By David Owen

The planting of grass has finally begun at the Rio 2016 golf course, pictured here in November ©Getty ImagesConstruction of the first Olympic golf course in more than a century has advanced, with the start of the grass-planting process on one of the 18 holes.

This week's announcement may come as some comfort to those concerned about the pace of development of the site at Reserva de Marapendi in Barra de Tijuca, Rio de Janeiro.

Earlier this month, Ty Votaw, vice-president of the International Golf Federation (IGF), highlighted that body's doubts over the ability to stage a test event one year ahead of the Rio 2016 Games, saying "the likelihood of a test event a year out continues to be improbable".

He added: "How much further within that year out we go all depends on our grassing schedule and how much the golf course matures."

According to Rio 2016, grassing is considered to be the final stage of the project and the predicted timeline for grass growth is 11 months.

International Golf Federation vice-president Ty Votaw has cast doubts on the venue's ability to hold a test event a year before the Olympics ©WireImageInternational Golf Federation vice-president Ty Votaw has cast doubts on the venue's ability to hold a test event a year before the Olympics ©WireImage

"The planting of grass is the last construction activity for each hole on the course, following the completion of the earthworks, irrigation and finishing," said Agberto Guimarães, Rio 2016's director of sport and paralympic integration.

"We have taken another important step in constructing the Olympic golf course today."

For Rio 2016, the golf venue, under construction since April 2013, "is considered to be one of the greatest legacies of the 2016 Games".

Following conclusion of the Games, the facility is to be opened to the public, becoming the first public golf course in Rio and contributing, it is hoped, to the popularisation of the sport.

While Brazil, unlike neighbouring Argentina, is not known as a golf hotbed, the sport does have some pedigree in the country.

It was a favourite hobby of Getúlio Vargas, the centralising populist who led the country for a total of 18 years in the 1930s, 40s and 50s, and is seen as one the chief architects of modern Brazil.

According to the late John Gunther, the US author and journalist, Vargas used to play on Saturdays at the Itanhangá club with a friend who was the Brazilian representative of International Business Machines (IBM).

Wrote Gunther: "He likes to play nine holes, then have lunch, then play nine holes again.

"The best score he ever made was 122."

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