Design Notes

Brandon Johnson to renovate King’s North at Myrtle Beach National

Michigan’s Travis Pointe turns to member Chris Wilczynski for a master plan; Paul McGinley updates Ireland’s Grange Golf Club

Brandon Johnson, a disciple of Arnold Palmer Golf Design, will oversee the renovation of Palmer's King's North design in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, that has not been enhanced since 1996.

King’s North at Myrtle Beach National, an Arnold Palmer design that has long been one of the Grand Strand’s bedrock layouts, closed on June 3 to begin a comprehensive, two-part, two-year renovation project.

Founders Group International, Myrtle Beach National’s parent company, selected Brandon Johnson Golf Course Design to oversee a project that will transform the venerable South Carolina course. Johnson worked for Arnold Palmer Golf Design for more than 17 years, so he will ensure that Palmer’s vision for the King’s North is maintained while modernizing a design that last enjoyed an overhaul in 1996.

Phase one, which will focus entirely on the front nine, will last four months — King’s North will reopen October 1. The highlights of the project will include:

> The greens will be renovated and restored to their original size, reclaiming 30,000 square feet of putting surface, an expansion that will make them 36% larger, while adding pin positions that were eliminated by encroachment over the years. The new greens will feature TifEagle ultradwarf Bermudagrass, a hardy strain that has performed exceedingly well in Myrtle Beach’s subtropical climate.
> Every bunker on the course will be renovated and have Capillary Concrete bunker liners installed, eliminating washouts and drastically improving drainage, both factors that will significantly enhance playability. Premium bunker sand will also be installed.
> There will be significant changes to the layout, with an emphasis on reimagining the green surrounds. Many of King’s North’s current greens are framed by mounding that limits creativity on the approach and recovery shots. When the course reopens, players will be greeted by a layout that can be attacked through the air and along the ground.
> King’s North has always enjoyed a rugged look, showcasing waste bunkers and the area’s naturally sandy soil, and Johnson will lean into that aesthetic as he remakes the course. Among the holes that will be getting significant makeovers will be No. 6, the iconic par 5 otherwise known as “The Gambler.” In addition to some technical work along the edges of the lake, one of “The Gambler’s” three fairway bunkers will be eliminated and replaced by a large waste area that will improve the look of the hole and the challenge.

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“We are looking to honor some of the things Mr. Palmer was trying to achieve here,” Johnson said. “He always wanted his courses to be fun to play and pleasing to the eye and that’s what this course is, but there are some strategic and playability elements we can add to enhance the experience. We are looking to build upon what’s here by using the existing contours and landforms more effectively and incorporate them into everyday play.”

The second stage of the project will begin in summer 2025 and include an overhaul of the back nine. Additionally, the Myrtle Beach National clubhouse will enjoy a renovation to enhance the dining experience.

King’s North was last renovated in 1996 when Palmer oversaw a complete redesign of what was previously called the North Course. The layout shot to the top of the list of Myrtle Beach’s best designs and was ranked among America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses by Golf Digest.

The board of directors at Travis Pointe Country Club in Ann Arbor, Michigan, has retained Chris Wilczynski, of C.W. Golf Architecture, to develop a golf course master plan to improve and help reposition the private, member-owned club as one of the best courses in Michigan.

Established in 1977, the 18-hole, par-72 course sits on 220 acres and was originally designed by Bill Newcomb. The club has played host to the LPGA Volvik Championship and several other tournaments, including the Epson Tour, the Michigan Amateur Championship, the U.S. Mid-Amateur Qualifying, and numerous U.S. Open and U.S. Senior Open qualifiers.

"With Travis Pointe’s 50th anniversary quickly approaching, we have the perfect opportunity to enhance the sustainability, playability and enjoyment of our number one asset, the golf course, for every level of golfer," said Chris Fairman, Travis Pointe Country Club board member. "Chris brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the table, and we are all eager to work together to make this club the best it can be for the foreseeable future."

Wilczynski, a landscape architect by education, has been practicing golf course architecture for more than 30 years, including a 13-year stint with Arthur Hills/Steve Forrest & Associates. His firm is currently involved with several golf course master planning and renovation projects throughout the Midwest and Florida, as well as new golf course residential communities in Florida and Georgia.

Goals for the development of the master plan include:

> Modernize the course for sustainability
> Reduce maintenance costs including labor, chemicals, water and equipment
> Increase playability and “fun-factor” for every category of member and playing ability from kids to seniors
> Develop internal angles within each hole to create risk/reward shot values
> Create a short, drivable par 4
> Develop new bunker design and aesthetic
> Simplify and reorganize the tee complexes
> Improve the complete member/guest experience with efficiency and “flow” to and from the golf course for pre-and post-round activities

"I am thrilled for the opportunity to work with the Travis Pointe master plan committee and board of directors to develop the improvement plans for the golf course," Wilczynski said. "I have also been a member at TPCC since 2016 and have played the course countless times with my family and friends so I know the course intimately and have visualized many times how I would improve and enhance the architecture."

The master plan will be completed by the end of the summer and presented to the membership. Further discussions will follow to determine the timing and implementation of the plan.  

Grange Golf Club in Dublin, Ireland, has completed a renovation of 10 holes on its James Braid-designed course. There are 24 holes in all at Grange, which is located 15 minutes south of downtown Dublin and set into the foothills of the Dublin Mountains.

The 24 holes in total provide members with two different 18-hole layouts, including the Philip Love course, which consists of the club’s original 18 holes, designed by Braid; the Academy course, an outer six holes; and the Sheahan course, which begins on the par-4 third hole of the Love course and incorporates five of the six holes on the Academy course. The combination of holes gets reimagined as two 12-hole layouts in the winter, so that members can enjoy a complete round when daylight is in short supply.

Performing the renovation work on 10 of the Love course's holes was McGinley Golf Course Architecture & Design, led by Paul McGinley, Ryder Cup player, captain and Grange club member. The renovated holes were one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, 13, 17 and 18. In addition, McGinley recontoured and extended the green at the par-3 sixth and redesigned the bunkering, including installing SportsBond liners. His firm also performed extensive tree work on the venerable parkland layout.

"My three core principles for Grange are to protect the legacy of the James Braid design, modernize the design and make it safer," McGinley said. "We enhanced the golf holes based on scorecard analysis, eliminated obstacles that only penalized medium/high handicappers, yet increased the need for accuracy by improving the greens and surrounds.

"More importantly, we future-proofed the course for the next generations by re-developing the Sheahan and Love routings, brought the bunkers up-to-date and provided a warmup area."