The most interesting part of Olympic Golf might be the course itself

Posted: 11:38 AM, Aug 11, 2016
Updated: 2016-08-11 12:38:36-04

With many of the world's top golfers opting out of the Rio Olympics, the top storyline for the men's opening round may be the course itself.

SEE MORE: Jordan Spieth Joins The Many Golfers Skipping Rio Olympics Over Zika

Known simply as the Olympic Golf Course, it's making its competitive debut on Thursday. And because it's been 112 years since golf was a sport in the Olympics, a lot is riding on the course setting up challenging and entertaining performances.

But controversy is stemming from how the course was built and if it really needed to be built at all.

Rio de Janeiro was already home to a different top-tier golf course. It's actually been ranked in Golf Digest's  top 100 courses  outside the U.S. in the past, and, as the club's  president argued , it had the proper set-up for the Olympics.

But not only did officials build another one, the new course also had a  $60 million  budget, though it was largely  privately funded . Golf Magazine notes the starting price for an elite golf course is just  $5 million .

The new course's location also encroached on a nature reserve holding several species not found  anywhere else  on Earth. An environmental activist told the Guardian he believes the Olympics is a "real estate scam."

Previous zoning regulations limited new buildings to be six stories tall. But a company that helped financed the new golf course  was rewarded  with the right to build almost two dozen 22-story high rises around the course.

Environmental activism against the course wasn't necessarily the most vocal of the protests. But as the Guardian notes, more environmental activists are killed in Brazil than in any other country.

But the golfers and future residents may have to deal with animals roaming the course –– like the  world's largest rodents  seen before Thursday's competition.

Still, with all of that, two of the top American competitors have said they feel good about their chances of playing well on the course, as long as the wind stays away.

The course is prone to heavy winds, and that could make it difficult. But there's little in the way of  rough, trees  and water hazards to get the golfers into trouble.

This video includes clips from  NBC Sports CBS ABC CCTV Golf Digest  and images from  Instagram / itanhanga Instagram / berndwiesberger  and Getty Images. Music provided courtesy of APM Music.

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