The Olympic Golf Course in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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Meet the Course Built for the 2016 Summer Olympics

Olympic Golf Course from overhead a couple months before the 2016 Olympics in Rio
An aerial view of the Olympic Golf Course and its surroundings in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

In the years leading up to 2016, Rio de Janeiro was awarded the 2016 Summer Olympics, and those Olympic Games were chosen as the occasion of golf's return to the Olympics following a more-than-100-year absence.

One problem: There was only one golf course in Rio and it wasn't considered suitable for pro golfers. So the Rio Olympic Organizing Committee built a new golf course. That's the Olympic Golf Course, and over the following pages we'll learn a lot more about it, plus see more photos.

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What Is the Name of the Olympic Golf Course?

A general view of the first hole on the Olympic Golf Course in Rio
A general view of the first hole on the Olympic Golf Course in Rio. Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Early on, there were some references to the course under the name of "Reserva Marapendi Golf Course," after its location. Presumably, someone quickly decided that having "Olympic" in the name was a good idea, thus it's mostly referred to as "Olympic Golf Course." But "Reserva Marapendi Golf Course" is still sometimes used by officials and the actual name may revert to that.

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Where Is the Golf Course Located?

General view of Hole 3 at the Olympic Golf Course
Hole No. 3 at Olympic Golf Course includes deep bunkers and sandy waste areas, as well as thick vegetation framing the hole. Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

The Olympic Golf Course is located in a part of Rio de Janeiro known as the Barra da Tijuca zone. That zone is west of some of Rio's most famous areas, such as Copacabana and Ipanema.

The golf course is within the Reserva de Marapendi, a nature reserve, and built next to the Marapendi Lagoon. The lagoon and a narrow strip of land on its other side separate the golf course from the South Atlantic Ocean.

The course is approximately 22 miles from the Rio airport.

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Who Was the Olympic Course Designer?

Rodrigo Lee of Brazil hits the ball during the Golf Tournament - Aquece Rio Test Event for the Rio 2016 Olympics
The Olympic Golf Course during the Rio Test Event prior to the 2016 Summer Games. Buda Mendes/Getty Images

When golf's return to the Olympics was announced, the Rio Olympic Organizing Committee set up a bid process for companies wanting to design and build the Olympic Golf Course. The golf course design company chosen was United States-based Gil Hanse Golf Course Design. The firm's namesake, Hanse, along with design consultant (and World Golf Hall of Fame member) Amy Alcott, was the chief architect.

Gil Hanse Golf Course Design is based in Pennsylvania and was founded in 1993. Hanse was named golf's "Architect of the Year" in 2009 by Golf Magazine. Some of Hanse's other, best-known designs include:

  • Rustic Canyon Golf Course in California
  • The Vineyard Club on Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts
  • Castle Stuart Golf Links in Inverness, Scotland

Hanse was also in charge of renovations of the Blue Monster course at Doral and of TPC Boston.

Hanse and his company were selected in early 2012 after a bid process in which most major golf course architects around the world participated.

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The Golf Course's Look and Feel

General view of Hole 9 at the Olympic Golf Course in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The 9th hole on the Olympic Golf Course in Rio. Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Construction on the Olympic Golf Course was completed in January 2015, and at that time Golfweek magazine wrote that it "has a wide-open, linksy feel to it."

Built on wetlands next to a lagoon and the ocean, it reminds some of a sandbelt course.

The course is very open with no trees in the playing corridors, and water views on many holes. It has wide fairways and winds off the Atlantic should provide its best defenses. Some holes are also bounded by thick vegetation and gorse-like bushes.

Former head of the European Tour Peter Dawson has compared the Olympic Course's playing characteristics to those of St. Andrews' Old Course - assuming the course, still very close to brand new, firms up in time for the 2016 Summer Games.

Ian Baker-Finch described the course this way: "It has a little links style, an open look to the course, some wetlands and lovely-looking bunkering."

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Olympic Golf Course Par and Yards

General view of Hole 3 at the Olympic Golf Course in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
This giant bunker is on Hole No. 3 of the Olympic Golf Course. Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

For the 2016 Summer Olympics, Rio's Olympic Golf Course will sport these numbers:

  • Par of 71
  • 7,132 yards long for the men's tournament
  • 6,500 yards for the women's tournament

The golf course can stretch to as long as 7,350 yards.

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Any Tournaments On the Course Pre-Olympics?

General view of Hole 16 at the Olympic Golf Course in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The 16th hole of the Olympic Golf Course in Rio. Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Did the Olympic Golf Course host any golf tournaments prior to its Olympic debut?

Sort of. In March 2016 the Aquece Rio Golf Challenge - what was commonly referred to as the "Rio test event" - was played on the Olympic Golf Course.

Nine Brazilian golfers (four women and five men) played the 1-day exhibition. The lowest score by any of the men was 68; the lowest by any of the women 67.

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What Happens to the Golf Course After the 2016 Olympics?

General view of Hole 18 at the Olympic Golf Course on May 30, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Looking up the 18th hole of the Olympic Golf Course a few months prior to the 2016 Olympics, construction projects behind. Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

The 2016 Paralympic Games immediately followed the 2016 Summer Olympics, and the golf course was the site of a tournament for the Paralympics, too.

And after that, the golf course was open to the public. The International Golf Federation states:

"After the 2016 Olympic Games, the course will be used as a public facility with the chief purpose of promoting golf in Brazil and the globe, representing one of the most important Olympic Games legacies for sport development in the country."

A luxury real estate development, called Riserva Golf, is under construction adjacent to the golf course. The pledge to keep the golf course public is not open-ended, however; it's possible that in the future the real estate developers will make the course a private club as part of the luxury development. (There is a pledge of at least 20 years as a public course.)