By Robbie Blakeley, Contributing Sports Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The eight finalists shortlisted to design a new golf course for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro have been announced. The winner will be responsible for designing the eighteen hole course that will see golf return to the Olympic spotlight after a 112 year absence, having last been played at the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis, Missouri.

The site for the new golf course in Barra, photo by Rio 2016

The names on the final list are: Gary Player Design; Greg Norman Golf Course Design; Hanse Golf Design; Hawtree Ltd; Nicklaus Design; Renaissance Golf; Robert Trent Jones II; Thomson-Perret Golf Course Architects.

Next week the judging committee, including representatives from the International Golf Federation (IGF), Rio 2016, Rio City Hall and the Rio 2016 Golf Advisory Committee, will meet the participating finalists and carry out a final review of their proposals. The winner will be announced on Friday, December 23rd.

The golf course is to be built at the Reserva de Marapendi, in the ever expanding bairro (neighborhood) of Barra da Tijuca. The area is set to play a major part in 2016, with over half the events being held there, as well as being home to Rio’s Olympic Village, complete with Athletes’ Park, Olympic Park and Exhibition Center.

Being a city that caters for everyone’s tastes, Rio is already equipped with two golf courses; the Itanhangá Golf Club, also situated in Barra da Tijuca, and the Gaveá Golf and Country Club, in the leafy Gaveá bairro.

Gavea Golf and Country Club has views of Pedra da Gávea and São Conrado beach
Gavea Golf and Country Club was passed over for the Olympics, photo courtesy of Gávea Golf & Country Club.

Both clubs had harbored dreams of hosting the golfing event at the 2016 Games, only to be disappointed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Speaking of the course in Barra, the IOC said that, in order to be ready to host the Olympics, the course would need significant remodeling, which would necessitate the closure of the club to the great inconvenience of its members.

And in order to win this coveted prize, there are some rather stringent guidelines the firms must follow. As well as the standard requirement of showing proof the firms have previous golf course design experience and they have the qualifications necessary to complete the project, the awarded company must also set up an office in Rio de Janeiro.

In addition, the course must meet IGF specifications and the course must be available for both professional and public use after the Olympic Games have left town. When the Games end, sources say the course will be managed by a private operator with the chief purpose of promoting golf in Brazil and in South America.

Seeing as there will be over thirty competing nations in the golf tournament in 2016, compared with just two in 1904, a golf craze sweeping the city is a safe bet. As for Brazil’s best hope, all eyes are on São Paulo’s Alexandre Rocha, who in 2011 became the first Brazilian in 29 years to make the PGA Tour.


  1. Rio doesn’t really cater for all tastes, as the two clubs you mention are very expensive private clubs, and there are very few opportunities for the keen golfer to play. There are nine-hole courses in Teresopolis and Petropolis, a rather junior course at Golden Green, and the only public course is at Japeri, where the state government is planning to drive the ring-road straight through the club premises. The Japeri course is very important, as it is also a social project, helping the local youths to get jobs and learn to play golf. It is good news that the new course in Barra will be open to the public after the Olympic Games, and let’s hope that whoever operates it will have better luck than the various groups that have attempted to encourage golf in Rio, with for instance driving ranges – all of which have closed down due to lack of interest. London has 100 golf courses or centers within a few miles of the center, and Rio has two! No wonder there has been no Brazilian on the PGA tour for 29 years.


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