Folds of Honor has distributed more than 28,000 educational scholarships for spouses and children of disabled veterans and fallen soldiers. With a helping hand from Jack Nicklaus, that number will continue to rise.
Nicklaus, the 18-time major winner and architect of more than 425 courses in 40 countries, has renovated what used to be Grand Haven Golf Club in Michigan and soon will reopen as American Dunes Golf Club near the eastern shores of Lake Michigan.
All profits from American Dunes – a Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course – will be donated to Folds of Honor, which in 2019 awarded approximately $22 million in educational scholarships to more than 4,500 students, representing a 10 percent increase in scholarships from 2018.
Construction on American Dunes began in March 2019 after Grand Haven closed in 2018. Nicklaus has completed the total renovation of the formerly tight and treelined course, and the new course offers wide fairways with what is described as an historic look and feel. The new course is a par 72 playing up to 7,213 yards.
“The property is basically sand underneath,” Nicklaus said when plans for the course were announced in 2019. “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.”
American Dunes opens Sept. 28, and Nicklaus will be there Sept. 29 as part of the grand opening. Accommodations at The Camp at American Dunes will offer 16 rooms – 12 staterooms and four suites.
Nicklaus, a longtime Folds of Honor supporter, started discussions about the concept and renovations in 2018 with U.S. Air Force Reserves Lieutenant Colonel Dan Rooney, who founded Folds of Honor in 2007. The 501C-3 nonprofit organization has grown to include many corporate sponsors, but the highlight each year is Patriot Golf Day, which has expanded to a full September weekend during which recreational players around the country can donate via their green fees at thousands of courses.
Grand Haven hosted the first golf tournament that would inspire the formation of Folds of Honor and Patriot Golf Day.
Folds of Honor has grown tremendously since Rooney brainstormed the concept while sitting on a tarmac after a commercial flight that also brought home the remains of a fallen soldier. The pilots of the flight asked that passengers remain seated while the casket containing the soldier was unloaded from the plane, but many passengers stood and began deboarding. Rooney wanted to find a better way to honor the sacrifice of that soldier and all those like him.
Folds was born, named for the creases in an American Flag after it is lifted from the caskets of killed soldiers. The logo for American Dunes will keep in track with that: a golden bear with a stars and stripes.
“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 when the plans for the course were announced. “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.”