Seemingly against all odds, Rio de Janeiro pulled off a fairly successful Summer Olympic Games this past August.
Golf enjoyed a return to the Olympic spotlight after a 112-year absence and although many of the top players stayed away, those who did compete in Rio did so at a very high level. Five of the six medal winners were major champions. The players raved about the experience and it looked good on TV.
More importantly, having golf in the Olympics would help inspire a new generation of players in Brazil and all over South America.
Well, it’s now four months later. The torch has been extinguished, the medals are all handed out but the future of golf in Brazil still looks bleak. The Gil Hanse designed Olympic Golf Course is in bad shape and facing an uphill climb just to stay open each day.
A report from Agence France-Presse said Progolf, the company who manages the Olympic course, has not been paid in two months by the Brazilian Golf Federation. The course is costing Progolf over 80-thousand dollars a month to operate and is lucky to see a handful of golfers on any given day tee it up. There are no basic facilities or amenities at the course, no signage and not even a pro shop.
Pebble Beach it is not.
The goal, of course, was to use the popularity of the Olympics as a springboard for the growth of the game in a country where soccer is king and golf is not even a blip on the radar. The course would become Brazil’s first 18-hole public course when it opens in 2017. But the course has struggled to gain any footing amid the economic and political struggles currently taking place.
Green fees for the Olympic course are roughly $80. That’s a lot of money to pay for a round of golf here in the U.S. In Brazil, it’s a fortune where the average monthly salary is about $675.
At this point, it’s not clear the next step for Olympic Course. Those who do work there aren’t sure if they’ll still have a job next month while the president of the Brazilian Golf Federation, Paulo Pacheco, said the course is merely undergoing a “soft opening” and insists the course is an important part of Rio’s Olympic legacy and they continue to look for solutions.
One thing is for certain though. If you’re planning to play the course where Justin Rose and Lydia Ko struck gold, I would go sooner rather than later. And bring your own snacks.