PACIFIC PALISADES, California (Reuters) - Though work on the Olympic golf course for the 2016 Rio Games lagged well behind schedule, construction is now “virtually complete”, according to International Golf Federation vice-president Ty Votaw.
The Venue Reserva de Marapendi layout, controversially built in an environmental reserve, will benefit from two growing seasons between now and the Olympics, Votaw said, but he was unable to specify when a planned test event could take place.
“Progress of the golf course is continuing, and the construction aspect of it is virtually complete,” Votaw told Reuters by telephone during this week’s PGA Tour event, the Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club.
”There are a few items that need to be completed, some infrastructure things, but as far as the golf course itself and the design elements and the grassing of the golf course, that is virtually done.
“We are now in a full-lock, grow-in maintenance operation. We are doing everything that we can to maximize the benefits of having two growing seasons because it’s summer down there now and we will have two growing seasons before the 2016 Games.”
Golf will make its first appearance at the Olympics since 1904 after being voted back in, but the Venue Reserva de Marapendi course has been snagged with problems over the past two years.
The Gilbert Hanse-designed layout was originally scheduled to be finished by 2014 to give organizers two years to iron out kinks but construction was held up for several months because of legal wrangling over land ownership and environmental issues.
“Over the last 12 months, our top priority has been the golf course,” said Votaw, who is also executive vice-president of the PGA Tour.
“We just need to continue to impress upon everybody in Rio, the 2016 organizers and the land owners, that all resources need to be brought to bear to get the golf course in the condition that it needs to be to host a competition of this nature.”
Votaw said that a test event, involving either professionals or elite amateurs, would be held prior to the 2016 Rio Games to allow officials to evaluate the course and test the scoring system, transportation routes and other logistics.
However, he was unable to specify when that would take place, saying: “To be determined. We want to get a sense of how the grow-in season goes over the next 60-90 days to determine what the chances are of a late ‘15 or early ‘16 test event.”
Asked whether he had any major concerns over preparations for the golf component of the 2016 Games, Votaw replied: ”I wouldn’t say we are ever going to be concern-free.
”But we are diligent in making sure that everything that Rio 2016 and the land owner has to do to deliver the golf course to us is done.
“We’ve taken an active role and in that respect there are folks at the PGA Tour agronomy and properties division who have been helping the landowner and Rio 2016 with the golf course. We continue to work hard with all those entities.”
Sixty players will compete over 72 holes of strokeplay in both the men’s and women’s events in Rio. Golfers in the top 15 of the world rankings will automatically be eligible, although no more than four players from any one country can take part.
Officials will also make space for at least one male and one female player from Brazil, and are committed to having at least one golfer from Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania.
Editing by Larry Fine