Golf fans reject the Old Course's new wrinkle on protecting turf around Swilcan Bridge

Workers removed the stones at the front of the Swilcan Bridge that were installed to protect the turfgrass.
Workers removed the stones at the front of the Swilcan Bridge that were installed to protect the turfgrass.

The power of social media reached all the way to Scotland at St. Andrews, the birthplace of golf.

After the St. Andrews Links Trust built a stone patio at the entrance to the legendary Swilcan Bridge on the 18th hole of the Old Course, an immediate outcry erupted on social media sites, even though the Trust seemed to have a plausible reason: so many people were walking across the bridge, either playing golf or on days when the course is closed but is open to the public for strolls and picnics, that the grass bordering the front of the bridge was difficult to grow and maintain.

“The ongoing works are solely focused on the turfed approach area to the bridge, which regularly falls into disrepair due to the significant foot traffic by tens of thousands of golfers and countless other visitors seeking to have their photograph taken at the landmark,” St. Andrews said in a statement issued earlier this week.

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The Links Trust said it had tried artificial turf, rubber rocks and turf seeding. Nothing worked.

But after the fallout, the Trust sent workmen and tractors out to remove the stones and in a statement said it was pursuing other methods to protect the ground around the bridge.

“The stonework at the approach and exit of the bridge was identified as one possible long-term solution, however, while this installation would have proved some protection, in this instance 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,” it said in a statement.

Cameron Smith won the British Open last year at St. Andrews.

Tour seeks delays

The PGA Tour has asked U.S. District Judge Beth Labson Freeman to push back the trial date of January 2024 for the antitrust lawsuit filed by LIV Golf and the Tour's countersuit and extend the document discovery deadline past March 30 and the fact discovery deadline past May 26.

The Tour's attorneys wrote that the request to push back the discovery deadlines and the start of the trial is because the Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund and its "governor," Yasir Al-Rumayyan, "continue to resist compliance with the Tour's subpoenas for documents and testimony, a dispute that remains unresolved and which will likely lead to an appeal."

Dustin Johnson tees off at the LIV Golf Team Championship on oct. 29 in Doral.
Dustin Johnson tees off at the LIV Golf Team Championship on oct. 29 in Doral.

The motion was first reported by ESPN. Lawyers for both sides filed a motion earlier this week asking Freeman to schedule a case management conference.

"PIF and Mr. Al-Rumayyan have taken extraordinary steps to avoid producing a single document or providing sworn testimony," PGA Tour lawyers wrote. "To date, the Tour has been unable to obtain any discovery from either PIF or Mr. Al-Rumayyan."

The Tour is seeking to amend its counterclaim to add PIF and Al-Rumayyan as defendants in its countersuit against LIV Golf "because recently produced documents show that they played a central role in tortiously interfering with the Tour's contracts," and that LIV and its current and former player plaintiffs and unspecified third parties have failed to produce key documents, or, no documents at all.

The current trial date and discovery schedule are untenable in view of these issues," PGA Tour attorneys wrote.

The PGA Tour also filed a countersuit in which it alleged that LIV Golf interfered with its contracts with players.

Several LIV Golf players, including Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau, filed the federal antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour on Aug. 3, 2022. Mickelson and others later removed themselves as plaintiffs; LIV Golf, DeChambeau, Matt Jones and Peter Uihlein are the remaining plaintiffs.

LIV Golf attorneys opposed the change in schedule and claimed the current discovery and trial dates are "not only workable, but critical to the careers of the Player Plaintiffs and the viability of LIV as a legitimate competitor to the Tour."

Horschel, Homa join TGL

Ponte Vedra Beach resident Billy Horschel and Max Homa are the latest PGA Tour players to join TGL, the virtual golf league launched by Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, along with former NBC/Golf Channel executive Mike McCarley.

TGL will have six three-man teams who will compete in virtual team match-play events in prime time, on Monday nights, beginning in 2024. There will be 15 weeks of competition, followed by the semifinals and a championship match.

Also in the league are Woods, McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Adam Scott, Collin Morikawa and Matt Fitzpatrick.

“Max and Billy are world-class players who also are engaging and dynamic personalities. Max and Billy, and their passionate and charismatic approach to the game, will be great additions to the roster of PGA TOUR stars joining TGL. I believe they will flourish in the TGL environment, which will feature unprecedented audio access from inside our tech-infused venue,” said McCarley in a statement.

Homa recently won his sixth PGA Tour title at Torrey Pines and is ranked 13th in the world. Horschel won his seventh championship last year at The Memorial and is ranked 19th in the world.

“I have always enjoyed team and match-play formats, dating back to my days playing for the Gators," Horschel said in a statement. "Being a part of a TGL team and competing in this format on a regular basis next year will hopefully play to my strengths.”


Dates: March 9-12, Players Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass.

Days until first round: 28.

Tournaments until first round: Five.


Players trivia: The average winning score in five years at the Sawgrass Country Club was 2.8-under par.


Event: WM Phoenix Open, Thursday-Sunday, TPC Scottsdale, Scottsdale, Ariz.

At stake: $8.5 million purse ($1,530,000 and 500 FedEx Cup points to the winner).

Defending champion: Scottie Scheffler.

TV: Golf Channel (Thursday-Friday, 3-7 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 1-3 p.m.); CBS (Saturday, 3-6:30 p.m.; Sunday, 3-6 p.m.).

Area players entered: Harris English, Lanto Griffin, Brian Harman, Billy Horschel, Zach Johnson, Patton Kizzire, Russell Knox, Keith Mitchell, Trey Mullinax, J.T. Poston, Doc Redman, Sam Ryder, Greyson Sigg, Davis Thompson, Michael Thompson.

Notable: Scheffler beat Patrick Cantlay with a birdie on the third playoff hole to win his first PGA Tour title and kick off a season in which he eventually would earn player of the year. … Also in the field will be Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Collin Morikawa, Jordan Spieth, Xander Schaffele, Justin Thomas and Max Homa. …


Event: Trophy Hassan II, Friday-Sunday, Royal Golf Dar Es Slama, Rabat, Morocco.

At stake: $2 million purse ($320,000 to the winner).

Defending champion: Brett Quigley.

TV: Golf Channel (Friday-Sunday, 8-11 a.m.).

Area players entered: Fred Funk, Jim Furyk.

Notable: Quigley shot 66 in the final round and beat Stephen Ames by one shot.


Event: Astara Golf Championship, Thursday-Sunday, Country Club of Bogota, Bogota, Colombia.

At stake: $1 million purse ($180,000 to the winner).

Defending champion: Brandon Matthews.

TV: None.

Area players entered: Chris Baker, Jonas Blixt, A.J. Crouch, Rick Lamb, Jared Wolfe.

Notable: Matthews shot 66-66 on the weekend and defeated Ryan McCormick and Ben Griffin by one shot.

This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Old Course outcry: St. Andrews heeds purists, removes stones at Swilcan Bridge