New Course Underway in Montgomery’s Gateway Park

The city of Montgomery, Ala., is investing $1.5 million to redevelop Gateway Park, a former flood plain area in the southwest corner of the city. The park’s facelift involves a nine-hole 3,000-yard golf course, a reconstructed lake, a walking trail, a large meeting place for social gatherings, a clubhouse and athletic fields.

A neighbor of Gateway Park, Patricia Pickett, is excited about the changes she’s seeing in her area. She’s even taking up an interest in golf and, along with her grandsons, Steven Michael Rogers and Austin Davis Rogers, plans to try out the game once the course opens, which could happen later this year or in early 2006.

“It’s going to be great,” Pickett told reporter Graham Dunn of the Montgomery Advertiser. “There is so much to like. The area will be better for it.”

Motorists driving along Interstate 65 can monitor the park’s progress. The project off South Boulevard is being handled by Montgomery’s Parks and Recreation Department. “The residents in west Montgomery said they wanted it,” said parks director Wiley Steen. “The land was available. It is something that will look good. You cut the grass every day, pick up the trash. It was a natural. It beautifies an area of a flood plain.”

The 3,000-yard layout was designed by Ken Morgan of Morgan Golf Design, Inc., a golf-architecture firm based in Gulf Breeze, Fla. There’ll be no par-5s, but water hazards will be integrated into the field of play. “We tried to take into account that some of the players won’t be able to force a carry over water,” Morgan told Dunn. “We try to keep [the water hazards] at a distance that most can handle. Fairways are actually generous. There is plenty of space for safety with 50-yard [wide] fairways, which is more than adequate.”

The site was known previously more for being under water than for aboveground sports, though it once was home to a water-skiing school. A small lake on the property and is being incorporated into the project. Future flooding will be alleviated by altering area roads, bridges and the old Cloverland Ditch, and by the construction of a major flow ditch that will direct water away from the golf course and adjoining ball fields.

“The course is designed to handle water,” said the parks department’s assistant director, Scott Miller. “Everything is set up to channel water away from the fairways and greens. It would take a tremendous amount of water to flood the course, but changes in the ditch should remove even those problems.”

The par-32 Gateway Park layout will feature Tifton Dwarf greens that will rival the best putting surfaces in the area. Walter Green, the course’s appropriately-named new superintendent, expects sprigging to take place this fall. “We set up construction for three weeks of work to one week for rain,” he told Dunn. “It doesn’t take long for the grass to start growing. But there are other issues that have to be dealt with, such as the clubhouse.”

The clubhouse will be elevated to prevent flood damage. “We had to elevate our buildings to get them out of the flood plain,” explained Steen. “That’s why the clubhouse will be like Kolomi (Golf Course), with the carts under the building.”

Though green fee rates haven’t been established, officials estimate the play rates for Gateway Park will be in the mid-$20 range.

Locals are excited about the new recreational outlet. Dixie Robinson, a recent transplant to Montgomery from Michigan, said, “Absolutely, I plan to play it. I play five or six rounds a week, but I certainly want to see what it’s about. Only having nine holes shouldn’t be a problem. We’ll just play them twice.”