The background to the invention of the golf tee is a Cool Golf Thing

Do you know who invented the golf tee?
George Franklin Grant, a dentist and first African-American Harvard faculty member, patented the first golf tee in 1899.

Is any golf thing taken more for granted than the humble tee peg? We find and discard them on the ground, we snap them to hit irons on par threes, we grab a handful when we're invited to play a private club and there's a box full of them by the pro shop door. But I reckon few of us know from where - or, more precisely, whom - the first golf tee came. I didn't until yesterday afternoon.

The first tee patent, number 638,920 was granted on December 12, 1899, to Dr. George Franklin Grant, a dentist. A native of Oswego, N.Y. born in 1846, Grant would become the second African-American graduate of what is now Harvard University's dental school in 1870. The following year, he would become the first African-American faculty member in the history of the university. He was a pioneer in the treatment and correction of cleft palates. He was also a golfer, taking up the game in the 1880s and at one point fashioning a homemade course on his suburban Boston estate. It's said Grant's invention sprang from frustration rather than necessity; he didn't like getting his hands dirty from the small sand piles that for centuries propped up golf balls.

Most of us who enjoy golf are a little bit obsessed with it. That preoccupation manifests in any number of ways, and surely Grant was no exception. Some of us daydream. Others innovate. Though the golf tee shape we now use came to widespread popularity in 1920s in the wake of another patent by another dentist - Dr. William Lowell of New Jersey - there is no denying that Grant, a trailblazer twice over, is greatly to thank for the existence of one of golf's most important items.

1 Min Read
June 12, 2020
Watch and enjoy.

Tim Gavrich is a Senior Writer for GolfPass. Follow him on Twitter @TimGavrich and on Instagram @TimGavrich.
2 Comments
Commented on

As an african american great to know that we have been playing golf over a 100 years .And making a contribution to the equipment also fantastic!!

Commented on

Great to know these little fun facts

More from the author
7 Min Read
May 17, 2022
The major championship jewel of the Great Plains is Perry Maxwell's masterpiece, recently restored by Gil Hanse.
1 Min Read
May 13, 2022
Drop and give me 18.
1 Min Read
May 11, 2022
These major champions got it done under the most intense pressure. They can help you do the same.
3 Min Read
May 9, 2022
We round up the golf books titles worth your leisure time.
6 Min Read
May 9, 2022
Here's how to play - and stay - where the pros play.
4 Min Read
May 3, 2022
At the moment, mask and testing mandates are in a state of flux. Many international destinations are relaxing rules to encourage overseas travel. We recently took advantage to visit Greece for the first time.
Popular
18 Images
April 28, 2022
This month's stunning sunset photos might inspire you to play more golf at twilight.
25 Images
May 16, 2022
A 2022 recipient of a PGA of America lifetime achievement award, Cannon has photographed great courses and events for decades.
4 Min Read
May 2, 2022
Playing Del Monte at Pebble Beach Resorts on its 125th birthday reminded us that historical, classical golf is the best golf.
3 Min Read
April 21, 2022
With three 'anchor sites,' the USGA seems to be tightening the rotation of courses that could hold its flagship event for the foreseeable future.
Load More
Now Reading
The background to the invention of the golf tee is a Cool Golf Thing