PGA of America REACH Foundation awards $250,000 to Gillespie Golf Course

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gillespie golf course greeensboro google maps
Image of the golf course area adjoining municipally owned land (Google Maps)

North Carolina Construction News staff writer

The PGA of America REACH Foundation has awarded the 2025 Places to Play Spectator Championship Legacy Grant to Gillespie Golf Course for renovations.

Greensboro’s oldest municipal golf course opened in 1941 with a beautiful 18-hole layout designed by golf architect Perry Maxwell. “Maxwell is one of the most acclaimed golf architects of the 20th century whose work includes Southern Hills in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Old Town Club in Winston-Salem and a major renovation of Augusta National in 1937, home of the Masters Tournament,” a statement says.

“It’s a true honor to work alongside the City of Greensboro and the Carolinas PGA Section to elevate the historic Gillespie Golf Course through our Places to Play Program,” said PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh. “Gillespie Golf Course is rich with history, by revitalizing key areas of the facility we will ensure that all members of the community can enjoy this game we love for generations to come. This will not only enable golf to be learned and enjoyed, but also help to show the importance and impact of breaking barriers to accessibility.”

The City of Greensboro is contributing $2 million to the renovation project and is working with the Joseph M. Bryan Foundation to secure funding to complete a master plan designed by architect Rees Jones.

Jones has designed or renovated more than 260 golf courses, including Bryan Park’s Champions Course, and earned the moniker “The Open Doctor” for his work in preparation for seven U.S. Open venues, nine PGA Championship courses and six Ryder Cups.

The Gillespie Golf Course has an incredible history during the racial strife of the 1950s. On Dec. 7th, 1955, one week after Rosa Parks refused to give her bus seat to a white man, the “Greensboro Six,” a group of heroic Black men, were arrested for daring to play the white-only golf course.

The gentlemen, remembered on a historic marker near the clubhouse, were tired of the shaggy conditioning and putrid smell from a sewage plant near Nocho Park, the nearby Blacks-only course. Dr. George Simkins Jr., a prominent second-generation dentist, champion tennis player and golfer, led the charge to tee it up at Gillespie. After their arrest, the case moved through the courts and was argued before the United States Supreme Court. The court ruled 5-4 against the Greensboro Six.

Due to a related case, Gillespie was to be integrated, but before that happened the clubhouse was set on fire. The city decided to abandon its involvement and sold the property where nine of the 18 holes were, resulting in the back nine being bulldozed to create a parking lot for city vehicles and equipment. In 1962, the city voted to reopen the nine remaining holes of Gillespie Golf Course to all Greensboro residents.

“Having grown up across the street as a young boy and watching Perry Maxwell build the original Gillespie Golf Course, I am honored to see my good friend Rees Jones bring Gillespie back to a place of prominence for all of our residents to enjoy,” said Jim Melvin, former Mayor of Greensboro and President & CEO of the Joseph M. Bryan Foundation.

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