17000 LINCOLN ST | GRAND HAVEN, MICHIGAN
Roughly 15 years ago at Grand Haven Golf Club, a golf tournament called Patriot Golf Day inspired the formation of Folds of Honor, a nonprofit organization established the following year to pay-it-forward to the families of fallen or disabled military members, honoring their sacrifice by providing their spouses and children with educational scholarships.
Folds of Honor has the motto: “Honor Their Sacrifice. Educate Their Legacy,” a representation of the organization’s mission to supporting the families of those who have served in the United States Armed Forces. The financial contribution of the scholarships granted to the spouses and children of service members ensure that they can pursue their academic dreams without added financial burden, providing the funding for primary and secondary education, as well as post-secondary education. Folds of Honor has awarded roughly 35,000 educational scholarships since its founding, totaling more than $160 million in educational impact. The nonprofit has a cumulative average ratio of 90 percent of every dollar raised going to their scholarship program.
In 2018, though Grand Haven Golf Club closed indefinitely, a group of people who wanted to pay tribute to Folds of Honor worked together to create American Dunes Golf Club, which opened to the public in May of 2021. The project was led by the collaborative efforts of Lt. Col. Dan Rooney, PGA Professional, founder and chief executive officer of Folds of Honor, and Jack Nicklaus, known as The Golden Bear, an 18-time professional major championship title holder, and founder of Nicklaus Companies LLC. The company also comprises Nicklaus Design, which has been recognized as a leader in golf course design with more than 420 courses globally in its portfolio. For American Dunes, Nicklaus waived his $3 million design fee and designed the new golf course, while 18 other individuals sponsored each hole, and five additional private investors joined the mission to preserve the birthplace of Folds of Honor.
Since its opening in 2021, American Dunes Golf Club has been dedicated to honoring those who serve in the United States Armed Forces, by donating all profits generated from the club to Folds of Honor.
“It is bigger than just playing a round of golf, because you’re helping support Folds of Honor, which supports all these spouses and children across the country of our military members who were hurt or disabled,” said Doug Bell, PGA, general manager at American Dunes Golf Club.
“When you get out of your car and walk to the clubhouse, you walk through a memorial that has 13 plaques hanging on the wall of 13 service members who were killed serving in the United States Armed Forces. It is a very emotional experience for most people that play. Before they even get to the golf course, they are here for an hour or more, absorbing all that,” Bell added.
The only way to enter or exit American Dunes clubhouse is through the memorial, a tribute and fundraiser to Folds of Honor. Once inside, guests can visit the golf shop, where merchandise with either a patriot jet or patriot bear logo, among other things, can be purchased—wearing or using the patriotic gear not only supports American Dunes and Folds of Honor by showing pride in their mission, but also directly supports Folds of Honor’s cause, as profits are donated to the organization.
Text: Brenna Buckwald // Photography: Nile Young, R.J. Weick