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American Dunes Golf Club is expensive, but you should be lining up to play it. Here’s why.


I’ve performed a variety of particular golf programs. Pinehurst No. 2, the Links at Spanish Bay and Arcadia Bluffs had been actually nice experiences, but additionally very expensive ones that left me feeling responsible once I tried to justify the inexperienced charges I paid.

That’s why I skilled sticker shock once I came upon what it’s going to value to play American Dunes Golf Club, a brand new course in Grand Haven that can have a grand opening May 2 after two years of building.

The full summer season charge for 18 holes: $150.

Call me old style, but there’s one thing that also feels exorbitant about inexperienced charges over $100.

Then I spoke with Air Force Lt. Col. Dan Rooney, who got here up with the imaginative and prescient and spearheaded the hassle to construct American Dunes. And all of the sudden the value made sense. In truth, it greater than made sense. It appeared like the very best discount in golf.

Carlos Monarrez is a workers author for the Detroit Free Press, a part of the USA Today Network.

That’s as a result of 100% of the earnings from American Dunes will be donated to Folds of Honor, the inspiration Rooney created in 2007 that has offered over 29,000 scholarships totaling over $145 million for the households of deceased or disabled American service members.

“For me, I don’t look at it as a green fee,” Rooney stated. “I look at it as the opportunity to change the life of a military family who’s had somebody killed or disabled defending your freedoms. And it feels very different.”

I visited the course in September when Jack Nicklaus, who waived his $3 million design payment, confirmed up to elevate the flag for the primary time. The course was nonetheless very a lot beneath building, but I might see the beginnings of what Rooney was speaking about. When I spoke with Rooney not too long ago concerning the course, I obtained a good stronger sense of what is going to make the course and the expertise of enjoying a spherical at American Dunes distinctive.

There are a variety of good touches that honor service members, but probably the most putting and solemn contact is the memorial everybody should stroll by means of to enter the course. It options 8-foot tall concrete partitions and boot prints forged in bronze of troopers killed in motion.

“It’s just very, very real,” Rooney stated, “to look down and see their name and see the year they were born, the year they died and the theater in which they gave their life in, be it Iraq or Afghanistan, and then their family story right next to their boot prints. It’s a really emotional place.”

Every day at 1 p.m., or 1300 hours in navy time, golf will pause on the course for a enjoying of “Taps” and a bell that tolls 13 occasions, signifying the 13 folds that deliver the flag to its triangle form.

There will be plaques at each gap honoring Nicklaus’ 18 main victories together with the story of a fallen navy member.

Don’t fear, it’s not all about unhappy memorials. Rooney is an F-16 fighter pilot who served three excursions of obligation in Iraq, but he’s additionally a PGA educating skilled with a very good humorousness and a simple snort. Heck, the man’s name signal is “Noonan.” Appropriately, the membership will characteristic the aviation-themed Squadron Bar, which appears to be like precisely just like the place cocky “Top Gun” pilots would hang around.

American Dunes has been so standard that sponsors have lined up to give the course, which from 1965 to 2018 was a tree-lined native favourite often known as Grand Haven Golf Club, new life as a rugged dunes course close to the Lake Michigan shoreline. My favourite sponsor perk comes from Titleist, which donated Pro V1 vary balls. That’s a bit like letting a teen use a Corvette for driver’s coaching.

“Not one penny of Folds of Honor money has been used to construct or operate this place,” Rooney stated. “It’s all people stepping up saying, ‘Hey, let’s memorialize the birthplace of (Folds of Honor) and hopefully create an ongoing revenue source to generate more funds for scholarships.’ ”

OK, so let’s speak concerning the course itself. I haven’t performed it but I’ve spoken with individuals who have and it sounds promising. Rooney stated Nicklaus took the venture to coronary heart, visited the positioning eight occasions and crafted a enjoyable but difficult course.

“He poured it all in and everybody could see that,” Rooney stated. “When you have a guy like Mr. Nicklaus pouring it all in, it makes a wake. You kind of get out of the way and sit there in awe and watch him hand sketch every contour on this golf course. And I’ve never designed one with him before, but I’m told that’s not that common.”

Nicklaus borrowed from his influences, just like the par-3 twelfth gap that’s harking back to the Cypress Point’s well-known sixteenth gap. Rooney leaned on his personal influences as a fighter pilot, saying he wished the course to play like a wild curler coaster by means of the sand dunes.

“And it does,” he stated. “These dunes are just blown and cut and it’s just really fun. It’s certainly challenging from the back tees, but we didn’t build it to be brutally hard.”

If you need it to be laborious, it may well be laborious. It has 5 units of tees, although most will play it at 6,131 or 6,701 yards. But it suggestions out at 7,213 yards and options the 678-yard 14th gap into the wind that U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland sponsored.

“We tried it,” Rooney stated with amusing. “I can’t get to the fairway over the dunes.”

Sometime quickly the course reviewers will arrive, cross judgment and maybe bestow some rankings and honors. But earlier than any of that occurs, American Dunes is already chickening out. Rooney stated about 40% of this 12 months’s tee occasions are booked earlier than the course even opens.

“We pick up the phone and we take a tee time and it’s a 10-minute discussion from the guy from Toledo who’s a Vietnam vet who’s bringing all his buddies up there,” he stated. “But this is why he is coming. And that’s when you start realizing that we’ve touched a very patriotic nerve with people who love the game but who love their country as well.”

Then Rooney stated one thing that touched me. He stated American Dunes guarantees to be “the most patriotic round” you’ll ever play. I requested him what he meant.

“Because you’re playing for somebody else,” he stated. “Golf is about the most myopic game in the world. But this is a round that you’re going to tee up on behalf of the 29,000 families that Folds of Honor has sent to school. It’s not about you. It’s going to be part of something bigger, to honor the sacrifice of our men and women and educate their legacy.”

Many of us have household and buddies who’ve served within the navy. I actually do. My dad was within the Army and my father-in-law was stationed in England when he served within the Air Force throughout World War II. Neither man ever draped himself within the flag or crowed about his service but was proud to have carried out his obligation. I respect the hell out of that.

“I think that’s what we’re seeing resonate with veterans but also people who love our country,” Rooney stated. “And there’s a lot of those people out there who are seeking refuge or a place that they can come and say, ‘Hey, I love my country. It’s not perfect, but I love my country and I want to come celebrate it within the confines of the game I love to play.’ ”

It’s the type of factor that makes you assume there are extra necessary issues than inexperienced charges.

“I don’t think people are going to come to American Dunes and ever leave and not go tell 10 people about their experience,” Rooney stated. “It’s that palpable and emotional. … And the first four or five things you’re going to tell them have nothing to do with the golf course you just played.”

Or the $150 you spent.

Contact Carlos Monarrez at [email protected] and comply with him on Twitter @cmonarrez.

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