Langston Golf Course Celebrates Its Heritage

Stacy M. Brown | 6/5/2013, 4 p.m.
For many, like Ray Savoy, who regularly tees off at the historic Langston Golf Course in Northeast, the 74-year-old sports ...
Golf instructor Ray Savoy stands in front of the Langston Golf Course clubhouse in Northeast on June 2. On June 8, course officials will host a Langston Heritage celebration. Photo by Khalid Naji-Allah

For many, like Ray Savoy, who regularly tees off at the historic Langston Golf Course in Northeast, the 74-year-old sports cathedral is a home away from home.

ESPN recently noted that the famed course is the only one in Washington, D.C., where you can still get breakfast at 6 p.m. More importantly, Langston has been both a playground and a meeting ground for generations of African-American golfers.

“I play twice, maybe three times a week and what never gets lost in everything that goes on here is this golf course’s tremendous importance in the area and to all of golf,” said Savoy, 68, a Greenbelt, Md., resident and the founder of the Langston Junior Boys and Girls Golf Club.

This Saturday, course officials will host a Langston Heritage celebration.

The June 8 event is an historic, educational, community and family-focused day honoring Langston Golf Course and the Wake-Robin Golf Club for its recent induction into the National Black Golf Hall of Fame in Decatur, Ga.

The induction has inspired a more expansive vision to recognize the heritage of Langston Golf Course, the groups who rallied for its creation in 1939, and its supporters’ dream in helping it maintain a foothold in the community, said Louis Tate, a Professional Golf Association (PGA) member and Langston’s general manager.

“Langston was commissioned to be built by the Department of Interior in 1938 to accommodate African-American golfers in the District of Columbia who could not play on any of the area golf courses because of the ‘whites only’ laws of that time,” said Tate, who lives in Northeast.

Not readily apparent in history is the large number of blacks of that era who were avid golfers, Tate said. “When Langston opened its doors in 1939, the list of African-American celebrities from the music, sports, government and golf world made it very apparent that golf was very much a part of the African-American culture,” he said.

An African American renaissance in golf began based on the creation of Langston, which essentially became the Mecca for black golfers.

World Heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis, famed Big Band leader Billy Eckstein, singers Dionne Warrick and Lena Horne and Hall of Fame baseball player Willie Mays counted among the famous to patronize Langston.

Former President Gerald Ford, entertainer Bob Hope, and PGA champion Lee Trevino are among the notable non-African Americans who have played 18-holes at the fabled course.

“When I’m not traveling, I go there pretty much every day to meet and talk to my friends,” Herman Boone, the pioneering football coach at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Va., said in an interview in February.

“I can’t think of any place I’d rather be,” said Boone, 77, who was portrayed by Denzel Washington in the movie, “Remember the Titans.”

Northwest resident and golfer Luke Watson is also a regular at Langston and his review of the course on his “hot dogs and golf” blog echoes the thoughts of many who have had tee-times there.

“The first hole, a 472-yard par 5, is a perfect hand shake to start your round. The course quickly offers its challenges,” Watson said. “Hole 4 is a treacherous par 3 that requires excellent distance control. Too far requires a precise chipping game, and too short may leave you in a valley 30 feet below the green.”