April 19, 2015 / 12:22 AM / 4 years ago

Olympic course designer hopes golf wins in Rio Games

FAR HILLS, New Jersey (Reuters) - Gil Hanse designed the course that will stage the return of golf to the Olympics in 2016 for the first time in 112 years and knows the stakes are high for the sport.

“I hate figure skating. I don’t ever watch it. But every four years I watch figure skating because it’s in the Olympics,” Hanse said on Saturday at an Architectural Symposium at the U.S. Golf Association headquarters.

“So people who have never watched golf, because it’s an Olympic sport will tune in.

“If in any small way we can present the face of what we believe golf should look like — not perfect, a little bit rugged, a little bit rustic — hopefully this will bring a boom in golf development around the world.”

After long delays in construction over issues including environmental concerns, Hanse said the struggles are over and only the last touches remain on the as yet unnamed course.

“I think we’re clear. We’re finished,” he said.

The course, which features natural vegetation, heavy bunkering, a lagoon and sandy, rough ground lining wide fairways, will host two 60-player tournaments with the women’s event following the men’s at the Rio Games.

A second set of bunkers were installed in the women’s landing areas with fairway contours and sloping posing other threats by shedding shots off in different directions.

There are no trees in play and the course offers several paths and opportunities for greenside recovery from the side and behind giving it a links feel.

The course, which can play as long as 7,350 yards, has no cart paths.

“We didn’t want to present a golf course from the air with all those ribbons and scars all the way through it,” he said, adding that aerial views will be “spectacular.”

“This is an Olympic venue, it’s supposed to be for athletes who should be walking this golf course. It’s eminently walkable. There’s only 20 feet of elevation.”

The course in the Baja area of Rio is hard by the ocean and built on sand. Beyond the par-71 layout are some high-rise condominium buildings with mountains behind.

Hanse said the plan is to hold a test event during the Brazilian summer, which is winter time in the northern hemisphere.

The American golf architect would not predict a winning score.

“The best outcome would be that this really helps the game of golf,” Hanse said.

Editing by Patrick Johnston

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