Rio Might Not Be Wisest Choice For Olympic Golf

Hip hip hooray for Rio de Janeiro, the 2016 Summer Olympics hosts. Sure, all of the endemic problems with Chicago (crime, corruption, not enough white people) are only worse down there, but hey, thongs and a giant Jesus cure all ills, right?

Maracana Stadium illustration
(That’s pretty cool, guys, but I don’t see anywhere to play 18 in that thing.)

Tiny thing, though; we are kind of wondering how, exactly, Rio actually got the bid. If it’s because Pele showed up at the IOC’s meeting in Copenhagen, or because Barack Obama went there at all, or because Obama didn’t spend enough time there for the IOC’s needs, whatever. We don’t think, though, that the Games went to Rio on account of its actual ability to host them; golfers, in particular, shouldn’t get too comfy in the Olympic Village, because they’re going to have a long trip in front of them.

According to FOX SPORTS, Rio’s only got two golf courses in town, and the options outside the city are equally gaunt:

Rio de Janeiro might well make for a spectacular host city for the 2016 Summer Olympiad. But this teeming metropolis of some 14 million residents on the southeast coast of Brazil is no golf destination. There are only two full-length, 18-hole golf courses in the city, and it is by no means clear whether Olympic golf will take place there or in an adjoining region. Among the candidates (see box below) are the coastal resort of Buzios, 100 miles to the east, and Sao Paulo, 275 miles to the southwest.

Rio de Janeiro’s most prestigious golf course, Gavea Golf and Country Club, dates to a 1926 design that includes five spectacular oceanfront holes but is only par 69 and 6,000 yards, with no room for parking or spectators. Its neighbor, Itanhanga Golf Club, is centrally located near the planned Olympic Village and measures 6,600 yards and is par 72. In 2000, Itanhanga played host to the European PGA Tour’s Brazil Rio de Janeiro 500 Years Open (won by Roger Chapman). Itanhanga hosted the LPGA HSBC Brazil Cup 2009, a 15-player exhibition won by Catriona Matthew. Preliminary plans for 2010 call for expanding that event to include 30 players.

Among the 105 courses in Brazil that will get serious consideration as home to Olympic golf is Sao Paulo Golf Club, the oldest and most prestigious course in Brazil’s most populous city. The course hosted the European PGA Tour’s 2000 Brazil Sao Paulo 500 Years Open (won by Padraig Harrington) and to the 2001 Sao Paulo Brazil Open (won by Darren Fichardt). The par-72, 6,574-yard layout recently was renovated by Robert Trent Jones Jr. to include updated irrigation, drainage, bunkering and greens.

Also in the mix: Buzios Golf Club & Resort, a Perry Dye design measuring 7,056 yards and par 72. The course sites in a relatively remote coastal resort area 100 miles east of Rio.

Yes, 105 golf courses in all of Brazil. There’s more than that in the Palm Beach area of Florida (probably).

We’re pretty sure that, for all Itanhanga’s got going for it as a marginal exhibition course on the PGA’s radar, this issue’s going to be resolved with a brand-new course. Yes, you’re probably looking at eight figures for building this, but it’s really Brazil’s only hope to have a facility within 50 miles of town that can adequately accommodate spectators, tech crews, and the customary topless parade between the front and back 9.

It’s still Brazil, after all.