Dunmaglas Now Leaves 'Em Smiling
By Jack Berry
Mike Pung likes trees. "I'm not a tree-hugger but I like 'em all and I've got 70 million of them," Pung said.
Seventy million, give or take a few million, are too many for a golf course which Pung realized when he purchased artistically-praised but financially-stricken Dunmaglas Golf Club last year.
Pung, an Alma native and Mt. Pleasant Chevrolet dealer, has a summer home on the north shore of Lake Charlevoix and said "I didn't want to lose my local golf course." Dunmaglas is no more than a mile from Pung's home.
Trouble is, Pung is so busy making Dunmaglas playable that he hardly has time to play golf. His favorite club isn't made by Callaway, it's made by Stihl. It's a chainsaw.
"I'm Chainsaw Charlie," Pung said, laughing. "I think I've cut 20,000 trees and I'm not finished."
Pung said he wants golfers to leave Dunmaglas with a smile, not a frown. He wants them to return and he figures they won't if they lose a dozen balls and take five to six hours to play.
Dunmaglas sits in the hills above Lake Charlevoix with views of that lake, one of Michigan's prettiest, and views westward of Lake Michigan. There are 886 acres of meadowland, trees, hills and valleys, prime northern Michigan property. Dunmaglas was designed by golf professionals Larry Mancour and Dean Refram with input from the owner, Chuck MacGillivray, himself a former professional. The name, Dunmaglas, comes from the ancestral home of the Clan MacGillivray in Scotland.
MacGillivray and Mancour are Flint natives and they grew up knowing each other. MacGillivray wound up as an assistant professional at the Playboy Club golf course in Geneva, Wis. Eventually he married into the Mott family and Mott is major league General Motors money.
MacGillivray wanted a northern course where his friends could play. He wasn't looking for high volume, like Boyne and the other northern resorts. He set up a fine dining restaurant with an extensive wine cellar in an old farmhouse on the Boyne City Rd.
MacGillivray got Mancour to design the course and Mancour got an old friend, Refram, a former PGA Tour player who learned the game at Medinah Country Club in Chicago where his family belonged.
Between the three of them, MacGillivray, Mancour and Refram, they designed a very strong golf course. Golf Digest named it one of the top five new resort courses when it opened in 1992. The Slope ratings of 129, 134 and 142 from middle back and championship indicated the degree of difficulty.
Word spread of the toughness, rounds dropped and so did maintenance and the course went on the block. Along came Pung, a Chevrolet (and former Cadillac) dealer from Alma.
"I didn't know anything about running a golf course so I asked around and was told American Golf Corporation did a good job," Pung said. "I don't know what I would have done without them."
American Golf Corp. is based in Santa Monica, Calif., and operates more than 220 private, resort and public courses in the United States and Great Britain. Around metropolitan Detroit it operates The Woodlands of Van Buren, Hilltop and Detroit municipal courses Rackham, Rouge, Palmer and Chandler.
AGC went into Dunmaglas with management and maintenance expertise and Pung said "They've been great," and then he laughed again. "They like me -- I work free."
Dunmaglas needed extensive brushing out in the rough areas and thinning out of trees, especially around greens to provide sunlight and air movement. That's where Pung has concentrated his chainsaw.
"I've always liked to get on a bulldozer, a front-end loader or work with a chainsaw. I work out my car business frustrations.
"I take out the scrub growth. I don't take down big ones or pines -- you need those in the winter. And after I do some cutting, I go back a couple of days later and look at it. You have to be careful. It's easy to take 'em down but a long time to get 'em back up."
Pung, 55, said the labor on the golf course also keeps his weight down -- "I don't want to lift weights and I like to eat."
Pung always has been a man in motion. Pung is a pilot and owns a twin engine Piper Chieftain, which he flies, and a Lear jet, which he leases out. He's a former Can Am car racer and Indy car part-owner. One of his best friends is Jackson oilman Pat Patrick. When Gordon Johncock won the Indianapolis 500, Pung threw a party for 350 people at his home in Alma and got the Johncock car and his Cheetah sports car racer into the house as party centerpieces.
The centerpiece now is Dunmaglas and as word gets out about the improved playability, rounds are picking up.
American Golf closed some bunkers, opened up more teeing area and enlarged the green of the short, uphill par 4 fourth hole by 40 percent. They also closed the bunker behind the shallow green. The green didn't hold shots and they ran into the back bunkers.
Better fairway mowing patterns, more drainage, paving of some cart paths and a paved parking lot are among the other improvements made by American Golf.
Pung plans to build some condominiums along the highway and eventually sell some lots on the course.
Green fees currently are $85 daily and weekends with cart. Weekday twilight rates (after 3 p.m.) are $50 and weekend twilight rates are $60.
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