News & ToursJune 6, 2012

Golf and debauchery: When a member tournament spirals out of control

When in 1997 the prestigious Piedmont Driving Club in Atlanta was considering building a golf course, Dixon Adair, a third-generation member, boldly stated his opposition in a letter he sent to the membership. "We must expose the unforeseen consequences it would carry within our gates," he wrote in part.

Adair, who died in 2005, was prescient, if unsuccessful, in his bid to stop the course, a Rees Jones design southwest of Atlanta that opened in 2000. GolfDigest.com was one of several outlets to obtain a copy of a letter written by Piedmont Driving Club member John C. Weitnauer to the club president John R. Holder (and copied to general manager Gary Lanneau) citing "a great deal of inappropriate behavior" at a member/member tournament at the course. His nine bullet points included these:

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This photo was not taken from an ill-fated member-member tournament at Piedmont Driving Club. But it sounds like could have been. Photo by Getty Images

-- "one member decided to play the 14th hole completely naked."

               -- "Several members urinated on one of the greens, in the presence of the caddie, a female..."

-- "On Friday night, one of the drunken golfers passed out in the men's grill, and another member opened his pants..."

It gets worse, but we'll leave it at that. The behavior was variously described as "drunken antics" (the Atlanta Journal Constitution), "men behaving badly" (WXIA-TV), "members drunk and naked" (Business Insider), and "sounds more like Animal House" (atlawblog.com).

Related: The 18 Most Annoying Golf Partners

The club has not denied the behavior cited in the letter, though Holder has declined to comment, instead issuing a statement:

"We have taken disciplinary action based on what we currently know to be true. We take this matter very seriously and are looking into it further. When all of the facts are gathered and verified, we will consider further action."

A voicemail message left for Lanneau has not been returned. Weitnauer's voicemail said that he was on vacation until June 11. Weitnauer, incidentally, is an attorney with Alston & Bird, the law firm of which Bobby Jones was a partner.

The Piedmont Driving Club is among the most prestigious private social clubs in the South, founded in 1887 to provide grounds on which members could drive their horse and carriages. Author Tom Wolfe offered this description of its prestige in his bestselling novel "A Man in Full": "You might have the grandest house in all of Buckhead and the summer place on Sea Island and the biggest private jet and the ranch or two in Wyoming, every toy a man could possibly long for -- and yet your failure to make the roster of the Piedmont Driving Club would always be hanging over you, like a reproach."

Suffice it to say, this controversy is likely to hang over the club, like a reproach, if not always, for some time, at least.

-- John Strege

Follow @JohnStrege

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