THE first of two new bridges took shape over the River Wharfe last week connecting Ilkley Golf Club with a section of its course.

The prestigious Nesfield Road club is spending more than £100,000 on the bridges to link two of its holes on a river island with the rest of the 6,262-yard course.

A huge crane was drafted in last Thursday morning to haul the 23-tonne two-piece structure into position.

The new bridge is 25 metres long and three metres wide, with ramps at either side.

It will help groundsmen maintain the greens on the island, allowing tractors to cross on to it for the first time.

Ilkley Golf Club, the third oldest club in Yorkshire, ordered the bridges to replace an ageing footbridge which has been in place at least since the club moved from its original moorland home to the Nesfield Road land more than 100 years ago.

The old bridge is said to have been constructed with steel once part of the old Forth Bridge in Scotland.

The six-figure project is being paid for entirely from golf club funds.

Honorary secretary Bill Cartwright said the club needed to replace the old bridge.

Mr Cartwright said: “For 12 months we’ve been working on getting new bridges wide enough to take the tractor on to the island.”

The club had to conduct a wildlife survey to make sure creatures such as bats would not be disturbed by removing the old bridge.

Players tackling the challenging golf course have to contend with a stretch of the River Wharfe, driving on to and off the island.

A wayward shot will land the careless golfer in deep water.

The course has a par of 69, but a record of 64 was set by top professional Colin Montgomerie, who learned his trade at the Ilkley club.

He and another victorious Ryder Cup captain, Mark James, are honorary life members of the club.

The British-built new bridge was constructed in two sections by Beaver Bridges in Shropshire, taken to a specialist contractor to be painted and transported to Ilkley by road.

Preparations were made on Wednesday ready for the crane to move in and carry out the lifting work quickly.

The company’s project manager, Jonathan Land, said the bridge was ready to go before Christmas, but the bad weather prevented it being put in place.

Weather conditions were judged safe to do the work last week.

Mr Land said: “When you’re going to be bringing in a large crane, obviously there’s a big concern about the wind speed.”

As the crane could not stand close to the riverbank itself, it had to be capable of lifting the massive weight from some distance away.

The bridge has been painted green to help it blend in with the countryside setting.