Snug Crown, Comfortable Throne: King’s North at Myrtle Beach National

BLACK:  7,017 yards / par 72 / 72.6 / 136
GOLD:  6,481 yards / par 72 / 71.3 / 131
WHITE: 6,024 yards / par 72 / 69.3 / 125
BLUE:  5,662 yards / par 72 / 67.5 / 118
RED:  4,816 yards / par 72 / 67.4 / 113 (W)

King’s North is the highest-profile of the three golf courses at Myrtle Beach National.  The 54-hole complex dates to 1971, but the King’s North course, in its present iteration, was crafted in 1996 by the King (in golf terms) himself: Arnold Palmer.

King’s North strikes a genius balance in many ways.  Perhaps the most important of these is that the golf course is clearly designed to be enjoyed by players of all abilities.  Lower-handicap players can risk putting themselves in danger while higher-handicap golfers are almost always given a side on which to miss in order to keep the dreaded “other” to a minimum.

Take the par four 13th hole for example.  It is a 407-yard dogleg-left from the back Black tee, up the left side is a long waste bunker and a smattering of tall pines.  Challenge these obstacles successfully and the hole becomes shorter.  But there is another option: there is a generous berth of fairway out to the right, meant for conservative play.  Not all holes—not all courses—offer sufficient bailout while tempting the bold.  King’s North does this beautifully, repeatedly.

King’s North is also home to three of the Grand Strand’s most recognizable single holes.  The first is the 6th hole, known as “The Gambler.”  Conventionally, it is a par five that doglegs around a lake.  The wrinkle, though, is that there is an island fairway that, if successfully hit from the tee, shortens the hole so considerably that reaching the green in two will be a matter of a middle or long iron.

The whimsical 12th hole has existed in some form since the original North course was built at Myrtle Beach National in 1973, but it received considerable polish in 1996.  It is a short par three—only 140 yards from the Black tee and a mere 110 from the middling White tee set.  It is an island green par 3 with a sizable, three-section green that is guarded on the left by two bunkers in a vertical arrangement of “SC.”  Those hazards are not mere decoration, though—they are narrow and require nerve and touch when making an escape.

The closing hole at King’s North is the most striking at the whole Myrtle Beach National complex.  Aptly called “Bullseye,” it is a straightaway two-shotter, 465 yards from the Black tee and 367 yards from the White.  Simple enough right? Right, save for the 38 bunkers that dot the perimeter of the hole and a corner of a pond that guards the front-right portion of the green.  Nevertheless, there is enough fairway for all players to navigate the hole successfully, regardless of handicap level.  Where some golf courses tend in the direction of all-out punishment, King’s North gives customers a sporting chance, with the reward being a steady daily stream of players flocking back to it year after year.

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