MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- You set money aside for months, got the time off work and promised the old lady a new backyard deck when you return.
Of course you're going to take a crack at the island fairway shortcut on the famous "Gambler" hole at King's North.
The main draw among three golf courses at Myrtle Beach National, King's North steals headlines for it's ingenuity of the par-5 sixth, which can stake claim as arguably the signature hole of the entire destination.
Reach the island fairway safely, which requires a water carry of about 220 yards, and it's just as little as mid or short iron into a shallow, peninsula green - whereas the long way wraps around water and is no easy approach into the green either, which is all the more reason to go for broke.
Originally opened in 1973 and designed by Arnold Palmer and Frances Duane, King's North was entirely redesigned and renovated in 1996, adding such enhancements as the sixth. It was done so to keep up with Myrtle Beach's changing identity, during the height of the area's makeover, moving from a bargain golf destination to being able to suit every class of golfer. The course has six sets of tees up to 7,017 yards. It's also a favorite choice for women players, thanks to two of the five sets of tees rated for women.
It's succeeded marvelously, and remains one of the top plays for the money and one of the most played premium courses along the Grand Strand.
The adjacent West Course and Southcreek at Myrtle Beach National remain largely the same since the debut in the '70s, serving as shorter, easier value plays. Either course makes for a suitable warm-up to King's North if you're after a 36-hole day, especially the West, which has a similar parkland feel through Carolina pines and bent grass greens.
Beyond the "Gambler," King's North remains one of the Grand Strand's top plays, thanks to risk-reward shot making and plenty else. It features smooth, bent grass greens and is entirely void of real estate surrounding any holes. It's also beautifully manicured at every turn. Waste bunkers, palmettos and azaleas that bloom during the peak spring months. The course may be off Highway 501 and well away from the saltwater marshes and Intracoastal Waterway, but it's still plenty scenic in its own right.
Though fairways are generally wide, the course is certainly penal. There are many water carries off the tee, including all four par 3s, which have greens guarded by water in front. That includes the back nine's signature hole, the par-3 12th hole island green with an "S" and "C" bunker left of the green. Plenty of other shots on the course are sure to challenge off-season swings too, heightened by the 18th: featuring 42 bunkers and a pond right of the green to ensure no one goes home with a lucky par.
One trait worth noting in Palmer's design, there are far more dogleg lefts than rights. So if your shot is a draw off the tee, consider upping the bet on the first tee among your playing partners - and cut me a commission check when you win.