In the late 1800’s after the American Civil War, many Blacks learned the game of golf as caddies, many for their slave masters in the south. They took up the game in large numbers in the early 1900s. It was virtually the only way they could play on private and public courses. Under Jim Crow laws, financial oppression, and other acts of hatred, many Black men carried their golf game on. Pioneers like Charlie Sifford was the first African American to play in the PGA and Lee Elder who was the first African American to play the Masters, had stellar careers and became well known. But many other Black golfers such as Teddy Rhodes, James Black, Bill Spiller, Nathaniel Starks, and Joe Roach never got that opportunity. Of the 5,000 golf courses in the United States in 1939, fewer than 20 were open to Black players.
From George F. Grant’s invention of the golf tee in 1899 to the dominance of superstar Tiger Woods in the 1990s, Black golfers has challenged the stereotypes and the fundamental story of race and golf in American culture.