Joe Louis “The Champ” Golf Course Overview
The Forest Preserves of Cook County own this course, which opened in 1928 and was called Pipe O’ Peace back then. Joe Louis was a famous boxer and world heavyweight champion from 1937 to 1949. In fact, Louis had the longest single reign as champion of any boxer in history. He and many other outstanding African American golfers played Pipe O’ Peace frequently -- notables such as PGA Tour players Cliff Brown, Lee Elder, Charlie Sifford, and many more. In fact, according to Sports Illustrated
, there used to be high stakes games here in the 1960’s, where one caddie “remembers looping for Lee Elder and Charlie Sifford, holding as much as $5,000 in each pocket for them.”
After Joe Louis retired from boxing, he challenged the PGA of America’s whites-only playing policy in 1952. He accepted an invitation and played in the San Diego Open as an exempt amateur, breaking the PGA’s color barrier for the first time. Even still, it took until 1961 for the PGA to change its policy barring golfers of color.
In 1986, the Forest Preserve began a $5 million renovation to Pipe O’ Peace which took 3 years. On August 14th, 1989, it was officially dedicated and opened as Joe Louis “The Champ” Golf Course. Back then, it cost $11 to play on the weekends, according to the Southtown Star newspaper. These days, the 6,742 yard, par 72 track features a 603 yard par-5, one of the longest in Chicagoland. The course is heavily wooded, mostly flat, and requires accuracy to score well. There’s 3 ponds on the venue, and while the property is bordered on the north by the Little Calumet River, it doesn’t really come into play unless you try your hardest to find it on holes 6 and 14. Overall, this muni is in line with the other 9 Forest Preserve courses in terms of course maintenance and amenities; they do a good job with the budget they have, but this is an unpretentious golf course.
The clubhouse has lots of Joe Louis photos and memorabilia, like boxing gloves and trophies. The pro shop has a modest amount of merch, and doubles as a snack shop. There’s one practice green to warm up on, but there’s no driving range here.