Which course architect deserves to build Brazil's Olympic golf venue?
In a story from the Associated Press released this week, it looks like the chase is on to build the golf course to be used in Brazil’s 2016 Olympic Games:
Robert Trent Jones Jr. visited Brazil this week and secured a spot in the race to build the course, joining a field that includes Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Nick Faldo, Seve Ballesteros, Greg Norman and others.
Officials better move fast because the 2016 games are nearing, and ground should be broken on a new golf course by early 2012. So who should get the nod? Of these names mentioned, Nicklaus and Jones seem to make the most sense.
I’ve been a fan of Nicklaus’ recent stuff the most, ever since he started constructing his courses to be a little more rugged (including Pronghorn and Cordillera Ranch). We also know Brazilians like to party more than golf, so maybe they’re equally impressed with Nicklaus’ wine-making skills.
Jones Jr. has the most international experience of the group. He and his father were building courses internationally long before most architects went overseas. He can also point to Chambers Bay as making him the only designer who has built something worthy of a U.S. Open - though Palmer can point out he owns and is overseeing course changes to Pebble Beach.
It’s tough to really pin down Arnold Palmer Design because they seem to build all kinds of designs: affordable daily fees, private clubs and resort courses. He does have a foot in Brazil’s door designing Fazenda Boa Vista in Sao Paulo, so maybe having some men on the ground will give him a leg up. The firm has worked on some tour-worthy venues like Bay Hill Club & Lodge (which they’ve renovated). I think Classic Club in Palm Desert design got a raw deal when it was ousted from the Bob Hope Classic rotation because of a few whiny tour pros.
Norman’s firm has demonstrated they can build a tough course by delivering TPC San Antonio’s AT&T Oaks course, which will help serve as perhaps their go-to example in the board room. Norman will go for the project with Lorena Ochoa, so their combined marketing power is probably the best amongst the group.
Gary Player courses tend to be designed more for the resort golfer than the touring pro - at least in North America. He tends to build courses that are good and affordable rather than destination plays (with the exception of South Africa, where he’s built many of the country’s best courses, not surprisingly).
It would be very surprising to me if Faldo or Ballesteros are considered seriously. Course design seems to be more of a pet project for these two compared to Nicklaus especially, who keeps pretty busy on the design front.
I am a little nervous that the proposed course will end up being another same-old tournament venue - just as the format for the tournament will be same-old, individual stroke play. If I see a press release announcing the new design could set up to be over 8,000 yards, I will pour a stiff drink and proclaim Olympic Golf, while it had great possibilities, is turning into just another way to dig the game a deeper hole.
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