Friday, March 9, 2012

brazil Gil Hanse: Good as Gold

The verdict has been rendered, and it’s a pleasant surprise: A golf course designed by Gil Hanse will serve as the stage for the men’s and women’s golf competitions at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janerio, Brazil. The Malvern, Pennsylvania-based architect has promised to create “a joyful” and “environmentally sustainable” track that will “set the standards for this emerging golf market.”

Hanse won the commission over a slate of celebrity and “signature” designers, a group that includes Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Robert Trent Jones, Jr., and Peter Thomson. His body of work is unquestionably not as deep as theirs, but his reputation is growing and his design chops are evident. He was Golf magazine’s architect of the year in 2009, he was identified as one of the most influential architects in the United States by Golf, Inc., his redesign of TPC Boston has been extremely well-received by PGA pros, and his three-year-old Castle Stuart Golf Links in Scotland is already ranked among the world’s top courses. The selection committee should be congratulated for giving the gold medal to the best-laid plan instead of the best-known name.

More important, the committee’s decision is a landmark moment in the history of golf design. What we have witnessed is the official changing of the guard.

The track in Rio is the most important golf course that will be built in this decade, maybe in this century. The committee could have done what it was expected to do: take the safe route and award the contract to one of the aforementioned old-timers. But it didn’t. Its choice of Hanse indicates that the old guard’s time as the most vital contributors to our business is over.

The future of golf design has been turned over to a new generation.