Golf Course Architect

Joseph Bartholomew was born in New Orleans in 1888. He was a good student who was allowed to skip grades. At the age of 7, he began to caddie at whites-only golf courses. He was paid $3/day. He was befriended by the golf pro at the Auburn golf course who taught him how to repair clubs.

Joseph was quick to learn all aspects of the game of golf. He learned to play by observing the men he caddied for. While he was not allowed to play on the course where he worked, he was allowed to coach others on their swings. He continued to increase his responsibilities, becoming the greens superintendent.

Those who were members of the golf club were so impressed by his knowledge of golf that they agreed to send him to a golf course design school. He more than met their expectations when he returned with a complete course design consisting of the greatest holes of famous golf courses. The golf course was subsequently built.

The knowledge he gained from golf course design helped Joseph start a construction company specializing in soil preparation. The construction company was very successful, and Joseph used the profits to start a life insurance company. Then he expanded into real estate.

Using land that he owned, Joseph designed and built a municipal golf course for African Americans. Although Joseph became well known as a golf course designer, he was still unable to play on the courses he designed. He was in his 70s when the Civil Rights Act was passed.

Hidden heroes don’t always get to enjoy the results of their contributions to society. It’s hard to imagine spending a part of your life developing something that you were restricted from enjoying. At least in Joseph’s case, he was very resourceful in using the knowledge he gained in golf course design to launch a very successful business career.

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“The only time my prayers are never answered is on the golf course.” – Billy Graham

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