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« First Glimpse At The Olympic Golf Course Routing | Main | Another Significant PGA Tour Distance Spike On The Way? »

Gil Hanse Wins Olympic Course Design Competition

Gil Hanse has won the Rio 2016 Olympic golf course design competition. He issued this statement on his website confirming the news.

The announcement of the four-person jury panel’s decision, originally slated for February 4th following two-days of architect presentations in Rio de Janeiro, was made Wednesday with the blessing from a six-person International Olympic Committee contingent upon making a site inspection. Hanse’s bid bested the presentations of finalists Jack Nicklaus-Annika Sorenstam, Greg Norman-Lorena Ochoa, Gary Player, Martin Hawtree, Tom Doak, Robert Trent Jones II and Peter Thomson-Ross Perret.

(Full disclosure: I have worked with Hanse on several projects, but remained out of the Olympic design loop.)

A number of factors aided Hanse’s bid even as he was arguably the least well-known finalist. The International Golf Federation’s lone jury panel voter, R&A Chief Officer Peter Dawson, publicly praised the 48-year-old designer's work at Scottish Open host Castle Stuart. Hanse was also strongly supported by the PGA Tour, whose Design Services division guided the Rio Organizing Committee.  Among the first architects to visit the Rio site a year ago before the design contest was opened to all interested bidders last fall, Hanse reportedly impressed Brazilian Golf Advisory Board member and jury panelist Arminio Fraga with a design approach respecting the environmentally sensitive land while fitting Rio’s goals of creating a sustainable design meld with its native surrounds.

Politically—after all, this was an IOC-influenced project--Hanse allied himself with LPGA Hall of Famer Amy Alcott, whose enthusiasm for the public golf component of the project reportedly impressed the panel, as did support from environmental consulting firm, The Larkin Group. Insiders say Hanse’s presentation in Rio was reportedly boosted by a video endorsement from former USGA Executive Director David Fay, one of golf’s biggest Olympic advocates during his stint with the International Golf Federation.

The Malvern, Pennsylvania-based course designer is best known for Castle Stuart and as renovator of Deutsche Bank Championship host TPC Boston. Hanse learned of the commission while in Miami to debut plans for a renovated TPC Blue Monster. Golf Channel was on hand to record the phone call from Brazil and also captured each of the eight finalist presentations. (A documentary is expected to detail the Rio course’s completion as part of NBC/Golf Channel’s Olympic coverage.)

A transcript of Hanse's press conference at Doral with PGA Tour VP and International Golf Federation representative Ty Votaw will be posted when it appears online.

Hanse’s career commenced thanks to receiving Cornell’s William Frederick Dreer Award, which allowed him to study the best links of Great Britain. He founded his firm in 1993 after an apprenticeship with Hawtree and Son (an Olympic competitor) and after a stint as Design Partner with Tom Doak’s Renaissance Golf Design (another Olympic design runner-up).

Hanse has since built nine 18-hole designs, most notably the Boston Golf Club (Hingham, Mass.), a second course for the Crail Golfing Society (Crail, Fife, Scotland), Rustic Canyon (Moorpark, California) and two courses near his home, the French Creek Golf Club (Elverson, PA) and Applebrooke Golf Club (Malvern, PA). Hanse’s roster of restoration work includes such noted designs as The Creek Club (C.B. Macdonald/Seth Raynor), The Country Club (William Flynn), Fishers Island (Raynor), Los Angeles Country Club (George Thomas, Billy Bell), Plainfield (Donald Ross), Quaker Ridge (A.W. Tillinghast), Winged Foot Golf Club (Tillinghast) and Ridgewood Country Club (Tillinghast).

Because of issues with the site and the land owner, it is unclear when construction will commence but officials have stated they expect to play a preview event on the course in 2015.

