For those interested in playing a different course every day, Gateway National’s 18 holes can make you feel as though you’re playing a different course each time you visit.
As the only bent grass facility in the St. Louis area, Gateway National has a playing surface that provides golfers a rare experience. Add in the fact that the course features an inland Scottish links style design, and Gateway National is a golfing opportunity you’ll definitely want to experience, providing something for nearly everyone.
Boredom isn’t a problem at Gateway National. As PGA Director of Golf Shawn Barnes points out, varying wind conditions tremendously change the feel of the course from day to day. For example, on the par-4 first hole, which plays 410 yards from the tips and 376 yards from the back tees, Barnes said he recently hit driver-wedge to the green one day, and driver-5 iron the next day.
“And I’m not talking about a bad drive,” Barnes said. “The wind just changes the hole when it blows in a different direction.”
To further change how the course plays, golfers have the ability to select from five different tee boxes on each hole. Most holes provide at least a 100-yard difference from the tips to the forward tees. But moving forward doesn’t necessarily create easy birdie opportunities, Barnes said.
“Again, the course changes every day,” he said. “When you move to a forward set of tees, you can bring more trouble into play.”
Gateway National’s third hole is a monster par-5. It’s the number one handicap hole, playing 661 yards from the tips. But Barnes said the 10th hole is the course’s signature hole. The par-4 plays 317 yards from the tips and 271 yards from the back tees. A creek guards the green on the right, while bunkers provide trouble on the left. Further trouble comes from thick rough at the back. Many golfers choose to lay-up shy of the fairway bunker, leaving a 9 iron or wedge to the green.
“It’s a risk/reward hole,” Barnes said. “From the men’s tee you can take the chance to drive the green, but you have to avoid the creek.”
The finishing hole is another great hole, offering a birdie opportunity on the par-5, which plays 550 yards from the tips and 527 yards from the back tees. Yet fairway bunkers, bunkers near the green, and water to the left of the green can punish mistakes.
Golfers have to bring their mental game when playing Gateway National. Not only do the changing wind conditions require you to keep on top of club selection, but you also have to understand the location of trouble on each hole. Some holes are best played with a lay-up shot, while others give you the opportunity to take a risk, trying to hit over trouble. And as with any Scottish links style course, thick rough, waste areas, and fairway bunkers will challenge golfers.
“For pass holders, that’s one of the things that keeps them coming back every day,” Barnes said. “It’s not monotonous.”
Another thing that keeps players coming back and that drove 39,000 rounds of golf at Gateway National last year: The course’s views are stunning. The wide open Scottish links style gives golfers a great view of the surrounding holes as they’re playing, yet 16 of 18 holes also have a view of the downtown St. Louis skyline.
“You can see the Stan Musial Bridge, the Arch,” Barnes said. “We’re literally the closest course to downtown St. Louis. We’re close to the Arch and the [Busch Stadium] ballpark. The views of the skyline, you don’t get anywhere else.”
Gateway National’s designers didn’t sacrifice the course’s feel to ensure great views though. The course, which opened in 1998, stays true to the Scottish links design throughout.
“We have 18 very good holes,” Barnes said. “There’s not a bad hole among the 18. It’s one of the things that makes the golf course so great. Even the really good courses will have a couple of holes that have been squeezed in or that don’t fit with the rest of the course.”
The design carries off the course, where the Gateway National clubhouse has incorporated traditional Scottish architecture throughout the facility after a recent remodeling. For special events, the 7,200 square foot clubhouse can accommodate groups of varying sizes. The main room can seat up to 150 people. Men’s and women’s locker rooms, changing rooms, and private showers are available too.
For those who prefer to enjoy the views of the golf course, Gateway National’s clubhouse includes a 2,700 square foot outdoor seating area that overlooks the first hole tee and 18th hole green. Food and beverage services are available throughout the clubhouse.
Gateway National is near the I-55/I-64 interchange in Madison, Ill., a short drive from downtown St. Louis. The course is open to the public, and the best way to secure a tee time is online through the course’s Web site at gatewaynational.com. The price of a round of golf changes with the season and time of day with dynamic pricing for its daily fees.
Barnes points out that special annual deals are available too. The Senior Advantage Club carries a one-time fee of $299, and members can then play Monday through Thursday anytime and Friday before 11 a.m. for a $17.50 daily fee.
The Daylight Savings Club carries a one-time fee of $997, and members can play during Daylight Savings dates (March 13 through Nov. 6) after 2 p.m. for no daily fee. Members receive unlimited play and a cart with up to two buckets of range balls.
Full season annual passes are available too at varying price points, and one package includes a $17.50 daily fee reciprocal rate at eight other courses. Then again, with the way Gateway National can play differently from day to day, you may find yourself limiting your trips to other courses!