APRIL 2, 2012
When Olympic officials announced two
weeks ago that Gil Hanse had been
chosen to design the golf course for the
2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, the
reaction across much of the golf world was,
“Upset victory” opined one story. “Dark
horse won the day,” said another.
This, despite Hanse’s growing reputation – GOLF Magazine named him Architect
of the Year in 2009 – and a portfolio of
courses from Boston to California to
Scotland that are turning heads and winning awards.
Still, the Olympics course is one of the
all-time plum design gigs, and Hanse
easily was the least-known among eight
finalists that included such superstar
architects as Greg Norman, Gary Player,
Robert Trent Jones II, Tom Doak and the
monster tag-team duo of Jack Nicklaus
and Annika Sorenstam.
Okay, we won’t argue “upset victory.”
But in Philadelphia, for anybody familiar
with the local golfing landscape, the reac-
tion to Hanse’s selection might have been a
little surprise but surely not a shock.
There, they know Hanse not only as
an adopted son, but also as an architect
who already has left a lasting mark on the
area’s golf scene.
While Hanse’s first solo, start-to-finish
design project was in Scotland (Craighead
Links opened in 1998 just 10 miles outside
St. Andrews), his second was back home
in the suburbs of Philadelphia: Inniscrone
GC, in Avondale, Chester County, a semiprivate club turned muni.
Then came Applebrook GC, the upscale
private club in Malvern, Chester County,
which opened in 2001. Two years later,
Hanse unveiled another private club,
French Creek, in Elverson, Chester County.
Besides new construction, Hanse also
has done renovation work at Paxon Hollow
CC, the muni in Broomall, and restoration
work at ultra-private Gulph Mills GC and
Cobb’s Creek GC, the crown jewel of the
Philadelphia-owned muni courses.
If Hanse is known in Philadelphia for his
local ties, he is known in wider golf circles
for his design philosophy of minimalism,
purity, traditionalism and environmental-
ism. He takes what the land gives him, then
works his magic.