Courses & Travel

Rio Olympic Golf Course Will Get First Test in March

Near-Complete Rio Course to Hold Exhibition in March
The Gil Hanse-designed Olympic track is set to hold an exhibition match in March, ahead of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. 

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) -- A top official of the International Golf Federation said Wednesday that the new course for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro will get its first test in March with a one-day exhibition event featuring three or four of the top male and female players.

Players have not yet been selected.

''We're in conversations with top players - both the men's and women's tours - but we really can't say anything more beyond that,'' IGF vice president Ty Votaw told The Associated Press. Votaw said the one-day test event was chosen because a four-day tournament with a full field presented risks for a young course that is still maturing.

''We just want to make sure that the golf course can come through the grow-in season,'' Votaw said. ''To make sure that whatever competition that's held, it doesn't do anything to set back the overall conditions and grow-in of the course.''

Votaw said the event would probably take place early in the week - Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday - so it would not conflict with tournaments that normally run Thursday through Sunday.

The Olympics open Aug. 5, 2016.

Votaw described the course as ''all grown in and green'' but said the next six months were critical.

''I walked the golf course two week ago, all 18 holes, and I was very pleased how it looked,'' Votaw said. ''While positive, that's a very small part of the overall maintenance plan and grow-in and conditioning that needs to take place between now and the Games. We want to make sure that the appropriate resources, equipment and manpower are applied to this living, breathing venue.''

Golf is returning to the Olympics for the first time in 112 years and is expected to draw lots of attention despite a scant following in Brazil.

Plans after the Olympics call for the layout to become Rio's only public course.

The course, designed by American Gil Hanse, is being built near the main Olympic Park in the western Rio suburb of Barra da Tijuca. It has been criticized by environmental activists - part of the course was carved out of nature reserve - and has been the center of legal wrangling over several years.

Questions still persist about the ownership of the land, and the role of Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes in granting concessions to the developer.

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