MONTGOMERY, Alabama – When it comes to municipal golf courses, Lagoon Park and Gateway Golf Courses in Montgomery, Alabama are way ahead of the curve. Because of budgetary constraints and the fact that golf course maintenance is usually way down the totem pole when it comes to priority within a civic budget, most municipal golf facilities are very disappointing. Course conditions are at best strained, buildings are usually shoddy and in disrepair and the overall ambience can be somewhat depressing. This is absolutely not the case with the Lagoon Park and Gateway Park Golf Courses in Montgomery, Alabama.
The Lagoon Park Golf Course was designed by Charles Graves in 1978 on land that was once a swamp. The Tifdwarf Bermuda grass fairways feature numerous doglegs lined with towering pine trees, flowering dogwoods, California raindrop trees and century-old oaks. This places a premium on shot placement. As temperatures warm up in the spring, the course comes alive with hundreds of blooming azaleas and flowering trees lining the beautifully manicured paths. The result is a scenic, parkland-style golf course. If you can make your way around this course without hitting a tree or having a tree come into play, you’ve probably shot a pretty good round!
From the back tees, Lagoon Park plays 6,773 yards with a course rating of 71.2 and a slope of 121. Move up a set of tees and the course plays 6,413 (69.6/117). Four sets of tees make Lagoon Park a fun course, no matter how good a golfer you are. Whether you’re walking or riding, the PGA staff at Lagoon Park figures your round can be played in about 4:15 which I found to be a more than adequate amount of time. The modest elevation changes and quick pace of play make walking the course a very popular option among local golfers.
At 414 yards from Tee Box #2, the par 4, 4th hole is the Number 1 handicapped hole at Lagoon Park and is the first hole that brings water into play, although you have to hit a pretty bad shot to find it. The tee shot can be somewhat tricky and the hole is best played with a tee shot out to the left, which does bring the water and high grass into the picture. Push anything out to the right and there are four very large pine trees that will need to be dealt with. The green is protected by bunkers in front on either side and slopes back right to front left.
To me the most challenging type of hole is a double dogleg par 5 and the 15th hole doesn’t disappoint. From Tee #2 the hole plays 525 yards. If you can hit a slight draw around the gentle left dogleg off the tee, you’ll be off to a good start. Or, if you’re a long ball hitter, you may want to challenge the 150-foot tall pine trees guarding the first dogleg. Depending on your ball position in the fairway, you may be able to hit a slight cut shot in and reach the green in two, setting up a rare putt for eagle. Don’t worry, par is still a good score here!
Many local golfers consider the practice facilities at Lagoon Park to the finest in the city. It’s a complete practice facility with a lighted driving range that can accommodate up to 20 players at a time. The practice facility also has a large putting and chipping green, complete with a green-side bunker and a private instruction area.
The PGA professional staff at Lagoon Park are building a premier golf teaching and learning facility in the Montgomery area and its instructors are collaborating to create learning opportunities that enhance the experience for both local and visiting golfers. They use the latest computer technology and believe that the game should be learned from the green back to the tee, teaching new golfers the fundamentals and foundations of impact and ball control. Director of Golf and General Manager Mike Shirley has over 25 years’ experience as a PGA club professional and serves as one of the instructors, specializing in Laser Optics Putting. Mike can help any golfer improve their putting technique through an innovative approach linking eyesight, aim, and resulting swing compensations that plague a golfers ability to score and take their putting game to the next level.
Recently, Talbert Griffin, a native of Montgomery, has been hired as the Director of Instruction. Talbert’s collegiate career included playing for both the Oklahoma State and University of Alabama golf teams as well as winning several area and statewide events as an amateur. Talbert specializes in both full swing and short game instruction and can offer tips and suggestions that will make you a better player.
In the summer of 2018, Lagoon Park’s clubhouse underwent a renovation which included remodeled clubhouse facilities, and a sitting area with multiple TVs to view sporting events. In addition, the Heron’s Nest Grille serves up some really good clubhouse food and is available to cater outside events. I highly recommend the burgers!
Montgomery’s other municipal golf course is located about 20 minutes away from Lagoon Park at Gateway Park. Gateway Park Golf Course & Learning Center is located off Interstate 65 and is one of Montgomery’s most comprehensive golf and practice facilities. Changes have been made to the course recently and it is no longer an executive-style golf course. From the back tees, this 9-hole course plays 2,984 yards. There are 3 par 3s, 4 par 4s and 2 par 5s. The course is not only a great place to learn the game, it’s challenging for seasoned players as well.
Although it’s only a 9-hole course, one quick look at the Gateway Park score card and you’ll understand how you get the two different yardages; play the front nine from Tee I and play the back nine from Tee II. The par 3s will keep you honest, they are by no means pushovers. From either set of tees, the shortest par 3 is 167 yards. The way the par 5s are laid out, they are going to be three shot holes for most players. At 280 yards from Tee 1 (247 from Tee 2), Number 6 will be a drivable par 4 for many golfers. Push your tee shot right and you may find the water and wish you had hit something less than driver.
I thoroughly enjoyed both golf courses. Both were well maintained and challenging. Don’t let the length – or lack of it – fool you about Gateway. The greens tend to be smaller, placing a premium on accuracy.
In 2020, Gateway Park will introduce Footgolf, a new way to experience the course and get some exercise at the same time. Footgolf is quickly gaining popularity it is a hybrid combining the sports of soccer with the rules of golf. The 18 Hole Footgolf course at Gateway Park will play host to group events, local and regional tournaments.
Speaking of events, Lagoon Park’s player-friendly layout is a great place to host your next golf event. Their one-stop approach will take care of all your tournament needs: golf, food and beverages, even prizes. They can help you decide on a format and even help with putting the goody bags together. Whether it’s a corporate outing, golf buddy trip, fundraising event or a charity golf outing, the staff at Lagoon Park can help you bring it all together.
The public is encouraged to become annual passholders and outside group events are always welcome at both facilities. Lagoon Park Golf Course offers some amazing – and affordable opportunities to become an annual passholder and now there are even more perks: No initiation fees, free green fees discounted rates on cart rentals, 50% off Range Balls at Lagoon Park and 10% Off Select Merchandise in the Pro Shop. Easy payment options can be set up too. But perhaps the biggest benefit of becoming a passholder is that you’ll receive preferred rates at participating Honours Golf properties. A Lagoon and Gateway Park Golf Pass is good for one calendar year.