By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – With World Cup fever spreading and all eyes on the twelve host cities’ preparations, construction for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio has been progressing positively yet under the radar for the most part. The sport of golf has been making great strides in particular, especially as the construction of the new golf course begins to take shape.

Golf in Rio, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
Golf in Rio is set to see a resurgence for the Olympics, photo by Zeca Resendes/Rio2016.

The course is being built at Reserva de Marapendi (Marapendi Reserve) in Barra da Tijuca, one of four zones which will serve as home of the majority of Olympic Games. Earlier this year U.S.-based firm Gil Hanse was selected by the Olympic Organizing Committee to design the golf course for the 2016 event.

Rio 2016 president Carlos Arthur Nuzman describes the monumental importance of the new venue. “As it marks the return of golf to the Olympic Games after over a century of absence, this course represents the beginning of a new chapter in the history of the sport. It will enable Rio to host important events in the international calendar and it will be an example of sustainability and preservation of an environmentally protected area.”

Gil Hanse was selected in part due to the promise they intend to accentuate natural dune formations and retain the natural colors of the land. Another goal is to make the course public and encourage more Cariocas to take up a sport they may not have considered playing before.

Jeremy Lovelace, a British expatriate living in Rio and a keen golfer told The Rio Times, “I think there is an opportunity. With the rise in purchasing power of the middle income groups in Brazil, previously out of reach leisure activities are likely to grow in popularity. Golf is no exception. Current barriers are twofold: lack of awareness, and expensive facilities. Will be interesting to see how the new course is priced to see if it can capture this middle income demographic.”

A projected image of the finished golf course, photo released by Rio 2016
A projected image of the finished golf course, photo released by Rio 2016.

One concern about the new course, along more unusual lines, had initially been raised: that of caimans. Caimans are smaller members of the crocodile family and it was feared they would move into water hazards on the golf course.

Anthony Scanlon, executive director of the International Golf Federation, made a visit to the site and described the risk as minor. “We’ll have a strategy in place that will minimize any possibility of a player or spectator coming across these. The risk is minimal,” he said.

It is estimated that 6,000 caimans inhabit Zona Oeste (West Zone) of Rio de Janeiro, where the new golf course is situated. However, a huge increase in construction works in that part of the city has left the animals’ natural homes disturbed, making the clean water hazards an ideal new home for the caimans.

Anthony Scanlon said there was the potential for a really great course in Barra. “Twelve holes are already being shaped. The Olympics could be a really unique opportunity for golf. “It is a once-every-four-year event rather than the dozens of opportunities that come their way every year.”

The turf for the course is being provided by Green Grass Sod Farms of Brazil. Company owner Marcelo Matte said the Zeon Zoysia turf, which is environmentally friendly and drought resistant, could play a vital role in the future of golf. “This is the first time golf is in the Olympics after 100 years and we’ll have the whole world watching the best players for weeks in Rio. I can imagine it will be the most important golf course in the year of 2016,”  Matte said.


  1. Peter, theres no such thing as reasonable priced golf here. its priced to keep you out. They love exclusivity with things here. im hoping that this will change things here. i live 10 minutes from where the olympic course will be. they say it will revert to a public course after the games are over. i will believe it when i see it. im from california and played 3-4 times a week. never payed more than $80. for a premium course. i would kill for a decent driving range. dying for golf.

  2. To all golfers who want to play now, the Buzios Golf course green fees are around R$160 and open for anyone to play. There is a great group of regulars (gringos and Brazilians) every weekend. Buzios has a couple of rental carts available for R$100 or bring your own trolly. There are also caddies for R$50/day (these are the next generation of Brazilian golfers)

    You can find more information on the gringo golfers in Macae.

    Go to Facebook and search for MOGA

  3. I’ve been living right next to Rio’s Olympic golf course for 6 months.
    There is a rumour going round that after the Olympics the course will quickly be sold off to developers pretending that the apartment blocks will have a view of the course (maybe a couple of holes will be left for owners to practice on). We wonder whether the turf can possibly be ready in only 2 years.

  4. Im doing some volunteer work for some tournaments here and inside info from the Olympic people is the course is guaranteed for 4 years as a public course after the games. After this time a decision will be made to either sell, or develop or whether to leave it as is. In any event, you will be able to play there for at least 4 years.


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