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Course for golf's Olympic return behind schedule

Hopes of giving golf a dry run ahead of its return to the Olympic Games in 2016 are looking increasingly remote as the delays to the building of the host course in Rio continue to give organisers major headaches.

The Gil Hanse-designed venue has been bedevilled by problems since it was unveiled as the stage for golf's reappearance at the Games for the first time since 1904. Various squabbles over land ownership put Hanse and his team on the back foot and they are now facing a frantic race against time.

By the turn of the year only 12 holes and 16 greens had been shaped. The turf was supposed to have been put down this month and the whole course was initially to open in June 2015. A test event had been scheduled for August of that year but that now looks unlikely. There is little sign of any green shoots of optimism.

Peter Dawson, the chief executive of the Royal & Ancient who also acts as the president of the International Golf Federation, is confident that it will be all right on the night but he expressed his displeasure at the creeping pace of progress.

"We are not satisfied," he said. "I was down there just recently, and while the design of the course looks really good, the progress with the construction is not where we want it to be.

"There have been so many revisions to the plan it's quite hard to say how far behind they are, but I think we are going to struggle to get a test event a year before the Games. I'm not writing that off completely, but we have to recognise that might be difficult. There have been meetings held last week in Rio to revise the plan, increase manpower and facilities which is designed to bring the project back on track. There are no green shoots on the course yet - unless they are weeds."

The Brazil games may still be two years away but the South American country is currently reverberating to the din of last-minute hammering and clattering as organisers try to finish off stadiums for this summer's football World Cup. Preparations for the Olympics, it seems, are going to be equally as fraught and, according to Dawson, golf is not the only area of the showpiece that is under scrutiny.

"Let me say that golf is not on its own here," he added. "Just the other day the International Olympic Committee issued a warning notice to their co-ordination commission, so this is not restricted to golf. Rio has got quite a few challenges ahead of them to get things done in time.

"We are new to the Olympic Games; maybe this is normal. However, I think it's particularly disappointing given how long ago we got in amongst this and got things started."

Despite the on-going palaver surrounding the course, Dawson is confident that there will be no need for emergency action. "I wouldn't say I'm disturbed at this point," he said calmly. "[But] I'd much rather we were further ahead. I still think it will be ready in time for the Olympics. There are other courses in Rio but there is no Plan B at present because I don't think we'll need one."

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