Note: This Swilcan Bridge story has now been updated. Click here for the latest news.
Crazy paving or a much-needed makeover? Golfers have been raging on social media after pictures revealed a controversial new look to the historic Swilcan Bridge.
It’s probably the sport’s most well-trodden walkway with tens of thousands of players every year emulating the likes of Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, and Tiger Woods in passing over the ancient structure that crosses the burn on their way up the 18th fairway of the Old Course at St Andrews.
The hallowed turf leading up to the bridge, which is thought to be more than 700 years old, can get chewed up in inclement conditions and St Andrews Links Trust have tried a variety of means through the years to protect the area from wear and tear.
But now they’ve constructed a circular stone pathway and the addition sent Twitter into apoplexy when images of it were shared on the platform and throughout the internet.
“They have ruined the Swilcan Bridge,” was one of the more conservative views expressed, with others – including some pretty prominent figures in the world of golf – being far more forthright.
“It’s an absolute mess,” said DP World Tour stalwart Eddie Pepperell, with David Cannon, the legendary golf photographer, simply replying: “No.”
European Tour legend turned TV pundit Ken Brown suggested the newly installed area was “now serving food”, quipping: “A table for fore please.”
Sir Nick Faldo, who won the The Open at St Andrews in 1990, described it as “worst [sic] than missing the fairway left!”
While some commenters believed the measures were needed, in the main, golfers were united that the alterations constituted “absolute vandalism”.
Such was the outcry that St Andrews Links Trust issued a statement on Sunday afternoon in a bid to explain the project.
They produced a picture from October last year which showed how extensive the damage can become around the bridge and how the work is aimed at making sure it can stay open throughout the year.
They also said the project was not yet finished and that efforts were being made to ensure that the “final installation” was in keeping with the surroundings.
“We would like to address some concerns that have been raised regarding works that are currently underway on the approach area to the Swilcan Bridge,” the statement read.
“For the avoidance of any doubt, we can categorically state that no works have been undertaken to the bridge itself.
“The ongoing works are solely focussed on the turfed approach area to the bridge, which regularly falls into disrepair due to the significant foot traffic by tens of thousands of golfers and countless other visitors seeking to have their photograph taken at the landmark.
“In order to avoid having to close the bridge to foot traffic during certain periods of the year, a number of solutions have been attempted previously.
“These include installation of hybrid and synthetic artificial turf and the regular replacement, reseed and support of natural turf, but none have proven to be successful in adequately protecting the area from the significant wear and tear.
“Historically the bridge has previously seen a stone pathway leading onto it and the current works are designed to see if we can replicate this while being fit for purpose for the amount of foot traffic it has to endure.
“The shape of the current installation covers the ground that receives the most traffic as the area where the majority of photographs are taken of people on the bridge.
“It should be noted that the works are not yet complete and ongoing efforts are being undertaken to ensure any final installation, including size, shape and material, is in keeping with its surroundings ahead of the growing season in Scotland.
“We recognise that as such an iconic landmark in golf, the Swilcan Bridge retains a special place in the heart of many golfers and as such can be an emotive topic.
“We are confident we will find the best ongoing solution to preserve the iconic nature of the Swilcan Bridge and its surroundings while ensuring that as many people as possible can continue to visit the site year round.”
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