CAN you remember in the build up to the year 2000 when we all worked ourselves into an appalling fankle over the Millennium Bug? According to doom-laden predictions by boggle-eyed boffins, human civilization would be destroyed by a tsunami of malfunctioning contraptions once the bells chimed a farewell to 1999.

Planes would suddenly plummet out of the sky, nuclear power stations would melt, Kenwood blenders would rise up and hold terrified, cowering families hostage in their own kitchens and entire cities would be incinerated by a rampaging army of microwave ovens. The reality, of course, was that nothing particularly apocalyptic happened apart from maybe the odd radio alarm clock going a bit doo-lally and waking Janice and Eric up at 2am. The frenzy passed and life muddled on.

Here in 2023, meanwhile, it’s not a bug that’s been causing mass hysteria but a brig. Or at least an addition next to a brig. Some new stonework at either end of the Old Course’s ancient, iconic Swilcan Bridge, that cherished crossing that does look a little bit like something you’d put in the bottom of a goldfish bowl, had prompted a jaw-dropping level of pandemonium. By all hysterical accounts, the patio-style appendage was the biggest offensive on a bridge since the Allied forces launched Operation Market Garden.

Whether it was withering condemnation from Sir Nick Faldo or spluttering harrumphing by Derek from Kincaple, the torrent of fist-shaking, mouth-frothing online anguish from around the world forced the St Andrews Links Trust, the custodians of the courses in the Auld Grey Toun, to hastily release a statement to temper the general furore. More significant developments would come later last night, however. In an initial communication, the Links Trust emphasised that the bridge itself had remained untouched and the placing of the paving stones was part of ongoing work around turfed areas that regularly fell into disrepair due to the sheer volume of human traffic walking onto it. Apparently, they have tried all sorts of things to combat the general depreciation of the grass but, according to the Trust, “none have proven to be successful in adequately protecting the area from the significant wear and tear.” Funnily enough, that’s what my wife said to me about the various potions and lotions I’ve used on my crow’s feet, rumpled jowls and bald patch.

Amid the growing hostility and fevered pearl-clutching, the Links Trust later surrendered to the backlash and informed all and sundry that the stones would be removed and the well-trodden area would be re-turfed. I was hoping they’d ban people from walking onto the bridge for a bucket-list photo just to see if there was an online campaign to get the bloomin’ paving stones re-instated.

The curious thing is that the Old Course itself, that treasured golfing antiquity, has had numerous bits of cosmetic surgery performed on it over the years in a bid to combat the modern game’s big hitters. Yet some of those works, which had an impact on the way the Old Course was actually played and in the eyes of many meant the very essence of this golfing monument was lost, didn’t generate the same outrage or scrutiny as the addition of a few slabs plonked down over some barren turf. The next time a new tee is added or a bunker is altered, I’m assuming there will be another ferocious public rebellion?

As ever when it comes to startling stooshies like this, you wonder what the wider world makes of us golfy lot. “There they go, getting their knickers in a terrible twist about some ruddy stones,” you can hear them snort with shrugging indifference. It probably just bolsters the stereotypical image harboured by many that golf and golfers are as fusty as something from, well, the stone age.

In the current climate of turmoil at the top end of the professional game, this whole episode is all very fitting. You could say it’s a bridge over troubled waters. Starting yesterday in London, golf’s civil war moved from the course to the International Dispute Resolution Centre. An arbitration panel began hearing the arguments from lawyers for a posse of 13 LIV Golf players and those representing the DP World Tour in an attempt to clarify the playing status of the former on the latter.

The LIV 13, which includes the likes of Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Graeme McDowell, are fighting for the freedom to play where they like, when they like and, as independent contractors, they claim they should be able to play both on the breakaway LIV Series and the DP World Tour. The case arose when players requested “conflicting event” releases from the DP World Tour in order to contest the inaugural LIV Golf event in Hemel Hempstead last June. The tour denied those requests but the players jumped on board the LIV Golf gravy train anyway. The naughty rascals. The DP World Tour will argue that it has rules governing permission to play conflicting competitions and it needs the right to impose those regulations.

The hearing will last until Friday but the end result could take several weeks to emerge. Whatever the outcome, there will be considerable ramifications for the professional game. But we’ll cross that brig when we come to it …