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King's North at Myrtle Beach National is no gamble

Brandon TuckerBy Brandon Tucker,
Managing Editor
Myrtle Beach National
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Myrtle Beach National's famed King's North course is No. 76 on Golf Digest's list of the best public golf courses in America. (Courtesy Myrtle Beach National)

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. - Arnold Palmer's King's North at Myrtle Beach National has one hole that may have a bigger reputation than the entire golf course.

It's the par-5 sixth or simply "The Gambler".

In such a saturated golf market, this iconic hole is among the Grand Strand's most photographed, marketed and talked-about holes.

The Gambler features an island fairway cutoff that if hit, gives you a mid-iron into a shallow green that juts out into the pond. Miss the fairway or the green and, well, that's the gamble.

But King's North is much more than just one hole. Looking at the full 18, it's one of the area's prettiest, most well-conditioned golf courses, with hole variety and shot values that rank among Myrtle Beach's elite.

Palmer's design firm was commissioned for all three courses at Myrtle Beach National, which opened in 1974. But it was the 1995 redesign of King's North that elevated National to one of the area's best multicourse facilities.

"He really had the biggest stamp on King's North and the redesign," said Michael Burnside, director of golf at Myrtle Beach National. "Now, it's a totally different course than the other two, with island greens and elevation changes. It's more wide-open."

The land was heavily shaped, so the course is rarely dead-flat. Many trees were cleared mostly for circulation purposes. You can even see a few old photos in the clubhouse of the old course and see how different it was. Now the course is open and expansive, with wide fairways and no housing winding along them.

Many golfers usually play one of the club's other two courses, South Creek and the West Course, in the morning as a fitting warm-up to King's North.

King's North can play tough from the right tees. It is over 7,100 yards from the championship tees and has a slope rating of 72.6. It's rated one of the best courses for women, largely as a result of six tee boxes and two ladies tees: the usual forwards plus the "ladies championship" further back. Women aren't off the hook with approach shots over water, just like the men.

Both the first and 10th holes are similar: forgiving par-5s, with wide fairways and little trouble, so it doesn't matter where you tee off, since the course double-tees most mornings. The short par-4 third is a warm-up gamble. You can cut the dogleg left around water and a waste bunker as much as you're willing to go for it to leave as little as a pitch into a smaller elevated green.

The collection of par-3s here is another strong point. Each plays to a green guarded in front by water and none more so than the 12th, a short hole but playing entirely over water to an island green shared with two sand traps.

The long par-4 18th is a straight but hardly dull finisher. There are more than 40 bunkers lining the fairway, mostly on the left side. The fairway is shaped so that your line of sight into the green may be obstructed by mounding and you won't be able to see the pond front-right either.

King's North at Myrtle Beach National: The Verdict

The "Gambler" aside, what sets King's North apart is wide-open, nicely-shaped land that rolls and winds through tall pines, waste areas and many ponds. Like its next-door neighbor at Myrtle Beach National, the West Course, there is no housing on the property, which makes the round all that more scenic.

There are a handful of knee-knocking shots to island greens and forced carries over water. The result is plenty of memorable shots on a beautiful golf course. It easily deserves a spot in Myrtle Beach's top 10.

King's North usually costs about twice as much as the West and South Creek, but it's a poster boy for Myrtle Beach upscale resort golf and well worth it.

Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Advisor. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker and on Instagram at BrandonTuckerGC.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • The gambler

    ace johnson wrote on: Mar 21, 2008

    No disrespect to the King, but the gambler is honestly one of the worst holes i have ever played in my life. For starters it plays about 435 yards as a par 5. The yardages are way off, it seems to me like they just eye- balled them. Also, its just a stupid hoe that make absolutely no sense. Aside from that, i really enjoyed the rest of the course and would definitely call it a "must play" in myrtle beach.


      • `The Gambler

        mike1iron wrote on: Mar 22, 2011

        Its too bad you dont quite understand how golf holes are measured. Its not how the crow flies, but along the centre line of the fairway`, the entire length of the hole. It does play 400, if you take the "Gamble" otherwise it really is 525 yards from the gold tees.
        I know I will remember this hole. I took the gamble and it paid off well.