Former Olympia Fields architect: New bunker on 18 was for aiming, now players carry it
Mark Mungeam — the man who oversaw renovations and restorations at Olympia Fields for 25 years — admitted he expected to have mixed (...)
Mark Mungeam — the man who oversaw renovations and restorations at Olympia Fields for 25 years — admitted he expected to have mixed feelings while watching the BMW Championship, the second event in the FedEx Cup Playoffs, this weekend from his home outside Worcester, Massachusetts.
The golf course architect, now 59, worked more on Olympia Fields, which sits in the Chicago suburbs, more than any other in his illustrious career.
“On one hand, it will be exciting to see how they compete on a course that I spent so much time working on,” he said in advance of the event, “but on the other hand, it will be kind of sad because I’m no longer consulting there.”
After 2018, Olympia Fields hired a different architect.
“It happens,” he said. “Twenty-five years is a really good run for anybody at a course. I’m disappointed about them changing course, but obviously pretty happy that I had so many good years of working with them.”
Mungeam helped Olympia Fields implement two master plans involving tree removal, renovations of tees, fairways and greens, and rebuilding the course’s 80 bunkers prior to the 1997 U.S. Senior Open, again prior to the 2003 U.S. Open and a third time prior to the 2015 U.S. Amateur. Mungeam was on hand in 2015 when Jon Rahm was the favorite, but Bryson DeChambeau won the U.S. Amateur.
“It’s pretty exciting now to see him do so well,” Mungeam said of DeChambeau.
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Mungeam was able to use a 1928 U.S. Open program with photos of each hole at Olympia Fields as a guide for his restoration prior to the 2015 U.S. Amateur.
One of the goals of renovations is to prevent golfers from overpowering the course.
“There’s no way you can design a golf course now,” Mungeam said, “that they’re not going to overpower with their length.”
Last weekend, Dustin Johnson shot 30 under par to win the Northern Trust at TPC Boston.
Mungeam added a bunker 310 yards from the tee on the left side of the par-4 18th hole at Olympia Fields in 1999. Back then, it was designed to be an aiming bunker, but in 2015 many golfers drove over it.
That hole has played the toughest this week, according to stats from the PGA Tour. In fact the par 4 played to an average nearly a half-stroke above par on Thursday (4.478), followed by 4.435 on Friday and 4.290 on Saturday.
On Sunday, the pin should be tough for players to get at as it’s sitting just four feet from the front right edge, meaning players won’t be able to let the ball run to the stick.
On the other hand, Mungeam didn’t want to make Olympia Fields too difficult for the members.
“They want a golf course that they can play,” Mungeam said, “but can be turned into a championship test when the best players in the world are there. I always felt I accomplished that pretty well.”
Mungeam is still consulting with the city of Boston after renovating the city’s two Donald Ross courses, George Wright GC in Hyde Park and Franklin Park GC in Dorchester, prior to the 2019 Massachusetts Amateur.
He has designed 23 new courses, including Cyprian Keyes GC in Boylston, Shaker Hill CC in Harvard, Highfields Golf & CC in Grafton and the nine back at Blissful Meadows GC in Uxbridge, and he’s worked on about 75 renovations and restorations.