already been a large amount of dismissive speculation about whether many of the top professionals will even consider playing in Rio. The lack of prize money is viewed as a problem by some with American commentator Dave Anderson of the New York Times stating:
“(Tiger) Woods (pictured) appears eager for the Olympic experience, but don’t expect all the top names to be there. Just as many top tennis professionals have ignored the Olympics, some top golf pro’s surely will.
“There is no prize money and no appearance money, only a gold, silver or bronze medal, although a pro’s equipment or clothing contract may include a bonus for an Olympic medal.”
It is somewhat sad to read such comments given the efforts witnessed at the Olympic and Paralympics in recent weeks. To assume all professional golfers are so mercenary is a somewhat provocative statement and perhaps ill-advised.
Especially when many in America are justifably excited about this years Ryder Cup, for which players receive no appearance or prize money.
One contentious issue however that does remain open to debate is the qualification system, with the majority of places awarded to players based on their world ranking AND geographic locality. Which raises the prospect of some of the world’s finest golfers missing out, while golfers from smaller golfing nations, such as India, Venezuela and, of course, Brazil, would get in.
But despite the lukewarm reception by some golf analysts, there does seem to be a genuine level of support for golf in the Olympics through the game in general.
How successful the competition will be will ultimately depend on the design of the course, the effectiveness of the organisation and of course, the quality of the play allied to the reception the game receives on a global scale and from the locals in Rio.