Nicklaus: An honor to be involved in American Dunes

GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — Golfing great Jack Nicklaus was on the green in Grand Haven Tuesday to preview the new American Dunes Golf Club, which he designed.

“It was fun,” Nicklaus said. “I mean, a really fun project. And the real fun of the project is knowing that what you’re doing it going to benefit a lot of families, a lot of kids.”

While designed by Nicklaus, the course is the brainchild of former professional golfer and U.S. Air Force Reserve Lt. Col. Dan Rooney. It will benefit Rooney’s Fold of Honor scholarship program for family members of slain or wounded service members.

Nicklaus waived his $3 million course design fee in support of the cause. He said he was honored to be involved.

“Freedom isn’t free,” Nicklaus said. “When Dan came down to ask me, I knew there was no way I was going to say no. And so he started out and was going to give me a big, three-hour spiel, and I said, ‘You don’t need that. We don’t need that big three-hour spiel, we just need to know what you want to do and we’ll go do it.’”

It has taken more than two years to turn the idea into a reality, with Nicklaus and Rooney teeing off Tuesday morning. American Dunes is expected to open to the public in May.

“I think I would categorize this golf course as one that is for the pleasure of the people who come here to enjoy, have fun with, to walk away feeling (that) ‘I really had a great day but I also contributed to a great cause,’” Nicklaus said. “I think it’s going to serve its purpose.”

“…When people come here, they’re going to play the most heroic round of golf they’ve ever played,” Rooney added. “And that means you’re not playing for yourself, you’re playing for someone else when you come to American Dunes.”

He said “Taps” will be played and a bell will toll at 1 p.m. each day in honor of fallen soldiers.

Nicklaus praised the beautiful trees on the property — the site of the old Grand Haven Golf Club — but said about 1,000 of them had to come down so the course could show off its namesake.

“We had to. The name of the golf course was American Dunes. You couldn’t see the dunes if you had all the trees there,” Nicklaus said. “We left the trees pretty much on the perimeter to sort of protect the perimeter and keep the golf course feeling like it was private inside the tree line.”

He touted a modern, low-maintenance design that he said “suits the times.”

“There’s 18 signature holes. … Each hole is going to be memorable to somebody,” Nicklaus said. “No two holes are even remotely alike.”