If you’ve ever played a Nicklaus designed course, you know it’s not for the faint hearted…and this one is no different!
Jack Nicklaus’ new American Dunes takes flight with plenty of sand, unapologetic patriotism
American Dunes, the brainchild of U.S. Air Force Reserves Lieutenant Colonel Dan Rooney and the design product of Jack Nicklaus, officially took flight Sunday.
A fan of golf architecture should be forgiven for imagining commonalities between the course itself and many of the missions Rooney has undertaken in F-16 fighter planes.
Before a pilot takes off, the plane first must slowly taxi across level ground before hitting the throttles and blasting skyward. Free to move in new dimensions, the jet can twist and turn as the mission demands, with speed and demands increasing as the plane climbs.
American Dunes has a similar arc. After taxiing across the tarmac for the first three holes through defined corridors and past homes along the perimeter of the property, the layout climbs uphill to the par-3 fourth’s tee. From there, everything changes. The course soars into a newly revealed environment, a joyride of twists and turns through sandy dunes recently exposed by Nicklaus’ design team.
Previously home to the Grand Haven Golf Club, which Rooney’s family owned for more than 20 years, much of the site has been cleared of more than 2,000 trees to reveal the rises and falls of those natural dunes previously hidden in the woods.
Big skies and panoramas have replaced narrow playing corridors – as many as seven holes are in view at once on the back nine – with natural-looking sandscapes seemingly everywhere. In truth, there’s plenty of width and playability off the tee for players who choose the proper tee boxes – after decades of Grand Haven Golf Club being known for all the trees and demands on accuracy they created, it might be hard for its former players to recognize this as the same land.
“Other than sitting on the same site, it’s a complete reimagination,” said Rooney, who three years ago asked Nicklaus to get involved. “And it’s a next-level, amazing design and nothing like the bowling alley, target golf we used to play out here.”
Rooney was speaking at the conclusion of grand-opening festivities that included Nicklaus, Kid Rock, a squadron’s worth of pilots past and present, and a lineup of singers, television personalities and more. It was all to benefit the Folds of Honor, a charitable organization Rooney founded in 2007 to benefit the children of killed and injured U.S. military soldiers. Folds of Honor has since awarded academic scholarships to more than 29,000 children.