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Reader Comments (50)

A real golf course architect won. Amazing!!!
03.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJoey
Congratulations. An honor well deserved!!! A terrific selection.
03.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJim
Frickin' awesome. Gil was my horse all along. I'm thrilled. Great news.
03.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJeff Mingay
i'm stunned, thought it would go to a "Big name" like Jack or Sharkie...congrats

and he even made a site visit! unlike some of the "big names".....hard work does pay off sometimes
03.7.2012 | Unregistered Commenterchicago pt
I thought the Nicklaus/Sorenstam big brand name would prevail, but am happy to see Hanse get the job. Wondering why Doak didn't.
03.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMike T.
And the longshot wins by a length!
03.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterChuck

You forgot his amazing restoration work at Fenway - my second home.
03.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterGeoffreyC
Picked him from the beginning! great for him--well deserved!
03.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterVKM
Geoff C - i played dFenway for the first time lat fall...knew it was good...but didnt think it would be THAT good!
03.7.2012 | Unregistered Commenterchicago pt
Best pick that they could have made! Any of the others (Jack Nicklaus-Annika Sorenstam, Greg Norman-Lorena Ochoa, Gary Player, Martin Hawtree, Tom Doak, Robert Trent Jones II and Peter Thomson-Ross Perret) would have made it all about themselves instead of about Golf!
03.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterOnTheRoad
Glad to see they went with presumably the best proposal and not the biggest name(s). Which isn't to say that Nicklaus/Sorenstam or Norman/Ochoa couldn't have put good proposals together, but at least we can be assure that Hanse wasn't selected for his name value.

Of course, when all is said and done, it's difficult to get TOO excited about a course I'm almost certainly never going to play.
03.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSeitz
Hanse, a local guy to me (I live about 20 minutes from their offices), winning this is pretty amazing. I was lucky enough to play one of his designs last year (French Creek) and it's a spectacular course. He's also done some other work locally, and hopefully, fingers crossed, I can get out to check it out as well.
03.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDoctor Z
Yeehaw! I was one of the 65!!

Now comes the hard part. In the end I wonder if Hanse will be glad he got involved....I hope so, but won't be surprised if he isn't.
03.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDel the Funk
There's a reason I do science and I don't wager on things beyond my control. Didn't see this coming, but am happy with the result! Maybe I will watch a few minutes in 2016, presuming I am still alive and kicking, just to see the course. Likely there are a couple 14-15 year olds somewhere in the world right now who will be the favorites by that time....
03.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterRickABQ
Gil did two other well received resotorations as well: The Country Club of Rochester (N.Y.) and Taconic Golf Club in Williamstown, Ma.
03.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJPB
Having met most of these architects I always felt Gil would have the strongest presentation skills. He very smart and articulate. With that said, I thought they would play it safe and go with one of the bigger names.

Congratulations Gil. Now the hard work begins.
03.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJoel
Inspired choice!
03.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterFWIW
Good for Gil!
Good for Golf!

There were a lot of people who said they would never choose someone like Hanse or Doak, some of these people are supposedly "knowledgeable" and made these pronouncements with pompous assuredness. I wonder if we'll hear them eat their words any time soon.
03.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterPress Agent
Gil also did an absolutely fabulous job restoring Sleepy Hollow Country Club in Scarborough-On-Hudson, N.Y.

This can't sit well with Tom Doak.
03.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJPB
A Brilliant decision - congratulations to Gil Hanse et al for being selected! Everyone wins!
03.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterTheProfromDover
I wonder if Gil will now give The Donald a taste of his own medicine and jack the price up for the Doral work ;0)

Truthfully, when I voted for Hanse in the poll I thought the question was "who should get the work"? Had I realized it was "who will get the work" I'm sure my answer would have been different.

But as Geoff speculated, when the announcement was delayed the odds on a big upset sure seemed to increase. I wonder if anyone of influence on that committee looks in on this blog?
03.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDel the Funk
I would never have guessed it. Hoped, yes. Great news.
03.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterHawkeye
Unanimous praise on this site??? Unheard of.

