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Dec 22

Olympic Golf – A Few Thoughts on Rio

Golf at the Summer Olympic Games

Yes, this is exciting. It’s the first time that golf has been included in the Summer Olympic Games since St. Louis in 1904, when Canada and the United States were the only countries to compete. That’s 112 years ago. The automobile was just getting started, and no one had ever seen a steel shaft or most of the weird clothes we’ve worn on the course since.

The 60 player field for the men, as of a list made last June included Woods, McIlroy, Scott, Kuchar, Rose, Donald, Snedeker, McDowell, Oosthuizen, Mickelson, Westwood, Bradley, Stricker, Schwartzel and Garcia. How things can change. Anyone notice that Mr. Stenson is missing from that list, the guy who shot the lights out of the biggest purses in two tours? I’m sure he’ll be there. Outside of the top 15 who are world-ranked, a certain number will represent each country.

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I see that the Olympic course is being designed by Gil Hanes – that’s very cool, but one question. Being that, according to one observer, “men find their paradise in games,” doesn’t a city like Rio, that magical southern getaway, home to Rita Hayworth movies and all that, have a course already that would meet the standards of the Olympic Games? Hey, in the Winter Olympics, skiers and their colleagues use the mountains that are already there – they don’t go build new artificial ones beside the real thing. I would think that a shangrila like Rio, that is, if you visit the right neighborhoods, would have a masterpiece of a course just waiting for such an opportunity. That’s all right – it’s perfectly ok with me if they want to build a course that keeps the golfers close, and more a part of the Olympic community.

There’s always a problem with paradise – that’s the law of life. The more unspeakably beautiful a place is, the more dangerous it is bound to be, because everyone and everything, human or not, wants a piece of that life.

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rio 2Officials assure us that the six thousand Caimans, many of which have already migrated into the ponds to be used by the course from polluted ponds around Rio, aren’t likely to bite anyone.  Wait a minute, correct me if I’m wrong. A caiman is an alligator, right. Actually, the word is that they’re alligator-like – so how “like” an alligator are they? Are you telling me that Florida gators do bite (lunging out of ponds to snatch old men squaring up a short wedge) and Brrazilian sort-of alligators don’t?

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They’re not talking about an isolated incident here, either. There are six thousand of them, and the only thing needed for a disaster is one moment of atypical behavior in one of these creatures – and face it…they’re dinosaurs. They look the same way they did a jillion years ago, and they do all the same stuff they did back then. If one poor fan wearing Paula Creamer pink is mistaken for a wayward flamingo and attacked, well there you go.  It’s ok, though – we’re told that they only come out at night, and we’re not going to play golf at night. Forget finding a caddy with course experience. If I was going to play there, it would be Tarzan or nothing.

Experts who are governing the shape of the Olympic venue say that it’s good to create your own ecosystem by creating a course. I couldn’t agree more, so long as I don’t have to participate in the food chain – and while we’re on the subject, can’t you get Dengy fever down there? How’s the mosquito control?

It struck me as I was looking at pictures of the general venue – what would an ancient Greek or Roman think about this? Modern golf is only a few centuries old, despite appealing to a primal instinct. It’s going to be interesting, but if anything goes wrong down there, I’m blaming it on Rio.

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About the author

G.F. Skipworth

has spent every available moment playing golf or studying the greats since the 60s, in between world tours as a classical musician, Harvard studies in Government or as the author of a dozen novels. Nicklaus and Snead may be the statistical greats, but Skipworth is a life-long devotee of Gary Player, and considers meeting the South African at the Jeld-Wen to be an unforgettable milestone. His driving passion in golf these days is to raise viewer interest in the LPGA.