Tallahassee Unveils Jake Gaither Golf Course Historical Marker

May 08, 2023
Jake Gaither Historical Marker
Tallahassee Unveils Jake Gaither Golf Course Historical Marker

Tallahassee officials unveil historical marker at Jake Gaither Golf Course. (Photo Credit: City of Tallahassee)

On Monday, May 1, the City of Tallahassee unveiled a historical marker at the Jake Gaither Golf Course, which opened in 1956. Named for legendary Florida A&M University football coach Alonzo “Jake” Gaither, the course, located at 801 Bragg Drive, was added to the National Register of Historic Places on Aug. 9, 2022, by the National Park Service.

The opening of the nine-hole course 66 years ago gave African Americans in Tallahassee a place to play golf when they were restricted from playing elsewhere. It quickly became a community hub, serving as the site of Guinness World Record attempts and once the home base for the FAMU Golf Team. Today, it welcomes thousands of golfers from every walk of life each year.

“This amazing course has been a pillar of the community for decades,” Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey said. “We are proud to see it achieve national recognition, which is the result of immense dedication over the years by the men and women who have worked and played here—staff, volunteers, and golfers.”

Among those who addressed the afternoon gathering were FAMU President Larry Robinson, Ph.D., City Commissioners Jack Porter, Curtis Richardson, and Dianne Williams-Cox, and other city officials.

Robinson praised city officials for their work investing in the preservation and recognition of the Jake Gaither Golf Course.

“Thank you all for being here this evening and for sharing in the momentous occasion. It is my hope that many more Tallahassee residents will find it to be a tremendous community asset and resource for another 66 years,” Robinson told the gathering of residents, city employees and officials.

President RobinsonPresident Robinson speaks during marker unveiling ceremony. (Photo Credit: City of Tallahassee)

Following the short program, attendees were able to tour the golf course, visit the pro shop and watch videos from the new Jake Gaither Golf Course Oral History Project.

Jake Gaither Golf Course sits on 120 acres. It is named for Gaither, then a respected citizen of Tallahassee and one of the winningest coaches in college football. When the nine-hole municipal course opened on Dec. 14, 1956, Jake Gaither Golf Course gave African Americans a chance to play. Many had learned the game by serving as caddies at Capital City Country Club, which was then Tallahassee’s only golf course.

Attaining this prestigious designation took years of research and documentation, an effort spearheaded by Scott Edwards, a historic preservationist and the Florida Historic Golf Coordinator at the Florida Department of State. After consulting with the city and community members, he submitted the application to have JGGC added to the National Register of Historic Places. Edwards, like many, has personal ties to the course. He started playing at Jake Gaither Golf Course with his father and brother while in middle school. Now plays there with his own family.

“I can’t say it enough; the importance of the Jake Gaither course is the community of those who have played here,” said General Manager of Golf for the City Jan Auger. “They helped diversify golf in Tallahassee by teaching and mentoring young people and women. Today, it remains a place for everyone – from long-time players to those just learning the game.”

The community of golfers at JGGC has included many people through the years known for their skills on the course and their willingness to share their knowledge of the game with others. These golfers are considered “Legends of the Links.” At the historic designation celebration, oral history videos documenting some of these individuals will play in the Pro Shop. Those highlighted include:

  • Leroy Kilpatrick, now in his 80s, who started playing the course as a teen. He was there the day JGGC opened and still plays the course today. In 1995, Kilpatrick made the Guinness Book of Records for playing 1,363 holes at Jake Gaither Golf Course in seven days.
  • The late William E. Crumbie, the course’s first manager and greenskeeper. He is also credited with assisting in the design of the course.
  • The late Irene Perry, who was the first president of Jake Gaither’s Women’s Golf League.
  • FAMU Head Golf Coach Mike Rice, who led the Rattlers to their first Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) golf championship in 2021.
  • JGGC current Teaching Pro Kris Hannah, who was the first Black golfer to receive a golf scholarship and play on the team at Florida State University. He began playing at JGGC in middle school with his father.

To commemorate Jake Gaither Golf Course’s 65th anniversary and further preserve its history, a mini-documentary was produced by the City in December 2021. The award-winning video is available for viewing on demand at YouTube.com/CityofTLH.

To encapsulate this newest milestone, the City created a book of the research completed to earn the historic designation. Featuring both historic and current images, the approximately 70-page tome takes the reader on a journey from the arrival of golf in Florida circa 1886 to the 1952 land purchase by the City that would allow for the development of the Jake Gaither Golf Course to course renovations in 2021. A digital version of the book is available at Talgov.com.

The Jake Gaither Golf Course, located at 801 Bragg Drive, is a nine-hole, par 36 that was designed by Frank Burandt. It is open year-round and offers a practice putting green and a pro shop with golf merchandise, rental clubs and snacks. The course provides challenges for golfers of every skill level. For more information, call the course at 850-891-3942 or follow it on Facebook.

Visit JakeGaitherGolf.com for prices and to schedule a tee time.