News & Opinion

Golf sand as art: It’s more than a hazard 

One in a weekly series of stories about golf gear to run each Wednesday.

By Gary Van Sickle 

The magic ingredients arrive in film canisters, prescription bottles, Ziploc bags, Altoids tins or commando, as I’ll call it, poured straight into the envelope.

What magic ingredients?


Holly Daniels Christensen is the founder of Dune Jewelry, which turns beach sand into works of art in jewelry pieces, and now has made a foray into golf. 

Want a unique souvenir from your favorite course or the place where you made a hole-in-one? Need to commemorate your round at Pebble Beach? Christensen can morph your pinch of sand into art on a bag tag, ball marker, divot fixer, wine stopper, keychain, cufflinks or just about anything. 

Because of Christensen, I am doing something I never expected: writing about jewelry. Normally, jewelry ranks behind women’s shoes atop the list of things I’m not remotely interested in. 

But golf is involved here, so, hey … jewelry!

Christensen grew up on Cape Cod in Orleans, Mass., and spent many summer days on the beach. That explains why she describes herself as a beach girl. She went through a lot of jobs – zookeeper, pharmacy technician, model, bartender (same as a zookeeper, basically), cellphone sales, cruise sales and real estate – looking for the right one.

Dune Jewelry can transform an item such as a divot tool into a golf memory.

Dune Jewelry can transform an item such as a divot tool into a golf memory.

When she started making beach-sand jewelry for friends and family in 2007 and got excited reactions, she realized that she was onto something.

“I used pinches of beach sand from different locations around the world, like where you went on a honeymoon, your first kiss, really romantic things,” she said. “That was the idea in the beginning. It was about sentimental value. That’s what jewelry is really about.”

Christensen gave up her real estate gig in 2010 to focus on jewelry as a business, and the rest is history. At first, she produced items at her kitchen table. Now her company has 24 employees and handcrafts jewelry in a Boston studio for more than 800 retailers worldwide.

But let’s get back to golf. Once she went online with Dune Jewelry (, customers started sending sand and other donations from exotic locations that weren’t always beaches. There was infield dirt from Fenway Park and bunker sand from assorted bucket-list golf courses.

“It dawned on me that the love I have for the beach, other people have for golf,” she said. “It’s the same thing.”

So, Dune Jewelry is about golf, too.

The strange thing about sand is that it’s like snowflakes or fingerprints: each sample has its own unique look. Dune Jewelry uses a layering resin in a patented inlay process that gives the sand (or dirt) an artistic mosaic finish once it has cured. 

“The crunchier and more texture the sand has, the cooler it looks in the jewelry,” said Christensen, whose sterling silver cocktail ring uses sand from Cape Verde in Africa. 

Thanks to devoted customers who mail in sand from exotic locales, often in the afore-mentioned prescription bottles, Dune Jewelry has built a substantial sample bank of more than 3,300 locations. Ever heard of Big Daddy, a huge sand dune in Namibia? Dune Jewelry has a piece of Big Daddy ready to go. 

I tested Christensen by asking what she had from Waupaca, Wis., one of my former places of residence. She found Cedar Beach sand from Belgium, Wis., in her file, and bingo: Onaway Island in Waupaca. Impressive.

She knows beaches but concedes that she still is learning golf. When asked, she wasn’t sure where Oakmont was located, but I like her enthusiasm. The extent of her golf experience is hitting balls at a range once but, she says, she’d like to give the game a try.

Robbie Gould, a kicker for the San Francisco 49ers, placed an order with Dune Jewelry for a charity tournament that he hosted at Medinah in Chicago, where he used to kick for the Bears. He now is a loyal customer.

Golfers have sentimental feelings about their favorite courses that they would like to preserve.

“These days, you don’t even hold on to photographs anymore,” Christensen said. “This is a tangible memory you can hold forever. We don’t just make jewelry; we capture memories.”

While that sounds like a schmaltzy Hallmark card line, it rings true.

Her bank of golf sand is just getting started. She can do an Augusta National piece for you, but you’ll have to supply the sand (or grass). 

Is there a famed location from which Dune Jewelry doesn’t have a sample? Alcatraz? Nope, she’s got crushed Alcatraz rock. How about the moon?

“That would be a good one,” she said. Moon dust is not in stock … yet. So, it’s official: Dune Jewelry can’t promise you the moon.

Pebble Beach is a go, though.

Gary Van Sickle has covered golf since 1980 for Sports Illustrated and, Golf World and The Milwaukee Journal. Email:; Twitter: @GaryVanSickle