Designer's Perspective

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Gil Hanse
Hanse Golf Course Design
Project Designer - Rio Olympic Golf Course


What led you to be interested in building a new golf course in Barra da Tijuca and what are the benefits of this location for the course and the city?

We were the golf course architects for the project as well as being the primary shapers and builders of the golf course.  We were successful in winning a world wide competition for the honor of designing the Olympic golf course that was open to any and all qualified golf course architects. Eight finalists were selected and from that group we were chosen to design and build the golf course.

What can people expect when playing Rio Olympic Golf Course? 

They can expect to play a golf course that will first and foremost look and feel like a golf course situated in the Barra da Tijuca section of Rio de Janeiro.  It relies on the sandy surrounds and the native flora and fauna for its distinct look and feel.  On the playability level, the golfers can expect to find a course that is strategic in nature and fun to play!

What do you feel are the aspects which distinguish Rio Olympic Golf Course, its design and build, from other golf courses?

The reliance on the Restinga vegetation for its unique character is one of the defining characteristics of the course.  Also, the fact that a major golf competition has been competed for on this golf course and so soon after that competition, the course is open to the public in a country that before now has had no access to an 18 hole public course.

What drove the design vision on the project? What consideration did you give to sustainability related issues in the design of Rio Olympic Golf Course?

The design vision was first and foremost driven by the desire to create a course that felt uniquely Brazilian and embraced its native surrounds.  Within this framework, we worked to create a course that would be sound strategically, interesting and fun to play for all classes of golfers, and provide a true championship course for golf’s return to the Olympics.  To create this test of golf we knew that both short and long term sustainability would be key components of the legacy of the golf course. This was manifested in the turf grass selection for the course and in the approach to allowing native vegetation and ground conditions (sand) to be the main constituent for the out of play areas.  The turf grasses selected have a history of being drought tolerant and disease resistant, making them very sustainable.  However, they also provided the ideal playing conditions of firm and fast turf when the weather conditions allow for that to occur as it did during the Olympics.

What do you feel were your main lessons learned for future golf course developments during the design and construction of Rio Olympic Golf Course?

The main lesson learned was one of patience.  During the construction of the course there were many hurdles that were placed in the way of the design and environmental compatibility of the course.  The golf course and environmental team was able to work through these difficult conditions and never lose sight of the goal of creating a golf course for the best golfers to play on, as well as a course that will potentially lead the way for Brazilians to be able to experience the game we all love on a course designed in harmony with its surrounds.



Hanse Golf Course Design is an intentionally small firm, dedicated to the proposition that golf courses are designed,restored and renovated in the field as opposed to solely on the drawing board. Formed in 1993 by founder Gil Hanse, who was joined in 1995 by partner Jim Wagner, Hanse Golf Course Design has patiently nurtured its reputation and its craft to arrive at a position of designing and restoring some of the finest golf courses in the world.