King’s North fit for (and Built by) a King

King’s North at Myrtle Beach National Golf Club has evolved with the times better than any other course in the Myrtle Beach area.

Originally crafted by the Arnold Palmer Design Company in 1973 then lavishly updated by the King’s men in 1996, King’s North features two of the best-known golf holes on the Grand Strand.

No. 3, an island par-3 with trademark “S”- and “C”-shaped bunkers stacked to the left of the green, has been one of the area’s most-photographed holes since the course opened as Myrtle Beach National’s “North Course” more than 40 years ago. After the redesign, the nines were reversed and the hole became No. 12 as each nine included a legitimate signature hole.

Though only 140 yards from the back tees and 129 from the next (gold) tees, the intimidating water surrounding the green complex and wind that often kicks up over the water make the hole play much harder than the distance would indicate.

But No. 6, known as “The Gambler” since the redesign, was transformed from a solid par-5 into a one-of-a-kind adventure, joining No. 3 in notoriety among visiting golfers from all over the world.

The remainder of the course, including the greens, was given a facelift as well in 1996, notably at No. 18, where 40 bunkers were scattered throughout the par-4, putting two accurate shots at a premium.

When the redesign was completed, the North Course became King’s North, a 7,017-yard layout at the high end of the market. Filled with large sandy areas, tall pines and forced approaches over water, the course now registers a hefty 74.2 rating and 137 slope from the back tees.

Myrtle Beach National ownership, which included many of Myrtle Beach’s tourism pioneers and most-influential business leaders, did the reopening right, bringing in Palmer, then 66 years old but only two years after his U.S. Open farewell at Oakmont Country Club, to christen the course with an 18-hole round.

Sharing a clubhouse with the West and Southcreek – also Palmer designs – courses at Myrtle Beach National’s 54-hole complex, King’s North is conveniently located between Myrtle Beach and Conway, in the bustling Carolina Forest area off U.S. 501.

King’s North is maintained in a style fitting of an elite course. The well-manicured fairways are overseeded in lush rye for the spring season. The state-of-the-art Champion Bermuda greens ensure smooth, quick putting surfaces.

The course starts with a pair of holes with tall pines flanking the fairways. At No. 3, the course takes on a Pine Valley-type feel with a short par-4 requiring a carry over water off the tee to a modest landing area squeezed between vast sandy areas.

But the excitement begins for real at No. 6, where a tee shot to a deceptively wide island green surrounded by water is easier to hit than a “safe” option to the right. By taking the more direct island route, players playing the correct tees should have a long attempt – all over water – to reach the green in two shots. Once again, a “safe” shot to the right is available, leaving a short pitch if hit correctly.

Though officially measuring 568 yards from the back tees and 525 from the golds, No. 6 plays much shorter via the island target as opposed to the circuitous, narrow route to the right around the water.

Watery hazards also come into play on the final three holes of the front side. Though only 389 yards from the tips, the par-4 seventh requires two precise shots – the first to set up a clear shot all over water to the green. A tee shot to the right side of the fairway provides a less dangerous approach for players who can hit a right-to-left shot around the hazard.

The back nine opens with a pair of holes carved between tall pines before opening up at the signature 12th. Though daunting from the tee, the holes offers a generous green complex with the “S” and “C” bunkers providing relief on a patch of land to the left.

At the par-5 15th, a strip of sand stretches from tee to green along the left side with a pair of water hazards creeping in from the right. No. 17 is the final of the four par-3s requiring carries over water from tee to green.

The finishing hole separates the great players from the rest with the back tees playing 464 yards, 87 yards further than the golds. There is no place to miss here – the left side is littered with bunkers, the right offers more sand before giving way to water coming into play on the approach.

It’s a fitting finish for a golf course built by the King.

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