St Andrews' Swilcan Bridge is not the first sporting icon ruined by unnecessary meddling
BBC golf stalwart Ken Brown said it looked like they should be doing a barbecue on it. Sir Nick Faldo said he couldn’t understand why you’d want bits of cement on you rather than grass. And appalled golf fans commented that the recent restoration works around the famous St Andrews Swilcan Bridge made the course’s most famous stone feature look like “a DIY patio”.
The custodians of the great course had been struggling to solve the problem of countless patrons, and visitors wanting their picture taken at the Swilcan Bridge which spans the burn between the first and 18th fairways, seeking as they do to emulate such treasured snaps as those taken of Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. The constant parade of photography has left the turf badly churned up, and the St Andrews Links Trust had tried to protect the approaches to the bridge with an admittedly deeply naff suburban crazy paving attempt. The work was widely panned.
So savage was the reaction that Links Trust has now decided to remove the paving. It said: “The exploratory works around the approach to and from the Swilcan Bridge had been undertaken to mitigate the issue of significant wear and tear to the turf. We have trialled a number of solutions, with the primary ambition always to find something that is both adequate for the amount of foot traffic for such a popular location whilst being in keeping with its surroundings.”
Presumably through gritted teeth, the statement added: “We have taken on feedback and we would like to thank everyone who has been in touch for their contribution to the issue.” It confirmed, “this installation would have provided some protection, [but] 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.”
A commendable escape from a tricky lie, but the underlying problem remains unsolved.
New swilcan bridge... 😅
DISCUSS 👇👇 pic.twitter.com/FoGI3vjATN
— Snainton Golf (@SnaintonGolf) February 6, 2023
Objectively, not exactly a masterpiece of design and execution, but with a sporting site this famous, there would have been no solution that did not upset golf lovers. Here are some other times when sports fans fumed about redevelopments.
The 2010 creation of the current Arena Circuit saw the demise of Bridge Corner at Silverstone, with Priory Corner also being altered with the aim of increasing safety. It worked, more or less, although on the first British Grand Prix spin of the new layout, Andrea de Cesaris nevertheless wiped out at Bridge. The Bridge itself was turned into a wall of fame but for many fans, something has been lost and not quite replaced.
The most famous feature of the most famous place in English football history was no match for the combined might of architect Norman Foster and Sports Minister Tony Banks when they got to work ditching Wembley’s Twin Towers. Banks sniffed that the Towers were “a couple of add-ons”; Foster was also not a fan. They were levelled in 2003 by a Liebherr 974 crawler excavator referred to as "Goliath" and nicknamed "Alan the Shearer”; a cruel irony that it was a German who toppled them.
Old Trafford Cricket Ground was first used in 1857; Lancashire have played there since 1864. What majesties it has witnessed: Victor Trumper scoring a ton before lunch, Jim Laker’s 19 wickets in a Test, Beefy’s 118 in the 1981 Ashes, Warnie’s ball of the century to Mike Gatting, a 2006 concert by Razorlight.
In 2010 Lancashire built the red conference centre, The Point, a bold and original take that was part of a wider development that also saw the pavilion updated. Perhaps most significantly, they also rotated the pitch through 90 degrees meaning that players no longer had to squint into the sun (on the occasions it isn’t raining). Arch rivals Yorkshire County Cricket Club had a go at their own renovations nine years later, at Headingley: a ground described by Duncan Hamilton in Wisden Cricket Monthly as “almost entirely devoid of aesthetic delight and utterly devoid of charming symmetry.” The 2019 geometric Emerald Stand has never looked quite right, but on the other hand, Yorkshire have bigger problems.
Looking to the future, there are plans afoot to sort out the other Old Trafford, albeit that these hang on who ends up owning Manchester United. West Ham, who already dismayed fans by moving from Upton Park in the first place, plan to do up the West Stand at the London Stadium, shunting season ticket holders into new seats in the process. The huge goodwill accrued by Wrexham owners Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney might be on the line as they update The Racecourse Ground – the world's oldest international football stadium that still hosts international matches. They said in a statement: “The derelict state of the Kop has long been an eyesore.” Nothing can possibly go wrong here.