written by Olivia Pennybaker

Before there was ever a wooden golf tee, players would construct a mound of wet sand to set their ball on to hit. All that changed when a black dentist named Dr. George Grant grew tired of the difficult process. Born in 1846, Dr. Grant was the son of escaped slaves and worked as an assistant in a dental office. He became the second black American to graduate from Harvard’s Dental School and later was the first black professor at Harvard. He opened up his own dental practice but golf became his favorite pastime where he played in a meadow near his home. He and his friends became some of the first black golfers in post-Civil War America. He grew tired of fashioning a sand tee for 18 holes so Dr. Grant invented the first wooden tee. A wood peg was attached to a rubber tube with a cup on top to keep the golf ball in place. He wanted the top to be more flexible while the bottom stayed stable. In 1899, he received a US patent, the first one for a golf tee. He did not sell or promote his work, instead just passed them out to his friends and kept some for himself. The dentist did not get much recognition for the tee as not many people knew about it. In 1921 another dentist named Dr. William Lowell popularized the “reddy tee.” Dr. Grant was finally given the glory for the tee in 1991 when the United States Golf Association recognized his contribution to the game of golf. In a period when many blacks were not allowed to golf, Dr. George Grant, the son of slaves, invented a small but vital piece of golf equipment, making the game more efficient.