Golf fans from around the world are familiar with the raucous crowds at the Phoenix Open. And the rock ’n’ roll atmosphere of the 16th hole. The state’s 300-plus golf courses are well known, too. And so are some of the “19th holes.” But there’s a piece of golf history that few have ever heard of.
In 1946, a group of Black men opened the state’s first golf club to welcome people of all colors. The idea for the Desert Mashie Golf Club began on April 12, 1946, after two foursomes of Black men played a round at Phoenix’s Encanto Golf Course. According to the club’s website, one player, Dr. Clarence Bradford, a member of a club in California, suggested the men start a club of their own.
That was all the motivation the players needed. They held an organizational meeting the following month, inviting anyone who was interested in golf. By the time the meeting was over, they had a name: the Desert Mashie Golf Club. The members decided to make Encanto Golf Course their home course because, at the time, it was the only course in town that allowed non-white golfers to play. And they’re still playing.
Today, the club has nearly 200 members, and according to the Arizona Golf Association, it’s been recognized as one of the oldest public golf clubs in Arizona. Its long history and its role in making golf a more diverse and inclusive sport led to the club’s induction into the Arizona Golf Hall of Fame in 2021.
Andy Walker, a Desert Mashie member and head coach of men’s golf at Virginia Commonwealth University, credits his success to the club’s programs. According to an article in USGA Golf Journal, the club hosts monthly tournaments and raises funds to support college scholarships for junior members. “To look back,” Walker says in the article, “and think that my whole career really started because some gentlemen who were discriminated against decided to form their own golf club is amazing.”
The Desert Mashie Golf Club still welcomes new members and remains a member of the USGA and the Western States Golf Association.