Is Rio de Janeiro the worst Summer Olympics host city for golf? Most people would answer that question with a “Probably,” “Definitely,” or “What’s the question?!” Between the Zika virus, poverty and a bankrupt government — not to mention a Brazilian president facing impeachment — the city has its problems.
It is hard to believe that any previous host city of the Summer Olympics would be seeing the mass withdrawals taking place among the world’s best golfers. Four years from now, Tokyo should fare much better among golfers.
There are many locations across the world that would be superb for golf. Unfortunately, no city in Scotland is hosting the Summer Olympics anytime soon. Nor are cities in Ireland, New York or North Carolina – all places blessed with an abundance of incredible golf courses.
So, sticking with actual Summer Olympic cities, these are four previous host cities that would have been ideal for golf, and no able-bodied golfer would have withdrawn. Each city comes with its own wish list of prime golf courses.
ATLANTA (hosted 1996 Olympics)
This city is rich in Bobby Jones history. East Lake, Peachtree Golf Club and Atlanta Athletic Club all lay claim to him. All three are reasonably close to downtown Atlanta, so logistics would not be difficult. Geographically, Atlanta is a short trip for many of the world’s best who live in neighboring Florida.
Oh, and if by chance Augusta National were to make itself available, nobody would complain about the two-hour drive eastward to get to the home of the Masters. And absolutely nobody would skip the chance to represent their country.
Several of Australia’s best golf courses are just a few miles south of Melbourne. Royal Melbourne West, an Alister MacKenzie design, is generally acknowledged as the country’s No. 1 course and considered one of MacKenzie’s finest creations in the world. Its sister course, Royal Melbourne East, is also regarded as one of Australia’s top 10 courses.
If any course can give Royal Melbourne West a run for its money as Australia’s No. 1 course, it’s Kingston Heath, which has hosted the Australian Open several times. Victoria Golf Club is right next door to Royal Melbourne and also is a top 10 course.
Australia is a long haul for many of the world’s golfers, but it’s hard to see them missing it for that reason. Jason Day and Adam Scott would surely be there.
LOS ANGELES (1984)
Southern California is abundantly rich in great golf courses and great weather. Access is easy via LAX or several other nearby airports. Where they would play is almost inconsequential, but there are plenty of great options.
Riviera Country Club is the most obvious. It’s a classic gem that has played host to the U.S. Open and PGA Championship, and frequently hosts the PGA Tour. Los Angeles Country Club is very exclusive, but highly regarded. Or, there are a pair of resorts that are simply stunning – Pelican Hill and Trump National Golf Club. There are easily another dozen courses within an hour of Los Angeles that would serve as suitable hosts for the world’s best.
PARIS (1900, 1924)
It’s been a long time for Paris, but the City of Love is in the running to host the 2024 Summer Olympics. If golf stays in the Games beyond 2020 – which isn’t a sure thing – Paris would be a wonderful choice for golf. It is going to be put to the test in 2018, when Le Golf National hosts the Ryder Cup on the outskirts of Paris.
Le Golf National is also hosting this week’s Open de France, as it has done for most of the past 25 years. It would likely jump at the chance to host the Olympics, but there are other venues that might be even better. Tom Simpson designed a pair of courses just a half hour north of Paris. Both have stood the test of time. Golf de Morfontaine is regarded by some as the greatest course in continental Europe. Just up the road is Golf de Chantilly, also considered one of continental Europe’s top-10 courses. Chantilly has hosted the Open de France 11 times and has 36 holes.
NEXT FOUR: London (1908, 1948, 2012), St. Louis (1904), Athens (1896, 2004), Barcelona (1992),
If this year’s Olympics were being held in any of these cities, is there any doubt that Rory McIlroy and Jason Day would be there? Would the others who have opted out of Rio show up? Quite likely. Golf in the Olympics can work, and it will work if the International Olympic Committee chooses sites with golf in mind.
That being said, who’s up for the 2028 Summer Olympic Games in St Andrews?