Bridge will ruin one of world's best golf courses, say players

CONTROVERSIAL proposals to build a £2.6 million footbridge across the River Tay will effectively destroy the historic course where the first golf society in the world to gain Royal patronage play their matches, it was claimed yesterday.

The North Inch golf course in Perth, partly designed by Old Tom Morris, is one of the oldest in Britain and home to more than 15 golf clubs and societies.

Among those that play there are the Royal Perth Golf Society, formed in 1824 and granted Royal patronage by King William IV in 1833. The society's current patron is the Duke of York.

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Golfers have united in condemning proposals by planners at Perth and Kinross Council to use the green for the course's signature 15th hole - listed as one of the top 100 golf holes in the UK - for one of the supports for the 656ft-long structure which will link Perth with the village of Scone on the opposite bank.

The proposals, expected to be approved at meeting of the council's enterprise and infrastructure committee today, will also involve the 17th tee being moved forward by about 25 metres to make way for approach embankments, reducing the hole from a par 4 to a par 3. And the North Inch is also likely to be put out of bounds as an 18-hole course for up to a year to pave the way for the construction of the bridge.

Andrew Christie, the golf secretary of the Royal Perth Golfing Society, said that members of the exclusive club were "horrified" at the prospect of a bridge spanning the course, where members hold annual matches against the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, and the New Club in Edinburgh.

He said: "We are terribly concerned about this proposal. North Inch is our spiritual home and, depending how it all pans out, we may have to make alternative arrangements to play our matches at other venues."

He said he was particularly concerned at the impact of the "muckle great" footbridge on the "spectacular and beautiful" signature 15th hole which runs alongside the Tay.

Mr Christie added: "What they are proposing is a great tragedy. We have no objection in principle to a bridge across the river. Our objection is simply to the bridge at this location."

The North Inch Golf Users' Group, which represents the various clubs and societies that play at the North Inch, is also outraged at the footbridge plans.

Jack McLeish, chairman of the users' group, said: "This is causing an awful lot of upset to the citizens of Perth - not just the golfers."This bridge is going to be built smack in the middle of one of the oldest golf courses in Scotland and it's going to ruin it."

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However, Councillor John Kellas, the convener of the enterprise and infrastructure committee, claimed the preferred design - a three-arched structure - would be an "iconic" addition to the Perth landscape.