Gil Hanse to design 2016 Rio course

SAO PAULO -- American architect Gil Hanse will design the 2016 Olympic golf course in Rio de Janeiro, winning the selection Wednesday over Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman and Gary Player.

Hanse will team with Hall of Fame player Amy Alcott to build the first Olympic golf course since the sport was dropped after the 1904 St. Louis Games. Organizers picked Hanse Golf Design over seven other finalists.

"I'm still a little bit stunned by the whole thing," Hanse told The Associated Press by phone from Miami. "We are obviously very honored, very humbled by the selection. It was a thrill just to be in the competition with these great designers. I'm excited that the selection panel felt that our efforts were the ones that best matched the criteria set by organizers."

The announcement by Rio 2016 organizers was made at the site where the new course will be built, in the Barra da Tijuca neighborhood, which will hold most of the Olympic venues. After the 2016 Games, the course will be used as a public facility.

The Rio 2016 committee said Hanse Golf Design was "the candidate that most aptly met the selection criteria" issued by organizers, proposing a strong legacy component that included a golf academy to help the sport's development in Brazil.

"Hanse Golf Course Design tackled the challenge of designing a course for use by both elite and amateur athletes, one of the main legacy objectives," the committee said in a statement. "It addressed the environmental sustainability directives for the Games and efficiently conformed to the building restrictions on the land."

Hanse said their "respect for the land" made the difference.

"We like to build golf courses that are very environmentally sensitive," he said.

The other companies that made the final shortlist were Gary Player Design, Greg Norman Golf Course Design, Hawtree Ltd., Nicklaus Design, Renaissance Golf, Robert Trent Jones II and Thomson-Perret Golf Course Architects.

Nicklaus was set to team with women's great Annika Sorenstam, while Norman had a partnership with retired player Lorena Ochoa.

"I give the Olympic Committee a lot of credit," four-time major champion Phil Mickelson said at the Cadillac Championship in Florida. "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."

Golf made its debut at the second modern Olympics in Paris in 1900, but lasted only one more Games. It was reinstated in 2009 and is guaranteed to be at the 2020 Games, but a good impression in Rio would help keep the sport in the Games beyond that.

Another IOC vote on adding or removing sports is scheduled for 2017.

"The selection process adopted by Rio 2016 was extremely thorough and reflected the importance of the project," International Golf Federation president Peter Dawson said. "I am delighted Hanse Golf Course Design has been appointed to design the Olympic golf course, which promises to provide an outstanding venue for the Games and a tremendous legacy for our sport in Brazil."

Hanse Golf Design was created in 1993 and built the Castle Stuart course in the north of Scotland, which hosts the Scottish Open. Hanse also built the course at the Boston Golf Club, and last year completed the renovation of the North Course at Los Angeles Country Club. He was recently hired by Donald Trump to help renovate the Blue Monster course in Miami.

Alcott won 29 times on the LPGA Tour, including five major titles, before turning to golf course design.

The winner was announced as delegates from the International Olympic Committee made a three-day visit to Rio to receive updates on the city's preparations.

"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," Rio 2016 Olympic committee president Carlos Nuzman said. "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."

The committee said Hanse's proposal effectively addressed the planning of temporary overlay structures and internal flow systems for the venue, and considered the location of permanent buildings and the experience of players and spectators.

Hanse said construction on the course, which will include features similar to Royal Melbourne, is expected to begin in October and end by mid-2014. Tests events are expected in 2015.

Hanse and his team will be paid $300,000 for the design of the Olympic course, which will host a 72-hole stroke-play event for men and women with 60 players in each field. Local organizers will handle the cost of building the venue.

The course will be built at the Reserva de Marapendi in Barra, about three miles from the athletes' village and four miles from the main press center and the international broadcast center.

The designers made their final presentations to organizers last month and the winner was chosen by a selection committee comprised of Nuzman, Dawson and other local Olympic representatives.