Mark Mungeam isn’t one to seek the limelight.
The soft-spoken partner among the heavy hitting golf course architectural firm of Cornish, Mungeam and Silva, generally lets his work do the talking.
The 44-year-old resident of Douglas, Mass. was chosen by the United States Golf Association to oversee renovations and improvements to the North Course at Olympia Fields Country Club outside of Chicago, Ill. for the 2003 U.S. Open. He received rave reviews for his efforts, which added length to the venerable layout to meet today’s modern equipment and enhanced the fairways, greens and bunkers of the course Willie Park, Jr. first designed.
Mungeam, the father of five children ranging in age from 3 to 12, has undertaken several notable projects in southern New England, including his most recent gem, The Golf Club at Oxford Greens in Oxford, Ct. That layout has proven to be both a stern test of golfing ability and a visually stunning routing that has won plaudits from golf course critics and players alike.
Mungeam designed several new holes and tweaked Shennecossett Golf Club in Groton, Ct. several years ago, designed Cyprian Keyes Golf Course in Boylston, Mass., and Scottish Meadow Golf Course in Warren, Mass., and is working on a new nine holes at Butter Brook Golf Club in Westford, Mass.
He enjoyed designing Oxford Greens.
“The owners wanted a golf course that looked challenging but was not overly intimidating to play. One of the most difficult aspects of the design was that the property mixes residential with a golf course. So we had a large site on which to put the golf course to allow for frontage for home sites.”
Mungeam added, “The only real stern challenge in the overall design was the third hole. We were restricted as to how much usable space we had and we had to fit in a par-five. I wouldn’t say it is my favorite hole on the course, but it came out well and people have said they like it.”
The par-five third Mungeam talked about, a hole that plays over 600 yards from the tips and winds its way uphill, is perhaps the most visually daunting hole on Oxford Greens. And it’s a perfect example of what a real good architect can do with limited land. The hole is designed so as to kick shots that drift right back onto or near the fairway, and there is ample bailout room on both sides once you approach the green.
“I didn’t want to have 17 really good holes and one bad one. We wanted to get people past the third hole and onto the rest of the course without too much trouble. I think we did that.”
He added, “I don’t really have a game plan when I start out designing a course. I let the land dictate how the holes should be sequenced. For instance, I would rather have not had a par three be the second hole at Oxford Greens, but that’s what the property dictated. And it is a pretty outstanding hole.
“I do like to combine a couple of birdie holes with a couple of difficult holes to finish a round. I think 16 and 17 at Oxford Greens are birdie opportunities and 15 and 18 are pretty tough holes. On 18, I wanted to add a bit of deception off the tee, making the player choose where to put the tee shot. That’s why we put a large bunker in the middle of the fairway that forces the golfer to go right or left.”
Mungeam is not a fan of forced carries. He allows mid and even higher handicappers to approach his putting surfaces with run up shots.
“I want to give the average player a way to play away from trouble, but still make a course that asks the golfer to think his or her way around and use slopes and bailout areas. I don’t like public courses that are dumbed down. A good public course should encourage even average players to look for a safe way to get to the green and think out each shot.”
Mungeam has enjoyed his partnership with Geoffrey Cornish, one of the most prolific New England golf course designers, and Brian Silva, who was recently lauded by Golf Magazine as its architect of the year.
“Especially in the beginning, Brian and I would bounce things off one another and it was a great learning process for me,” said Mungeam. “Both these guys have been my mentors and it’s been thoroughly enjoyable working with them.” www.csmgolf.com