Swilcan Bridge: Taste of St Andrews for Christchurch golf club

Ross Gourley and Sir Bob Charles on a replica of the famous St Andrews Swilcan Bridge, built by...
Ross Gourley and Sir Bob Charles on a replica of the famous St Andrews Swilcan Bridge, built by the long-term member at the Waimairi Beach Golf Club. Photo: Supplied
One of the most iconic backdrops in sport, the Swilcan Bridge at the Old Course at St Andrews in Scotland, has been replicated on a Christchurch golf course by a dedicated member.

Ross Gourley had already created a garden to enhance the memorial wall for late Waimairi Beach Golf Club stalwarts. And while meandering around the course one afternoon last year, he thought of another means of enhancing Waimairi’s post-earthquake rebuild.

“I thought, wouldn’t it be great if we put a Swilcan Bridge over the drain,” said Gourley, who joined the club in the early 1980s.

The retired 79-year-old, who turned handyman for the elderly by building decks and fences, scanned the internet to construct the Swilcan memorial bridge, linking the 15th and 16th holes.

He also relied on his own recollections after he paid three quid to play the Old Course in 1976 while on a working holiday with his wife and three kids.

Sir Bob Charles (second left) is pictured with other former winners of The Open, Sandy Lyle (left...
Sir Bob Charles (second left) is pictured with other former winners of The Open, Sandy Lyle (left), David Duval and Justin Leonard at St Andrews in 2015. Photo: Supplied
One of his children, daughter Lynda, also supplied an “invaluable” guide on stonemasonry, and as a precaution she contacted the Royal & Ancient Golf Club to ensure the home of golf had no objections.

“They had no problems whatsoever, they want photos for their social media,” said Gourley, who took pride of place alongside Sir Bob Charles when the bridge was opened last Saturday.

Charles, who unsuccessfully defended The Open Championship on the Old Course in 1964, is well-acquainted with the small 700-year-old Roman arch, which spans the Swilcan Burn between the first and 18th fairways. He played The Open at St Andrews five times.

The 84-year-old is also familiar with Waimairi, having reopened the relaid course in May, 2014.

Charles playfully suggested Gourley be his caddie for the photo shoot, though ultimately they both played a round together.

Ever the consummate pro, Charles carded a 77.

Gourley almost matched him with an 80, not that he was concerned to miss a memorable win by a couple of strokes.

“In this life you’ve got to leave something behind you. I’ve left a garden and a bridge and I’m happy with that,” he mused.

And Gourley also had the consolation of having already shot his age – he crossed that bridge for the first time a month ago.

 

 

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