“The willingness of America’s veterans to sacrifice for our country has earned them our lasting gratitude.”
—Former U.S. Representative Jeff Miller, Florida
Faith – Family – Freedom
As we gather this weekend with family and friends to celebrate Memorial Day, we pause to remember, honor and pay tribute to those who have died for our freedoms while serving in the United States Armed Forces. It is with that same spirit in which Folds of Honor was founded, and what inspired Folds of Honor Founder Dan Rooney to collaborate with icon Jack Nicklaus and Nicklaus Design to createAmerican Dunes Golf Club.
Located near the eastern shores of Lake Michigan, Grand Haven Golf Club hosted the first golf tournament that would inspire the formation of Folds of Honor and Patriot Golf Day. Now, the original layout is being totally redesigned and reimagined by Nicklaus and Nicklaus Design, and rebranded as American Dunes. A Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course, American Dunes will pay tribute to the United States Military and is a reminder to all that Freedom is not free.
“I love the game of golf,” Jack Nicklaus said, “but I love my country even more.”
Grand Haven first opened in 1965 and was designed by Michigan architects Bruce Matthews and his son Jerry Matthews. In 1998, Dr. John Rooney—father of Major Dan Rooney—bought the club. It was 20 years later, when Dan sat down with Nicklaus on the back patio of The Bear’s Club in Jupiter, Florida, and told him of his vision to transform Grand Haven and preserve the birthplace of Folds of Honor. The Golden Bear quickly agreed to come on board and bring with him the world’s leading golf course design firm.
“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,” said Major Dan Rooney, a fighter pilot in the USAFR and PGA Professional who founded Folds of Honor in 2007. “To fund the construction of American Dunes there are 18 individual hole sponsors and a small group of investors. This group of Patriots is allowing our dream to take flight. With a target opening date of Memorial Day 2020, American Dunes will proudly stand as a vessel to raise awareness and donations for Folds of Honor, while recognizing the legacy of Barbara and Jack’s contributions to our military.”
A significant legacy such as this is born out of the effort of selfless individuals and companies who have donated their time and resources. This includes the work of Jack Nicklaus, Nicklaus Design’s Senior Designer Chris Cochran, Superior Golf Concepts, Jon Scott Agronomic Consulting, and dozens of other donors.
“The Nicklaus Companies has a long history of giving back in its products or services, whether the beneficiary is junior golf or pediatric healthcare,” said Howard Milstein, Executive Chairman of the Nicklaus Companies. “But one of the important pillars of philanthropy, and something very dear to the hearts of Jack and Barbara Nicklaus, is to give back to the military men and women who have sacrificed limb and life for our country’s freedom. That’s why our company donated design services to American Lake Veterans Golf Course outside Tacoma, Washington; why we have consulted on a number of other veteran projects to provide recreation and rehabilitation for our heroes; and why we are in full support of American Dunes.”
The site is an ideal blend of sandy soil, mature trees, elevation change and rolling terrain about 200 to 300 yards off Lake Michigan. Work is well underway at American Dunes, and the Golden Bear and Cochran have made several trips to the site, and are unlocking its potential.
“The property is basically sand underneath,” Nicklaus explained. “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.”
About Folds of Honor
Folds of Honor is a 501(C)(3) nonprofit organization, rated a four-star charity by Charity Navigator and platinum on Guide Star, that provides educational scholarships to the families of military men and women who have fallen or been disabled while on active duty in the United States armed forces. Folds of Honor educational scholarships support private educational tuition and tutoring for children in grades K-12, as well as higher education tuition assistance for spouses and dependents. Founded in 2007 by Major Dan Rooney, a PGA Professional and F-16 fighter pilot in the Air Force Reserves who served three tours of duty in Iraq, Folds of Honor is proud to have awarded more than 20,000 scholarships in all 50 states and some US territories, including approximately 4,100 in 2018 alone. For more information or to donate in support of a Folds of Honor scholarship, please visit foldsofhonor.org.
About the Nicklaus Companies & Nicklaus Design
Nicklaus Design, the global golf course design firm founded by golf legend Jack Nicklaus, is widely regarded as the world’s leading design firm. With a philosophy of working closely with clients, enhancing the natural environment, and creating courses that are both challenging and enjoyable for players of all levels, the company has over 425 courses open for play in 46 countries and 40 states. Of those golf courses, Jack Nicklaus has been involved in over 300 designs.
More than 150 Nicklaus Design courses have staged over 1,000 professional golf tournaments worldwide or significant national amateur championships, including events on the PGA TOUR, the PGA TOUR Champions, the LPGA Tour and the Web.com Tour, among others. Nicklaus Design has more courses on the 2018-19 PGA TOUR schedule than any other firm, including TOUR stops to Muirfield Village Golf Club for this week’s Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide and the Champion Course at PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida for The Honda Classic.
In 2007, Jack Nicklaus partnered with Howard Milstein to help further the growth of the company and to realize the full potential of the brands and branded businesses. In addition to institutionalizing the brands for the future, Milstein, who became the executive chairman of the Nicklaus Companies in 2018, has instilled a personal philosophy of “A Brand That Gives Back,” with products and partners committing to donations to help the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation and other charitable causes.
For more information on Nicklaus Design and the Nicklaus Companies, please visit nicklaus.com.