The golf tee
is a relatively recent invention
; for a long time, golfers carried small pouches of sand
with which they would make a mound to balance the golf ball
on before striking it with a club
. This was a lot of trouble and got your hands dirty
, so in 1899
the first golf tee was patent
ed in the U.S.
African-American dentist George F. Grant of Boston came up with a tee which had a wooden point that could be stuck into the ground and a bit of rubber tubing that stuck up from the base, where the ball was placed. It still involved a bit of balancing, though, and was not too widely accepted (despite Grant giving away sacks of them; he never tried to earn money from his invention).
The precursor to the modern tee with the wide head came out 25 years later, invented by another dentist, William Lowell of New Jersey. Due to being promoted by golfers Walter Hagan and Joe Kirkwood during their world exhibition tour, Lowell's "Reddy Tee" caught on a lot faster than Grant's tee; Lowell lost money on his investments in the wooden tee because variations were coming out (and being patented). But the idea probably changed golf history.
Sources: A Journey Into 365 Days of Black History calendar 2001