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A bridge too far?

Golf Twitter is rightfully going nuts over stone 'patio' installed at St. Andrews' Swilcan Bridge

Updated on October 09, 2023
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Before the recent stone work was done, Tiger Woods crossed Swilcan Bridge in the second round of the 150th Open Championship in 2022. He famously did not pose for a "farewell" photo.

Ross Kinnaird

Editor’s Note: The original version of this story incorrectly stated that the Royal & Ancient G.C. of St. Andrews was responsible for the changes to the area around the Swilcan Bridge. While its clubhouse overlooks the Old Course, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club, nor the R&A, is responsible for any specific changes to the golf course or the other courses that are part of the St. Andrews Links Trust. Golf Digest regrets the error.

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Take the most iconic bridge in golf, one that has been traversed by nearly all of the game’s greats, from Old Tom Morris to Tiger Woods, and dress it up with stonework that you could buy at Home Depot, and yes, you’re going to get a wee bit of reaction from the golf world.

@warrenallsworth: “Just no. That’s like drawing a moustache on the Mona Lisa.”

@jabba2711: “The only thing missing is wrought iron patio furniture.”

@gettablepar5: “Looks like DIY stonework by a complete noob.”

@johnhuggan: “Oh. My. God. Who sanctioned this monstrosity?”

Suffice it to say, photos circulating of a new, roundish stone pad that has been laid on the entry side of Swilcan Bridge on the 18th hole of the St. Andrews Old Course set Golf Twitter ablaze. As evidenced by videos and photos from December, the work was done at the end of the year.

Let’s just say it’s not being well received. There are some hilarious responses, including one photo rendering of patio furniture and a barbecue on the site. But there’s genuine disgust, too, as if the R&A slapped a windmill onto the side of its stately clubhouse.

The Swilcan Bridge, arched and a mere 30-foot-long, is inarguably the most iconic feature on any golf course in the world. In terms of golf bridges, the trio at Augusta National Golf Club—Hogan, Nelson and Sarazan—are very nice, but they’re only about 700 years younger than Swilcan, which was used as a crossing for shepherds and their livestock before golf’s first-ever swing. Shepherds!

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Arnold Palmer waves from Swilican Bridge in his last Open Championship appearance in 1995.

Fred Vuich

It's also the most cherished photo “get” in the game, with the stunning background of the stately Royal & Ancient clubhouse as the backdrop. Since Sam Snead and Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus have deemed it worthy of a photo stop during their farewells at the Open Championship, golf tourists must have a photo there. (Tiger, it should be noted, caused a stir last summer when he did not stop for a ceremonial photo, signaling to many that he intended to return to St. Andrews as a competitor.)

The St. Andrews Links Trust oversees the Old Course. Without an immediate explanation, we’re left to speculate as to why the pad was necessary, because it just seems so … cheesy. Is it a safety concern, so that photographers don’t get too close to Swilcan Burn? Is it to focus standing near the bridge in one spot? Will it become a wedding venue? Is there anyone who thought this would be aesthetically pleasing?

Anyway, there are people who thinking this is much ado about nothing. Tweeted @itismarkharris: "Golf Twitter being upset about an admittedly horrible remno of the Swilcan Bridge is peak Golf Twitter. It's just a bridge. Everything is going to be OK."

Sure, and the Mona Lisa is just another painting.

UPDATE, Sunday, Feb. 5 — The St. Andrews Links Trust issued a statement, noting the work that's being done near the Swilcan Bridge was an attempt to address the issues with the turf in front of the bridge, which is frequently damaged due to the significant foot traffic it receives. Noting has been done to the bridge itself, according to the statement.