Return to the Olympics

Golf is set to make its return to the Olympics at the 2016 Rio Games after not being a part of the Olympic program for 112 years. The International Olympic Committee announced in October 2009 that golf and rugby would be added to the Olympic program in 2016 and 2020. Golf was first contested at the Olympics in 1900, with a men’s and women’s tournament. The U.S. won gold in both the men’s and women’s tournament, as Margaret Abbott became the first U.S. woman to win an Olympic gold medal. Golf returned to the Olympics at the 1904 St. Louis Games, but was left off the program until the IOC’s decision in 2009.

Picking sides

One of the world’s best golfers settled a hotly debated question in 2014 surrounding the tournament: which nation will Rory McIlroy represent? Born in Northern Ireland, McIlroy was eligible to choose between Ireland and Great Britain, and ultimately chose the nation he had represented as an amateur, Ireland. “I played junior golf for Ireland, I played amateur golf for Ireland,” McIlroy told reporters after making his decision. “Just because I am getting paid to play this great game now, it doesn’t mean things should change. It’s a decision I feel comfortable with and I’ll be proud to represent Ireland in 2016.” Golfers for the 60-man Rio field will primarily be selected based on the Olympic golf rankings, and nations can bring a maximum of four golfers provided they are all ranked within the top 15, or otherwise a maximum of two.

Rio course

Hanse Golf Course Design was selected to design the Olympic golf course in Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Games. The course will be built about three miles away from the Athletes’ Village and will be used as a public facility after the Olympics. After delays in construction, Rio organizers began what they called the final step of work on the Olympic golf course in May 2014, planting grass on the first of 18 holes. American golf architect Gil Hanse said in that same month that the course should be fully grassed by November 2014, and could be playable midway through 2015.

An image from July 2014 of the Olympic golf course under construction (credit: NBC Olympics):

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