This guy didn't turn down Donald Trump and still there is no negativity here, I must be in the Twilight Zone.
Wow, this is the first excitement I've felt for golf being in the Olympics.
For millions of viewers, this will be their first glimpse of a golf course. Cool it will be something relatively humble and naturalistic.
03.7.2012 | Unregistered Commenterdbh
WooooHoooo! Outstanding! And I can't believe I voted for a winner.
Might as well add Kittansett (Flynn / Hood), the little jewel on Buzzards Bay to the list of restoration work. Played it last fall, it was superb!
03.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterD. maculata
You said you voted for Player.
03.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterOptimist
Nah, Optimist, I think you misread KLG's poll post.

@DtheF: Yeehaw! I was one of the 65!!

Hey, Del, there have been 3 additional votes for Hanse since the announcement, lol.
03.7.2012 | Unregistered Commenterdbh
@JPB, Sleepy Hollow is an amazing place. Played it as a junior and recently when in the area drove through the gates and up the hill to one of the coolest clubs where I know Bill Murray used to be a member and also where Jim McLean was a former head professional in the 80's. Didn't know it got a redo but would love to play it again. Also used to have the best hot dogs at the halfway house.
03.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterKevin
Let the record show that in yesterday's "Shack-Poll," I selected Hanse, largely because D.J. Trump likes him and promises to make flat and lifeless Doral "THE GREATEST GOLF COURSE IN THE WORLD SINCE THE INVENTION OF WATERFALLS."

No, seriously..... a nice,-low-key, celebrity-free choice.
03.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterBenSeattle
No, I said I play a Player at home course regularly and that it is fine for what it is (opened in 1974 so it has some character), but that out of Jones, Nicklaus, and Hanse there is only one course by the three of them that I would return to by choice. Or I meant to say that...I'll play golf damn near anywhere that is not ridiculously expensive, and have. LOL. FWIW, the other courses from my limited experience are at Grand Traverse by both Big Jack (overcooked) and Laddie (very OK), Rustic Canyon, and Edinburgh (the one in Minnesota; fun but not in the same class as Rustic, which as far as I can tell is in a class by itself).

You wouldn't recognize "Sleepy", trust me. The tree removal (100's of trees) alone made a world of difference and the views of the Hudson are spectacular! If you get a chance I think you'd be impressed.
03.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJPB
I live 200 m from the location of the new course and I hope he does a good job. I expect it should be a great golf course because he wasn´t choose by his name.

Congrats Gil Hanse!!!

Wait you all here in Rio at 2016!!!
03.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterFernando Barra
For those who wants to see the new golf course:
03.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterFernando Barra
I take that back.
But Player does do pretty good courses. very playable.
03.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterOptimist
Congrats to Gil Hanse. Hope the course is s knockout.

Geoff any chance of you working on this with Gil?
03.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterOWGR Fan
I am in total shock! Golf Central made the Hanse/Olympics announcement their LEAD story tonight. And they ran with it for the first ten minutes of the show! Usually, the first ten minutes of Golf Central is devoted to Tiger's swing, his shirt, his snarl, his roar, his sputum, his snarky interviews. It's obvious the Shackelford website is going viral! Who knew golf course design could overtake Tiger?
03.7.2012 | Unregistered Commenterrb
Kevin, as far as I know Murray is still a member. Matter of fact, at Pebble this year the bag his caddy was carrying was from the Sleepy member-guest a few years ago.

dbh, what's your point?
03.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDel the Funk
@ Del, I thought it was funny people were voting after the announcement, that's all. Wasn't intended to reflect on you.
Up to 78 votes as of this post....
03.7.2012 | Unregistered Commenterdbh
Aah, I see, my misunderstanding. Sorry.

As for Sleepy, I wonder if they'll replace my flight winner photo of the 16th hole with a new version?!? What an improvement.
03.7.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDel the Funk

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