New course likely to be built for 2016 Olympics, says R&A's Dawson

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As many as 15 design firms have shown interest in creating a course for the 2016 Olympics, says R&A chief Peter Dawson.
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PA Sport

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Published: Sunday, April 24, 2011 | 6:31 p.m.

SANDWICH, England -- It looks odds-on now that golf's return to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 -- after a break of 112 years -- will on be a course that has yet to be built.

Some big names have already thrown their hats into the ring as potential designers, including Jack Nicklaus and Annika Sorenstam, Greg Norman and Lorena Ochoa, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Nick Faldo.

"Currently we believe that the best way forward -- and I think the Rio organizing committee agree with this -- is to build a new course on a new site," said Peter Dawson, chief executive of the Royal and Ancient Club and president of the International Golf Federation. "We have strong interest from about 15 companies.

"A site has been earmarked, which is at a tremendous location very close to the beach and only three or four kilometers from the Olympic Village,” he added. "Commercial discussions are under way to acquire the site and we hope to have more news on that in the next two or three weeks.

"It is the responsibility of the Rio Organizing Committee to provide the venue, but it is the responsibility of the federation to ensure that the venue meets the Games' standards and requirements,” he explained. "Fortunately it's a part of the world where the grass grows very quickly, but we need to determine the architect and get going on it this year, otherwise it's going to be a rush."

As head of the body that runs the British Open, Dawson has also been central to the discussions on how golf reorganises its schedule to fit in the Olympics.

The decision has already been taken that in 2016, the Open will be in the second week of July rather than its traditional third week. The venue has yet to be announced.

This summer's event on July 14-17 is at Royal St George's in Kent and next year it will be Royal Lytham in Lancashire that plays host on July 19-22 --  the week before the start of the London Olympics.

When golf returns to the Olympic Games, there will be separate competitions for men and women with 60-player fields in each. The top 15 in the world will all qualify and then the remainder will also come from the rankings -- but with a maximum of two players from each country that does not already have two or more players among the leading 15.