Taking Relief

From country clubs to the pro tour, when you gotta go, you gotta go

September 2014

The English soccer star Wayne Rooney was photographed urinating on the golf course at the Sun City resort in South Africa during the 2010 World Cup, the same summer that a homeowner called police to Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio, to report a man in Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's foursome relieving himself on that prestigious track. But neither golfer was convicted by a jury of his pee-ers, because who among us has not had to take urgent relief on the golf course?

Almost every man on the tour has put the P in PGA at some point, and some of them are even willing to admit it. "I guarantee you, everyone has a story," says the touring pro Kevin Na. "We've all gone out and found a tree or a bush at some point."

Or as his fellow pro Joe Ogilvie puts it: "We all have to pee."

With that in mind, Golf Digest embarked on this piece of investigative urinalism to find out how golfers cope with nature's call. Not everyone wanted to talk. "I've heard the stories," says Steve Stricker. "I really don't want to repeat them." But most concede that finding a place to micturate discreetly is an ever-present concern on tour. For stars -- pursued by television cameras and galleries, locked in competition for four hours at a time, constantly rehydrating beneath a merciless sun -- it can be a conundrum. No sport places a greater premium on personal comportment while simultaneously taxing the bladder in public.

Ask Ernie Els, and he instantly recalls a royal wee at Royal Melbourne, the oldest golf club in continuous operation in Australia, and the kind of place not often associated with public urination. And yet the bladder is a great leveler. "I had an emergency one year at the Heineken Classic, and they have those [sponsor] signs around the tees," Els says. "There was no place to go, but it was in an area where the fans couldn't get anywhere close to the tee. So I just walked behind those signs and went. Just had my hands on my hips, and there I went. I wouldn't have done that if it hadn't been kind of an urgent deal."

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Most professionals and many amateurs agree that urinating on the golf course should be reserved for near-emergencies, that going alfresco in the fescue should never be the easy option. Unless, that is, public urination is part of your personal code. Golf's original Zen master, Ty Webb, urged Danny Noonan to "be the ball" before relieving himself on the fringe of a Bushwood green in "Caddyshack." And he was evidently not alone in his philosophy.

man wearing a diaper

"I once knew a player back in the day who would pee just about anywhere," says caddie Joe Damiano. "He didn't care where. He sometimes peed against the outside of a Port-a-John instead of stepping inside and going in there. That was him being one with nature, or something like that."

Nature itself is often the problem. Golf's physical landscape is unforgiving, with its burbling fountains and babbling brooks and aerated water hazards. For the home viewer, there are the frequent Flomax commercials, featuring a kayaking trip on a running river. To pros, a light drizzle can be a lavatorial trigger.

"We were at the 2010 Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor, and it was rainy and cold," says Ted Scott, caddie for Bubba Watson, recalling that weekend when the U.S. team's raingear was not the only thing to spring a leak. "This was like the second day, and we're playing with Jeff Overton. We get to the second tee, and I have got to go. I have no idea what to do because there are no Port-a-Johns around. I ask Bubba, and he says to go ask an official if it's OK to run into the bushes. I mean, we don't know, we're in a different country. So all the players tee off, and there is this giant gallery to our right, and I have no choice, so I just go to the edge of the bushes and go. The fans are probably 10 yards away, but this is an emergency. Most people kept walking, but there were a few people who called out. I didn't care."


For those who do care -- and for those afflicted with stage fright around galleries -- the alternative methods of relief can be even less appealing. Take the UroClub. It's not the host of the next Ryder Cup, but rather a hollow plastic 7-iron with a suspiciously thick grip that conceals a receptacle allowing the user -- presumably insane with urgency -- to urinate into his replica golf club while looking like he's lining up a shot. A golf towel that clips onto a waistband provides a terry-cloth fig leaf for the full-bladdered male.

The Edison of this device is a board-certified urologist named Dr. Floyd Seskin, though it is hard not to think of him, under the circumstances, as Dr. Lloyd Foreskin. He calls it "the only club in your bag guaranteed to keep you out of the woods." When Seskin pitched the UroClub on the television show "Shark Tank" -- a kind of "American Idol" for entrepreneurs -- he promised golfers that it held 18 ounces of urine. "As a urologist," he assured skeptical investors, "I can tell you [that] is more than the average person urinates at a given time." He felt duty-bound to add, somewhat unnecessarily: "It is not a functional club."

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For women, there's the GoGirl, a FUD -- female urinary device -- that lets the user go while standing up. Women, obviously, have a more difficult task than men in this regard, but the biggest problem for either gender remains finding a spot out of eyeshot of galleries or condo-association presidents. And even when you locate such a spot, you might find yourself reluctantly befouling a sacred international landmark.

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