With the 2016 Olympics in the rearview mirror, the Rio Olympic Course in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, turns to its next chapter.
As the golf course prepares to open to the public on Oct. 1, there are plenty of questions regarding its future: Will it help grow the game in Brazil? Will it transform Rio into an international golf destination? Skeptics wonder how will it survive surrounded by a culture that isn't into golf?
Klaus Kaiser, a Brazilian-based tour operator, is banking on a bright future. Kaiser owns Teamtours Brasil, which specializes in organizing golf trips throughout the country. He hasn't seen too many bookings yet but inquiries have increased.
"The region Barra (da Tijuca) in Rio de Janeiro is really a new golf destination," Kaiser said, noting most of his past golf trips to Rio have been combined with other regions in Brazil.
"The new hotels are only 15 (to) 30 minutes driving distance to three championships golf courses."
He recommends an itinerary staying seven days, playing rounds at the Olympic course, Gavea Golf and Country Club and Itanhanga Golf Club, with two days sightseeing in the city and a day trip in the mountains to the historical city of Petropolis. He estimates this package will cost between $1,500-$2,500 depending on the cost of the accommodations.
"For sightseeing a must is the Corcovado (mountain) with a great view and the Christ (the Redeemer) statue, the historical center, the Sugarloaf (Mountain) and -- brand new -- the Olympic Boulevard at the harbor and the Museum do Amanha," he said.
One look at the cost of golf in Rio explains why so few play the game. Virtually all of the courses are private and expensive for locals.
Itanhanga -- a 27-hole facility with the original nine designed by Canadian legend Stanley Thompson -- costs roughly $100 weekdays and $145 on weekends for hotel guests and $51-$62 for the guest of a member. Green fees on the Olympic course will range from $150 to $225 for foreigners, depending on the day. The $75 rate for Brazilians will be cheaper, but not necessarily more affordable, for locals.
The Brazilian Golf Federation, the keeper of the course, should be launching a Web site where golfers can book tee times. Check www.cbg.com.br for updates. For more information about Kaiser's company, visit www.teamtoursbrasil.com.