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A Black Man Invented the Golf Tee, and Black Golfers Are Being Encouraged to Tee Off at 8 African-American Owned Courses

By Frederick H. Lowe

Dr. George Franklin Grant, an African-American Harvard University-educated dentist received the first patent for the golf tee. And now that it’s Spring, African American Golfer’s Digest is encouraging black golfers to honor golf’s black heritage by teeing off at eight African-American owned golf courses.

The initiative is called “Playing the African American Golf Trail,” and although it launched in January, it got into full swing in April, which happens to be National Black Golf Month.

African American Golfer’s Digest, a New York-based quarterly magazine, launched National Black Golf Month in August 2010, said Debert Cook, the magazine’s publisher.

The initiative’s goal is to make golfers aware of the eight African American owned courses and to provide the courses’ owners with revenue.

Golfer’s Digest is also promoting the African American Golfer’s Digest Challenge, which encourages golfers to book tee times at all eight courses.

If a golfer plays the circuit, he or she will receive a certificate, providing that they make the cut by submitting copies of his or her scorecards to African American Golfer’s Digest on or before June 31, 2015.

Regular revenue has been as hard to find for many black-owned golf courses as hitting a hole-in-one.

Black-owned golf courses have closed

In the last four to five years, four black-owned golf courses have gone under, including one owned by Julius “Dr. J.,” Erving, the former Philadelphia 76ers great.

Erving’s golf course was named “Celebrity Golf Club International,” and it was located in suburban Atlanta. It landed in a water trap and sunk to the bottom when the lenders foreclosed on the property in 2010.

Erving realized that the club’s monthly revenues could not meet its 30-day expenses. The course resurfaced but Erving no longer was the owner, Cook told The NorthStar News & Analysis.

Playing the Golf Trail involves golfers teeing off at the following courses:
Bull Creek Golf & County Club in Louisburg, N.C. Clearview Golf Course in East Canton, Ohio College Park Golf Course in College Park, Ga Freeway Golf Course in Sickerville, N.J Innisbrook, a Salamander Golf and Spa Resort in Palm Harbor, Fla. Langston Golf Course in Washington, D.C. Sugar Creek Golf & Tennis in Atlanta, Ga. Woodridge Golf Club in Mineral Wells, West Virginia.

All of the courses are 18 holes except College Park, which is a nine-hole course.

The circuit includes the oldest black-owned course, which is Clearview Golf Course. Architect and owner William “Bill” Powell and his wife Marcella built its nine-hole golf course, which opened in April 1948.

Powell, a World War II veteran of the Army Air Force, played golf throughout England without any trouble, during the war.

After fighting for his country, Powell attempted to join golf clubs in his hometown, but he was barred because of his race.

So Powell designed and built his own course with the help of his family and a couple of black physicians.

Powell added an additional nine holes in 1978. Clearview is a member of the National Register of Historic Places. Powell, who died in 2009, was inducted into the PGA Professional Hall of Fame in March 2013.

Innisbrook, a Salamander Golf and Spa Resort in Palm Harbor, Fla., is owned by Sheila Johnson, co-founder of Black Entertainment Television. The resort boasts four courses. They include the Island Course, Highlands North Course, Highlands South Course and the Copperhead Course, a venue for the PGA’s Valspar Championship.

“To participate in the Challenge, golfers need only to grab their calendars and telephones and begin making tee-time arrangements at various courses,” Cook said. “The Trail is also great for planning a concierge-style couples’ retreat, group outing, girlfriends, or guy-friends getaway across these eight fabulous destinations.”

Cook added African American Golfer’s Digest launched the program without any sponsors so they need them.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office awarded Dr. Grant patent number 638, 920 on Dec. 12, 1899, according to the book “The Inventive Spirit of African Americans.”

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