King’s Walk – A Legacy To Love
By E. Nolan
I never have to be asked to write an article on Arnold Palmer. My editors will say, “Hey, there’s an Arnold Palmer…” and I cut them off. “I’ll do it,” I say, not caring in the least what the actual angle is. I’m a sucker that way and they know it. (They also know better than to NOT ask me.)
I’m not blinded by bias toward The King or his work. That said, two of his courses are among my Top 25 ever played (of 560), he is my favorite golfer ever, and I am a proud, pin-wearing member of Arnie’s Army. I will gladly take any and every opportunity I can to see inside his mind from whatever angle I’m afforded. And, in the case of this story, that angle is a golf course tailor-made for me (by name at least) – King’s Walk in Grand Forks, North Dakota – where you can take a walk with The King.
Don’t mind if I do.
How did North Dakota get an Arnold Palmer Signature Course? That’s a great question. It sure wasn’t easy. Built in 1998 and opened in 2000 by Palmer and his building buddy Ed Seay, they moved over half a million cubic yards of land to give the previously flat property some dramatic contours. A significant financial investment yielded a property that easily should have been a major draw, and yet no one seemed to know about it – not even in the Twin Cities, only 300 miles away.
It’s a Grand Forks Park District project – that’s right an Arnold Palmer Signature MUNICIPAL course. (Wow!) I was impressed by that fact alone. I checked in on King’s Walk in 2016 (for the second time) and found that the GFPD had put their money where their mouth was. In much better condition than on my first visit, I found wide, well-manicured fairways and massive, smooth, fast greens – extremely score-friendly, in my opinion. I found good pace of play, fantastic service, happy people and a golf experience overall that placed King’s Walk right there with the other best public courses in the state (Top 3 or 4, no question). Arnold Palmer would have LOVED this place like this! That’s the biggest compliment I can give.
King’s Walk was built as an expression (in imitation) of love for Scottish and Irish links courses. Though lacking in the UK’s signature, colorful gorse, the course is rich in diverse, native grasses and water lined holes, with bridges cutting back and forth across the ravines and streams, and a playing experience largely uninterrupted by the housing communities built around it. There are plenty of forced carries and challenges, enough to merit your constant attention and to keep an elevated intrigue level throughout the round. Essentially, this is exactly what you’re looking for in a championship golf course, with four sets of tees and plenty to please.
If you’re looking for signature holes and photo-worthy shots, King’s Walk has those too. Incidentally, my favorite holes on each nine are the closing trios, and the actual closing stretch from 16 to 18 is spectacular. My favorite hole on the course is the Par 3, 16th hole that cuts over the corner of the lake to a great green, and there’s no let up in greatness from there to the clubhouse.
Locals love the place as much as visitors do. King’s Walk is an extremely popular venue among both leagues and event planners – with a calendar packed full of golf, wedding and other social occasions. The Eagle’s Crest Bar & Grill overlooks the 9th and 18th greens, catering (year round) to all those events and their thousands of golfers, and to the everyday guest who is merely looking for great food in a casual dining environment.
Visitors to King’s Walk have the extra bonus of a free buffet breakfast on a Stay & Play, thanks to the course’s package association with the Holiday Inn Express. That’s the hotel chain I’m typically looking for on golf and family trips anyway, so the complementary arrangement is both practical and ideal.
King’s Walk, in a nutshell, is a fantastic place to spend a day. It’s a great walk in a (literal) city park, and as a municipal course has to be one of the most fun in the country. An equal opportunity reward for men and women, young and old(er), we need more courses in the country as player friendly as King’s Walk, and we need more golfers to get out and discover them. Grand Forks was blessed to have The King accentuate their community, and we’re all blessed to be able to be able to follow our ball in his impressive footsteps.