American Dunes opens for play following Nicklaus transformation

  • American Dunes
    Mike Mulholland |

    American Dunes, a new public course by Nicklaus Design, has opened for play in Michigan

  • American Dunes
    Mike Mulholland |

    Sand dunes have been exposed throughout the course, including on the 230-yard par-three fifteenth

  • American Dunes
    Mike Mulholland |

    More than 2,000 trees have been removed as part of a “complete reimagination”

  • American Dunes
    Mike Mulholland |

    More than 11,000 people have booked rounds in 2021

Richard Humphreys
By Richard Humphreys

Nicklaus Design has transformed the former Grand Haven Golf Club in Michigan into the American Dunes Golf Club, a new public course that is now open for play and will support fundraising for the Folds of Honor charity.

Jack Nicklaus and his team worked alongside Major Dan Rooney, who in 2007 founded Folds of Honor, which provides educational scholarships for military families. Rooney’s family had owned Grand Haven GC for more than 20 years.

Renovation work began in April 2019, and has included the removal of more than 2,000 trees that used to line the fairways, revealing previously hidden sand dunes in the process. Clearing work has opened vistas, with seven holes in view at once on the back nine. The transformed layout now has 30 bunkers, as well as sand dunes present throughout.

“Other than sitting on the same site, it’s a complete reimagination,” said Rooney at the grand opening. “And it’s a next-level, amazing design and nothing like the bowling alley, target golf we used to play out here.”

Rooney had a hand in the redesign, suggesting to Nicklaus that the nines should be switched as Grand Haven’s front nine sat on the best land.

All of American Dunes’ annual profit will be given to the Folds of Honor Foundation to assist in its mission of providing educational scholarships to spouses and children of America’s fallen and disabled service members.

“Major Dan and American Dunes have a goal and a purpose and a really good reason for what they’re doing,” said Nicklaus. “People will help – people like to help. People love what you’re doing, what you’re creating. They love it.”

A Folds of Honor Memorial Wall has also been built. It is a concrete structure connecting the parking lot with the clubhouse, featuring eight-foot-tall walls, inspirational messages, plaques and boot prints cast in bronze to honour fallen soldiers. The memorial was unveiled during the grand opening on 2 May.

As of the grand opening, more than 11,000 people had booked rounds in 2021.