The Swilcan Bridge (also spelt Swilken) at St Andrews spans the Swilcan Burn between the first and eighteenth fairways on the Old Course, and is arguably the most iconic photo opportunity in golf. It has been estimated that hundreds of thousands of tourists get their photos taken standing on this bridge each year! Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson are among the greats who have paused for a photo on this bridge on their way up the 18th on the last round of their final appearance at The Open (when it’s played at St Andrews). The fact that Tiger Woods didn’t pause as he crossed the bridge last year has been taken as a sign that he’ll be back.
I had to check my diary to see if it was April Fool’s Day when I saw Ken Brown’s Tweet at the start of the week…
The Swilken Bridge now serving food. A table for Fore please.
Serving BBQ 🍗 meals . Book early 😂 pic.twitter.com/z5u42HezHu
— Ken Brown ….⛳️ (@KenBrownGolf) February 5, 2023
It wasn’t long before the comments began flooding in, some comparing it to a “DIY patio”. Golf fan Warren Allsworth tweeted: “No. Just no. That’s like drawing a moustache on the Mona Lisa.”
Sir Nick Faldo wrote “If you’ve travelled halfway around the world for your bucket list round at St Andrews, would you rather leave with a bit of historic dirt on your shoes or a few cement mix scraps?😱”
There were lots of photoshop attempts – some better than others.
— Bagot Arms Golf Society (@BagotArmsGolf) February 4, 2023
The St Andrews Links Trust, which manages the course, issued a statement to explain that the work had been carried out to prevent damage to the ground leading to the 700 year old bridge. It emphasised that no work had taken place on the bridge itself. The trust said previous solutions including the installation of artificial turf and replacement of natural turf did not prove successful in “adequately protecting the area from the significant wear and tear”.
On Tuesday the trust issued another statement: “We believe we are unable to create a look which is in keeping with its iconic setting and have taken the decision to remove it.”
The move came after Fife Council confirmed it was investigating whether the trust should have applied for retrospective planning permission or listed building consents.
Ken Brown was quick to record his satisfaction with the new decision.
A #DIYSOS please don’t tell me it’s going to be a pond with a little solar fountain. 😜
Well done ! Most courses are best when they play and look as near as to nature intended. None more so the Old Course at St Andrews the blueprint for our game. pic.twitter.com/frD1VtHuDl
— Ken Brown ….⛳️ (@KenBrownGolf) February 7, 2023
Here’s the “after” photo.
Great to see that St Andrews have reinstated the grass around the Swilken Bridge and taken that ghastly patio away! History such as this should be left alone. #golf #swilkenbridge #pga #RoyalandAncient #StAndrews #Scotland pic.twitter.com/6Eg8e3VM54
— Stuart Hill (@Hillgolfacademy) February 9, 2023
Well, we all make mistakes – at least the St Andrews Trust was quick to rectify theirs!