Hanse Bags Olympic Gold
By Conor Nagle under Architecture

Hanse's design will weave its way between dunes... and high-rise apartment blocks.

Architects’ architect Gil Hanse has been commissioned to design the venue for golf’s return to the Olympic Games in 2016.

Famed for his diligent and ecologically-sensitive approach to course design, Hanse – whose bid was strengthened by the cooperation of LPGA legend Amy Alcott – was selected ahead of several high-profile candidates, including Gary Player, Peter Thompson, Jack Nicla

Commended for “tackling the challenge of designing a course for use by both elite and amateur athletes” and addressing questions of “environmental sustainability”, the Hanse Golf Design proposal was deemed the “candidate that most aptly met the selection criteria” by the Rio 2016 selection committee.

The first draft.

 The appointment of Hanse, whose naturalistic, links-inspired philosophy is considered something of an antidote to contemporary trends in “championship” course design, has been greeted with relief by a number interested parties, Phil Mickelson included.

The left-hander, who’ll be 46 by the time the golf world decamps to Rio, sounded relieved to hear a 7,800-yard, wire-roughed behemoth wouldn’t be on the cards.

“I’m a big fan of Gil Hanse.  I think he’s one of the best architects in the business.  He understands how to make a golf course playable for the average player but challenging for the good player.  He does it better than probably anyone, Crenshaw and Coore maybe being the exception.

“For him to get the Olympic job, I give the Olympic Committee a real credit, a lot of credit, because, it would have been easier to go with a big name. And instead, they went with the best. I thought that was pretty cool.”

Mickelson’s insinuation that a number of Hanse’s high-profile competitors (read: Norman/Ochoa, Gary Player, Nicklaus/Sorenstam) were unworthy of consideration found an echo in the sentiments of Robert Trent Jones II, himself the architect of an unsuccessful bid.

From an article by the Golf Channel’s Ryan Ballengee:

“Like any sportsman who gets to compete at the Olympic level, it was clearly worth the effort. My feelings are mixed between the personal disappointment of not being selected [and] happiness that a true golf architect was selected.”

While the appointment of a talented and knowledgeable architect to helm the Olympic project is an encouraging development, no plans are yet in place to enliven the likely anticlimactic 72-hole strokeplay format.

Conor Nagle

(With thanks to Geoff Shackelford for some sterling aggregation)