Taking Relief

Continued (page 2 of 3)

Ben Curtis won the 2003 British Open but achieved a lesser-known distinction at the 2005 Open, at St. Andrews. "On the 13th hole both me and Freddie Jacobson had already gone more than a hole [in desperation], and we couldn't find a place to go," he says. "They had no bathrooms out there, and we were looking at each other and trying to figure out what we were going to do. We were pretty desperate, so we both sort of headed toward the shrubs off to one side, and there we were, the two of us right next to each other. Fortunately, we were down in a little swale, so all the gallery could see was two guys from the shoulders up. Felt bad, being on the Old Course."

Like Forrest Gump at the White House telling President Kennedy, "I gotta pee," the urge to go is often in inverse relation to the solemnity of the venue.


Augusta National has its tradition unlike any other. "One of the best places that you could ever go in an emergency was behind the 13th tee," Damiano says. "But that was before they moved the tee back. Now there's no room and no cover."

They moved the tee back in 2002, but Tiger-proofing is not the same as bladder-proofing. So many golfers at Augusta went No. 1 on No. 13 that the club felt obliged to do more. "It was a perfect place to go, no spectators around to see you," says Mark Long, the veteran PGA and Champions tour caddie, with a wistful tone in his voice. "The way officials solved the issue, or thought they did, was to put a sign back there that says, This Area Under Video Surveillance."

Video surveillance isn't always a deterrent. When Rooney, the aforementioned star striker for Manchester United, was caught on camera urinating at Sun City -- a still photograph of which will live forever on the Internet -- a resort official sniffily told the London Mirror: "It is certainly not behavior we would endorse in any way whatsoever." And yet, let him without sin cast the first kidney stone.

The human bladder was not built to withstand 18 holes of a championship golf course. "My record for holding it is 15 holes," Damiano says. "Sometimes that's all you've got."

Many clubs have a permanent restroom or two strategically placed on the course, like the one adjacent to the 15th tee box at Highland Woods Golf & Country Club in Bonita Springs, Fla. When my high-handicapper father made his one and only hole-in-one there -- a small but joyous miracle -- my brother Tom was in the restroom, mid-stream, listening through the vent at the whoops and hollers. Punished for seeking privacy, he vowed never again to use an on-course restroom.

And so he, like the rest of us, remains locked in this golfer's dilemma: No one wants to see a guest's member at a member-guest. On the other hand, it's exceedingly difficult to drain your putts when all you can think about is draining your putz.

When Golf Digest asked readers how they cope, their varied Facebook replies all shared a certain ingenuity. "I'm a Minnesota Vikings fan," wrote one, "so I make sure that I carry a Green Bay Packers towel, just in case."

"I kneel by the cart," posted another. "Never uphill, though." A third reader, who will not soon be mistaken for Gentleman Gene Sarazen, wrote: "Our golf course has a lot of blackberry bushes. The women have learned NEVER to eat the berries that are waist-high."

Indeed, the courteous golfer endeavors to relieve himself in a spot where no one is likely to hit a ball -- to go, in the parlance of "Star Trek," where no man has gone before. That is to say: Go pee O.B. It's the least you can do.

"One of the worst things I ever saw was this year at Riviera," says the touring pro Bill Haas. "I was finishing up on 18, and I looked back down the fairway, and there was a guy -- I won't say who, but if I told you his name you would not be surprised -- who just went right there at the edge of the rough. You know, the fans are on one side of the fairway, and it was getting dark, but still, that was pretty bad. I thought that was extremely rude. I mean, get out of sight. Plus, I wouldn't want to be playing behind him and have my ball end up in that spot, you know?"


Spectators at tournaments may always turn for relief to that humblest of golf-club servants, the Port-a-John. An eyesore as well as a nose sore, it has as many names as the devil himself: Port-a-Potty, Port-O-Let, Johnny-on-the-Spot. And like the devil, it often promises succor while delivering damnation.

In The Bogey Man, his 1967 book about the PGA Tour, George Plimpton recalled a friend who used a Port-O-Let outside the fairway ropes at a major tournament. When the man entered the plastic john, Plimpton wrote, the area surrounding it was nearly empty. But when he opened the door moments later -- and its rusty hinges "made a shrill squeal" -- he found that Arnold Palmer his own self was standing over a ball 10 yards away, and "an enormous fan of people had materialized that stretched away toward the distant green." Mortified, the man stepped back into the john and shut the door.

"Well," Plimpton quoted his friend, "after a second or two, there was this knock on the door of the Port-O-Let, and it was Palmer. 'Listen,' he said. 'Come on out; there's no hurry.' Well, I thought about that great mob of people out there, all looking and maybe getting ready to laugh and all if I stepped out of the Port-O-Let. So I said through the door, 'No. You go right ahead, Mr. Palmer. I'm in no hurry either.' " Moments later, the man heard footsteps and a knock at the Port-O-Let door: "It was Palmer. 'Listen,' he said. He sounded very apologetic through the door. 'I find it's hard to concentrate on my shot thinking about you shut up in that box. I'd appreciate it if you would come out.' "

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