Joe Bartholomew, an early Golfer and Golf Course designer


Joseph Bartholomew
Date: 
Mon, 1881-08-01

Joseph M. Bartholomew was born on this date in 1885. He was an African American golfer who specialized in designing golf courses.

Joe Bartholomew was born in New Orleans, and was a seven-year-old caddie at nearby Audubon Golf Course. Bartholomew copied the swings of the golfers for whom he caddied, taught himself the game's touch, and quickly became skilled enough to instruct others. He became such a good player--he once shot 62 at Audubon--that club members backed him in arranged matches.

Several years later, he took his talents across town to Metairie Golf Club. A wealthy club member named H. T. Cottam persuaded the club to send Bartholomew to New York to obtain knowledge and experience in golf course architecture. Early in 1922, Bartholomew returned to New Orleans and began construction of Metairie's new course. So covetous of his design was he that he often worked through the night to protect the project from those who might steal his ideas. That practice also perturbed some of the Metairie membership, who wanted proof that their money was being well spent. One morning Bartholomew loaded his doubters into wagons and showed them his progress. They were astounded.

After months of physical labor and mental anguish brought the project to fruition, Bartholomew wasn't allowed to hit one golf ball on the greenery that his mind and hands had shaped.

Over the next decade, Bartholomew built a number of courses in Louisiana, including City Park No. 1, City Park No. 2, and Pontchartrain Park in New Orleans. The public courses, like the city park playgrounds, were segregated. Joe had built them too, but could not play them. He received little if any salary for several of the courses he built. His biggest payoff came from seven holes he built primarily for his friends on property he owned in the New Orleans suburb of Harahan.

Bartholomew later started a construction company and expanded his business into other areas, including landscaping. As the years went by, his wealth grew, derived from successful real estate investments and diversified assets. His contributions to Dillard and Xavier Universities endeared him to the academic community. Joe Bartholomew never strayed far from his first love, though. He was a fixture at Pontchartrain Park well into his 70s. Even in declining health, his eyes would light up at the mention of the game of golf. In 1971, Bartholomew had a stroke and on Oct. 12 of that year, he died.

Reference:
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Bartholomew, Joseph M.