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Black Golf History
Discrimination Against Black Golfers

Black golfers were allowed to golf at Minneapolis golf courses as soon as the golf courses were built, BUT they were denied some privileges enjoyed by white golfers.


On August 21st, 1951, a group of Black golfers from the Twin City Golf Club sent a letter to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board listing the following grievances:
  • The golf association was not able to get official recognition as a golf club because of a rule of the state golf association which allows only one club to be recognized at each course.
  • The recognition as a club is necessary in order to obtain official handicaps to enter sanctioned tournaments.
  • Negro golfers have not been able to obtain admission to any one of the private golf clubs operating on municipal golf courses at the present time.
  • The golf association's inability to have their own golf club and recognized membership in the private golf clubs operating on public golf courses was discriminatory.
  • The whole problem is related to the ruling of the PGA barring Negro golfers from participating in PGA sanctioned tournaments.

    Response from the Playground and Entertainment Committee

    Notes from the meeting of the Park Board's Playground and Entertainment Committee on September 27, 1951 said the following: "Twin City Golf Association. Request of August 21, 1951 for recognition at one of the municipal golf courses as a golf club.

    "The petitioners state that they are an organization composed of approximately 75 Negro golfers who first organized in 1931. They have requested an opportunity to attend one of the sessions of the Board in furtherance of their request for recognition at one of the municipal golf courses, and feel that their problem is a matter of policy to be determined by the Board. The matter was placed on the Committee agenda so that the members of the Committee may familiarize themselves with the situation before a formal appearance by the petitioners."
    The hearing was scheduled for October 9th.
    On March 5, 1952, the Park Board recreation committee stated that their investigation found that the five clubs using the municipal courses were to all purposes private clubs without relation to the Park Board and that they were receiving privileges above and beyond what the ordinary and regular golf player was receiving: reserved starting times, extra services by the course managers, locker room and showers, and that the clubs had closed memberships and admitted whom they pleased.
    The Minneapolis Spokesman wrote on March 11, 1952:
    "The recreation committee of the Minneapolis Park board at its meeting on March 5, took a position consistent with good sound democracy in municipal recreational accommodations. The committee, whose recommendations must be passed by the entire board in effect, said to the five private 'racially' exclusive golf clubs now using city facilities [Wirth, Gross, Armour, Meadowbrook and Hiawatha] 'Since you insist on a membership policy which excludes many white golfers and ALL Negro golfers we cannot continue to allow you to use either the name of the public golf course or the special privileges which your clubs have received all through the years.'
    "The Twin City Golf Association composed of Negro golfers also should be congratulated on bringing a situation, which has existed for years, with the approval and consent of the park board staff, to the attention of the elected park board members.
    "State golf rules for tournaments require that entrants must be members of recognized golf clubs which play on either private or public golf courses. This rule and the rigid race bars in the clubs using the public tax supported courses have practically kept Negro golfers, as well as many white golfers, out of recognized tournament play.
    "If some of our citizens want to practice the doubtful luxury of racial snobbery, they should find some place to indulge in it other than on tax supported public golf courses."

    Park Board Ruling

    On Thursday, April 4, 1952 the Minneapolis Morning Tribune reported that a compromise had been reached. The article said the Minneapolis Park Board ruled Wednesday that "Private golf courses at municipal course must show that their constitutions do not bar members for 'race, color or creed' before they can get a permit to operate."
    The five private clubs agreed to remove all bars to membership for Negoes, and assist any Negro club in obtaining membership in city, state and national tournament associations and in having one of its members as a voting member of the Public Golf Association of Minnesota.
    But, the news article said, "This action by the park board does not actually require any of the private clubs to accept Negro members. The clubs presumably could still 'blackball' Negroes and others in a membership committee as in the past."
    Only two clubs were immediately granted permits because they submitted signed statements that their rules do not bar members for reasons of "race, color or creed." These clubs were Twin City Golf Club and Hiawatha Golf Club. The other 4 clubs, Columbia, Gross, Meadowbrook and Wirth, stated that they had misunderstood that written statements were required and they would furnish them later. The park board issued these 4 clubs temporary permits, pending receipt of the statements.

    Responses to the Ruling

    This result came with mixed responses from the various parties involved. The Tribune article published the following responses:
    L. Howard Bennett, attorney for the Negro club, said: "This [decision] contains possibilities that could mean the establishment of segregation in golfing in Minneapolis. If today's compromise leads to compressing golfing activities into a Jim Crow pattern, then it is bad. On the other hand, the fact that the park board has brought all organized golf clubs within the regulatory powers of the board indicates a democratic pattern in golfing can be achieved, depending on the good faith and democratic intent of all parties."
    Shelton Granger, executive secretary of the Minneapolis Urban league said, "We had hoped to make it the responsibility of the park board to see that we have an integrated system on the courses. This action recognizes a system of voluntary segregation and gives it support by allowing it to continue." Granger also said that the agreement not to discriminate by the clubs was "only a paper statement." He added, "It still takes just one blackball to keep a negro out of those clubs."
    Dr. Henry E. Allen, chairman of the intergroup relations committee of the Minneapolis Council of Churches, said: "We are disappointed and we are going to watch closely to see if there is unfairness in enforcing this resolution."