Our Stories Resort Blog

Dig a little deeper into stories about our history, unique guest features, and what’s happening around the resort.


The Nomads: Stopping at French Lick on an Incredible Golfing Journey

Nomads Golf Group

In a way, they’re like every other group of old buddies who plan a summer golf trip to French Lick.

They share cocktails and exchange laughs. They feast at the steakhouse. There’s no shortage of trash talking, and a hooked tee shot or a four-putt will certainly earn you a little razzing.

But learn a little more about where this group started and why they continue an annual tradition that started 72 years ago, and you find this is a golfing brotherhood like no other.

These are The Nomads. A group of 70 Black men who are leaders of their communities back home, and intent on spreading a message: we belong, we can play some pretty good golf, and we love the game just like anyone else.

Every year on the final weekend in July, they gather for a week of golf and camaraderie, and French Lick was this year’s spot. If you were at the resort a few weeks ago, good chance you spotted them in their yellow shirts on the course, or all decked out in suits and sportscoats for one of their nightly functions. True to their name, they’re at a different destination each year, living the vision of the men who blazed this Nomad trail.

“We stand on the shoulders of giants. These guys 70 years ago created this idea where they aspired to go to great places to play great golf, and French Lick is one of them. They paved the way for us,” says Paul Mason, a Nomad since 1994. “We’re proud to be able to come and do this, and we can’t help but think for a few minutes about the guys who, in 1950 and early 1960s, it wasn’t so easy for them. But with their ability to play golf and their ability to move through this world, through an America that was changing, that allowed this group to create a footprint.”

Nomad Golfers on Green

The founding Nomads were among the first Black doctors, lawyers and businessmen in Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland and Washington, DC. They took up golf and loved the sport — even if it wasn't always kind to them. During that era men of color were not allowed at many courses, country clubs and tournaments. When they’d hear of golf facilities where they’d be accepted, they rounded up the group. Nomads of golf, without a home and always traveling from course to course. (They actually brought their annual gathering to French Lick once before, back in 1965.)

How things have changed now. They’re the ones taking their pick of bucket-list destinations: La Costa, Turning Stone, Destination Kohler. When it comes to picking next destination, they’ll have the conversation: Is this place good enough for the Nomad get-together?

“We go to great resorts, and that’s one reason that we’re here at French Lick,” says David Mason, Paul’s brother and a Nomad since 1989.

Adds Paul: “We’ve seen a lot of golf courses, and the golf courses here rate with the best courses we have seen across the country. No doubt. This is world-class golfing.” Paul lives in western Massachusetts, and joked it'd be worth the trip back just to play the dramatic 18th hole at Sultan’s Run in Jasper, which the Nomads tackled in addition to French Lick’s Pete Dye and Donald Ross courses.

They came recommended by Charles Tollett, a Hoosier Nomad who lives nearby. Dr. Charles Tollett, officially. But he’s just “Chuck” around this group. In this selective organization with lifetime membership and a waiting list to be considered, everyone’s just an old buddy despite their successes and influence outside the Nomad circle.


candid photo of golfers

Taking a little time to enjoy The Mansion at The Pete Dye Course.


Olympic gold medalist sprinter Jesse Owens was a Nomad. There have been presidential cabinet members. A board member for the Tiger Woods Foundation. One of the current Nomads is marketing a line of alcoholic beverages for Mark Cuban.

“Last night we had dinner at 1875: The Steakhouse with Dr. Kevin Smith; he’s one of the leading plastic surgeons in the county. He’s been on Oprah, the Today Show. But to us, he’s Big Kev. We’ve been playing together for 25 years. He’s our guy,” says Paul, who himself broke color barriers as an executive producer and senior vice president for ABC News. “The breadth and depth that this organization represents, pretty spectacular. Obviously, you can see we’re proud to be associated with it.”

And since passion for the game is part of the Nomad legacy, it might not be long before some of them make their way back to French Lick. On a little unofficial Nomad business.

“We’re all going back to our homes, and we’re going to let folks know, ‘You need to go,’” David says. “We’re only 3½ hours away, and my sons and I, we’ll grab some other guys, we’re going to come back for a long weekend. The three different courses that we played – Dye, Sultan’s Run, the Ross – they don’t get any better than that.”

Tagged In:

Related Posts