Grant Moir, The R&A’s Director – Rules, talks about the advance week of preparation in Rio for the Olympic Golf events.
The Olympic Golf Competition is run by the International Golf Federation (IGF), which is the international federation for golf recognised by the IOC. The IGF is based in Lausanne and is led by Antony Scanlon, Executive Director, who is supported by a small team of highly dedicated and Olympic-savvy staff. To supplement their huge efforts to put on a great show for golf’s return to the Olympic Games, the “professional” and “major” (for want of better terms) golfing organisations have provided members of their staff to fill various roles within the IGF structure.
For the last four years or so I have been The R&A’s representative on the IGF Competitions Committee, serving alongside members of staff from the European Tour, the LPGA, the Ladies’ European Tour, the PGA of America, the PGA Tour and the United States Golf Association. As a group, and along with the permanent team from the IGF, we have had regular meetings and conference calls in the run up to the Rio Games, and we were all together in Rio for the golf test event in March.
There is vast championship organising experience on the Competitions Committee, and, with such experience, one would imagine that running two competitions with 60 players each on one golf course in consecutive weeks would not be that big of an ask but the Olympics is different. It is a massive machine. There are 28 different sports in the 2016 Games and 306 separate events, and, to try to retain an element of control and consistency across the sports, everything, in basic terms, is run centrally. What this means is that almost every detail, every request for action, equipment, assistance, etc goes through a third party, the Host Organising Committee. In reality, it is more complicated than that, and what it means is that putting on the golf competitions in the Olympics is a very different experience for those of us on the Competitions Committee, particularly as we are accustomed to being masters of our own destiny. This is not a criticism of the Olympic system, but hopefully it provides some context in relation to what those of us on the ground here in Rio are involved in when trying to finalise arrangements for the arrival of the players (or, in Olympic parlance, “athletes”, which is the term assigned to all those competing in the Games).
I am here working alongside Tyler Dennis of the PGA Tour. Tyler is the Technical Delegate for the Golf Competitions, which means he is responsible for ensuring that the inside and outside the ropes experience is a good one for the athletes, the spectators, the television broadcasters and anyone else who visits the wonderful new Olympic Golf Course built in the Barra de Tijuca district of Rio.
My role is very much focused on advance preparations on the Rules aspect of the competitions. This week I am producing drafts of the Local Rules and the Rules Guide for the referees who will arrive next week, marking the course (ie establishing the boundaries and the margins of the water hazards), putting together the course evacuation plan in case of bad weather, and various other aspects relating to Rules. John Paramor of the European Tour is Chief Referee for the men’s competitionand Sue Witters of the LPGA is filling that role for the women’s competition.
It is all hands to the pump here, so I’ve also been checking the yardage book’s accuracy, establishing the green depths for the hole location sheets and this morning, Friday 5th August, we set up the course for the first players coming to practice – seven in total, including the Champion Golfer of the Year, Henrik Stenson.
I have carried out all of these tasks many times at many championships during my long career with The R&A. In addition to The Open I’ve been fortunate enough to referee at all the other majors and many other high profile events across the world but there is something different and very special about preparing for golf’s return to the Olympics. Seeing the five rings around the course, all the volunteers in their colourful uniforms, the buzz around the city and even the administrative frustrations of being part of this huge beast that is the Olympics all add to the uniqueness of running a golf event in the Olympics.It makes being here and being part of it a huge honour and privilege. It’s the opening ceremony tonight and we have tickets!