Redesigned golf course aims to honor nonprofit


The golf course just off the shores of Lake Michigan will reopen in 2020 as American Dunes Golf Club with a mission of honoring military personnel and their families. Courtesy American Dunes

One active duty member is preserving history.

Maj. Dan Rooney, a U.S. Air Force Reserve fighter pilot, is partnering with golf icon Jack Nicklaus and Nicklaus Design to create American Dunes Golf Club.

The construction of the new course began in March and is being built on the site of the former Grand Haven Golf Club.

The Grand Haven course hosted the first golf tournament that inspired the formation of Folds of Honor, which was founded by Rooney in 2007 to honor families of military men and women.

“This is the birthplace, the first golf event was held here, in Grand Haven, that raised funds for a young boy whose father was killed serving our country,” said Doug Bell, general manager of American Dunes.

That young boy was Jacob Green, the son of Cpl. Brock Bucklin, who died in Iraq in 2006. Since then, many families have been beneficiaries of Folds of Honor, which provides educational scholarships to the families of military men and women who have died or been disabled while on active duty in the United States Armed Forces.

In an effort to continue that tradition, the golf course is being redesigned and rebranded as American Dunes. Rooney said Nicklaus, who is the founder of Nicklaus Design, a golf design firm, has contributed $2.5 million to fund the redesign of the course.

There also are 18 individual sponsors and a group of investors who are funding the project.

“It is no secret that golf courses are closing in America,” Rooney said. “So, I am happy we are able to construct this golf course and continue Folds of Honor.”

The golf course, which is owned by a group of investors, is 145 acres, according to Bell. It is about 200 to 300 yards off Lake Michigan.

“The property is basically sand underneath,” Nicklaus said. “It had magnificent trees that had grown up over time, but is that really what this golf course is or should be with the dunes off the lake? What we are trying to do is create a golf course that will open up that feeling of coming off Lake Michigan, having the dunes and then incorporating that into some of the inland areas that have the beautiful trees. The combination of the two — being able to play through and around exposed dunes as well as tree-lined holes in some places — really creates a golf course that is rather unique.

“If we can do that, and at the same time honor our military and raise money for the education of the families of our fallen soldiers, this is going to be something very unique and very special in the game of golf. We will do our part. I know Dan will do his part. But we’re going to need help. A lot of help from a lot of good people to really carry out Dan’s vision, mission and goal. We’re very proud at the Nicklaus organization to be a part of this, very proud to be part of Folds of Honor’s past, and very proud to be a part of its future.”

Bell said there will be a plaque placed on each hole with each sponsor’s name. There also will be a tribute to Nicklaus on each hole with a plaque representing his major tournaments won, and there will be another plaque on each hole in memory of a family of a Folds of Honor recipient.

"American Dunes represents a collaboration of countless like-minded patriots who want this golf course to forever stand as a tribute to the men and women of our military, a safe haven for veterans who find rehabilitation through the recreation of the game and a backdrop to celebrate our country and those who fought for its freedom,” Rooney said.

The golf club will be a public course with a target opening date of Memorial Day 2020.

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