King’s North is one of the most recognizable names along the Myrtle Beach golf scene. The crown jewel at Myrtle Beach National is an Arnold Palmer design, and the layout received special attention from “The King.”
Arnie enjoyed a close relationship with Clay Brittain, the driving force behind Myrtle Beach National and one of the most influential figures in Myrtle Beach golf history, and when he redesigned what was previously known as the North Course in 1996, Palmer and his team were at their creative best.
Palmer’s design work is more popular with the game’s most important constituency – actual players – than the growing number of architectural “critics” who have turned critiquing course design into a cottage industry, but King’s North has enjoyed the approval of the game’s cognoscenti as well.
The layout has been ranked among America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses and is regarded as one of South Carolina’s finest designs.
If you plan to play King’s North on your next trip, here is a closer look at four holes that will go a long way toward defining your round.
— As risk-reward holes go, “The Gambler” gets all the attention, but No. 3 (342/319 yards; all distances from gold and white tees) presents that day’s most intriguing decision. Why? The 90-degree dogleg left allows aggressive players to cut the corner by challenging the water. From the white tees, a 250-yard drive will have you putting for eagle, and 215 will clear the sand, leaving a relatively easy chip. What could go wrong? Plenty. Tee shots that are pulled will end up between trees in a waste area. That’s bad news. Push your drive and a waste area awaits on the other side, setting up a 40-yard approach over a couple greenside bunkers. Played conservatively, a 200-yard tee shot is all that’s required, but you need to flirt with sand that bisects the fairway to set up the most desirable approach. According to the scorecard, No. 3 is only the day’s 12th most difficult hole and that’s fair, but depending on your execution off the tee, the range of possible outcomes is significant. (#3 pictured right)
— The par 5 sixth hole (525/497), otherwise known as “The Gambler,” is on the short list of Myrtle Beach’s most recognizable holes, thanks to an alternate, island fairway that could leave you with as a little as 140-150 yards into the green on your second shot. The catch? You have to hit a 250-yard drive on to a 35-yard strip of land surrounded by water. (FWIW, I’d recommend your group eschew the breakfast ball and give everyone the option to hit two drives here, allowing you to go for the island fairway without the risk of a score-crushing miss). The dirty little secret about “The Gambler” is that it’s not easy even when played conventionally. A 225-yard drive leaves little distance between a bunker on the right and water on the left; on the approach you will have to flirt with the lake that fronts the green. Don’t let the novelty fool you, there is a lot of meat on the bone no matter how you play this hole. (#6 top photo)
— The toughest stretch at King’s North is comprised of holes 14-16, and it’s the first of that trio we find most interesting. The dogleg left 14th hole (407/384 yards) is all about the tee shot. Players comfortable drawing the ball around the dogleg will benefit from a fairway that tumbles down a hill, setting up a shorter approach and possible birdie. Tee shots that go straight or drift right run the risk of being blocked by trees and you will have to fly a large bunker on the approach. All the advantage here is being on the left side of the fairway but that requires execution. Can you draw the ball on command? You will find out on No. 14.(pictured right)
— The final hole at King’s North is famed for the 40 bunkers that call it home, but the impact of the sand on the par 4 18th (395/367 yards) largely depends on your decision off tee. The overwhelming majority of the bunkers are eye candy and there is ample room in the fairway. However, the further you hit the ball, the tighter the landing area becomes and the risk of finding a bunker rises correspondingly. Sand squeezes the front of the green, and the bunker on the left, which leaves you playing out toward the water, is best avoided. Eighteen is King’s North in a nutshell – it’s fun, pleasing to the eye and not quite as a dangerous as it appears at first glance.
Enjoy your round on one of Arnie’s finest layouts.