I’m playing 11 rounds of golf on this 8 day trip. I have only played 2 of the 10 courses before, so I am getting a lot of new golf. Today I am playing American Dunes, one of the two I have played already. I played here last September, and really enjoyed the layout. The greens were quite firm back then, perhaps still a little young, so I am hopeful that they’ve softened up.
I had a long drive this morning to get here, so I am very tight and tired. I spent a few extra minutes in the Pro Shop, checking out the awesome gear they have. For those that don’t know, American Dunes is the home of the Folds of Honor, an amazing charity rooted in our military, so their logos are awesome, and the proceeds go to the right place. So, of course I wanted to see if there was anything I needed. There was.
I only had about 20 minutes to get ready for the round, so I raced over to the range and just went through a speed warm-up, swinging the Orange Whip for 90 seconds, then jumping on 15-20 shots with my 7-iron. This has been my approach all week, but this one just needed to be quicker than normal. I raced back to the putting green and rolled a few putts.
It was there that I met my playing partners for the day. Ted, Jason, and Steve. All Michiganders. All former military. All ready for a great day on a great course. This was their first trip to American Dunes so they were very excited to see the course. Jason had played it before, when it was the Grand Haven Golf Club, so he was curious to see the changes.
We drove over to the first tee where the starter gave us the first tee spiel – the message he delivers to each foursome as they arrive at the tee box. We chose our tee boxes and teed it up. I was playing back further than the others so I had to go first. Luckily I striped it down the right side and off we went.
The first hole went well, I think we all got pars, then the wheels wobbled on 2. I found the water off the tee, Steve found the water, Jason was way left, but Ted was in the fairway – until his second shot went in the water. We all struggled through that hole, I salvaged an up & down par, but the rest were not so lucky.
Happily, the third hole brought the beverage cart, and Jason loaded up. When I got back to the cart he told me there was an extra beer, if I wanted it. I asked them what an extra beer was, since I’ve never heard the term. Jason told me it was similar to the mythical leftover bacon. Yeah, I’m with the right guys today.
Throughout the rest of the day, we all hit some good shots, and we all hit some bad ones. Ted was quick to point out to the group that I was human when I chunked my tee shot on 7. We all laughed. I proved just how human I was on the 8th – where I basically forgot how to golf. It was not pretty.
The guys were fun to golf with. Ted & Jason gave each other a hard time over their match, jabbing and chirping throughout the back nine as things began to get more serious. Jason ended up winning the match, and then topped it off with a great birdie on 18. Steve kept asking that he take it easy on Ted because he had to drive home with him and didn’t want him to be too mad on the trip.
As far as the course, it was definitely softer than it was last September, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. There are some tough holes, there’s one stupid hole, but the entire day just feels different. They tout your round as “Golf’s most heroic round”, and I think that feeling permeates throughout the day. While there is definitely nothing heroic about me playing a round of golf, it does feel like you’re doing more than JUST golfing. Like our round made a difference.
I was really happy to have the chance to play American Dunes with 3 veterans. Being a civilian, it’s a great feeling knowing my round might help make a difference. But you could feel the gratitude from these three as they made their way around the course. It was palpable on the 18th tee. Without ruining too much, there is a special monument there, and the three men each took their time with it, as I made a poorly timed joke.
I got a fantastic compliment from all three after the round, when they each said they were glad they got paired up with me today. The best part was they each said it separately from one another. Gentlemen, it was a joy to golf with you, and an honor to guide you through American Dunes.
One day left!