An 84-degree Miami afternoon last week gave me the perfect opportunity to talk shop with architect Gil Hanse. Not only did we dissect the course we were playing, his redesign of Doral’s Blue Monster for Donald Trump, but we also chatted about another high-profile, warm-weather project -- the Olympics course he’s building in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the 2016 Summer Games.
He answered my first, probing question with good cheer. “It’s pronounced Hanse, like pants.” OK, next up -- are the horror stories emerging from Rio true? Is this golf course on the slow track towards Stallsville?
Hanse was good-natured about this query, too, though the frustration was evident. “We have 16 holes shaped,” Hanse responded. “The other two holes, next to the lagoon, we still need more material. We will start installing irrigation in 10 days. April 1, hopefully, we’ll begin grassing.”
Varied explanations exist for the delays, with Hanse hesitant to spell out the frequent challenges of dealing with the actual property owners.
Hanse is philosophical about the Rio rift, but while in Miami to reopen the Blue Monster, he mentioned one possible solution: “I wish we could bring Donald (Trump) down to Rio. Maybe we’d get something done.” No doubt. As Mr. Trump says of himself, “As a builder, I’m a plus 10 (handicap).” After seeing what Trump and Hanse accomplished at Doral -- and in record time -- there’s no question that Trump would triumph in Rio as well.
Clearly, Hanse never envisioned he would be so hamstrung by the landowners themselves. What he would say was that many of the so-called shortcuts and cost-saving measures were in fact accomplishing neither. Hanse and partner Jim Wagner’s recommendations/mandates, from the kind of vehicles used to transport material to the methods used to store the water for the irrigation haven’t been universally accepted. “The good news is, no one -- so far -- has interfered with the design itself.”
Both the USGA’s Mike Davis and the R&A’s Peter Dawson have made recent visits, with the intent of insisting to organizers that any more delays could jeopardize the project from being completed in time for the competition.
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