Centurion Club Feature Review
Few clubs to have opened over the last 10 years have created as much interest as the Centurion Club, Hertfordshire's newest offering. This impressive piece of land is ideal for a golf course, but as the last owners found out, creating a viable business product is easier said than done. In fact, they had to abandon the project, and the terrain lay dormant until current Managing Director Scott Evans and chairman Graham Wildish struck a deal to revive the course in July 2010. Interestingly, the new owners have decided to adopt a members-only business model, despite the recent failures of several clubs that set out with similar aspirations. Still, the owners remain confident the course and the overall product will enable them to steer clear of such troubles, and after playing Centurion for the first time, I'm confident they will.
The course is set out over a large expanse of land in the rolling Hertfordshire countryside. In truth, I was surprised by the variations in elevation in an area that isn’t well known for its sloping terrain, but it really helps add some character to the golf course. Some of the views presented are simply wonderful, and they really supplement the superb conditioning and excellent design on offer at Centurion. Most of the holes are beautifully framed by penal rough and natural humps and hollows, with intermittent water features and clever fairway bunkering adding to the challenge and aesthetics of most holes.
Purely because of its youth some of the holes are still bedding in, and, as the owners will tell you, there is still work to be done, but there’s no doubting the potential of Centurion. That’s not to say it’s not a good golf course at the moment, because it is. The greens are exceptional and the variation – including six par 5s – really helps to ensure there is no monotony whatsoever. The owners set out to make Centurion a world-class golf course, and whilst I’m not sure it will become that, it certainly has the potential to become one of the UK’s finest.
The first three holes flow through dense woodland, and present a really secluded yet narrow start to the golf course. If you’re not on your game right from the first tee, you could find yourself standing on the fourth tee with no points on the scorecard. The pick of these holes is probably the first, which is a real beauty. Trees frame both sides of the fairway, and if you don’t manage to find the short grass, you’ll probably be looking at playing three off the tee. The hole bends gently round to the left, and longer hitters might be able to get home in two. The green is extremely well guarded, though, and trees and shrubbery encroach in towards the putting surface. The shrewd play is probably to lay-up short of the cross bunkers and take your chances with a wedge, because the deep bunkers and array of green-side obstacles ensure up and downs are very rare.
After the par-4 3rd, the course comes out of the trees and opens up onto the Hertfordshire hillside. The 4th is a strong par 5, but the best long hole on the front nine is the sixth. It plays uphill from the tee, and the fairway is cut back towards the tee – a great and visually appealing touch. Much like the par 5s in general, the hole is reachable in two for the longest hitter. That said, you must be deadly accurate with your second as a swath of bunkers, rough-strewn hollows and lateral hazards populate the area within 100 yards of the green.
On balance, I think the back nine a slightly better are more visually appealing, but that shouldn’t detract from the quality of the front side. The 10th and 11th – a long, uphill par 3 with a tricky green – are both strong holes, but the 12th and 13th are absolutely spectacular.
The 12th is a relatively long par 4, but the elevation changes ensure it doesn’t play to its yardage. The hole sweeps downhill and to the right from the tee, and longer hitters may run out of fairway if they hit driver. Water hazards are used sparingly at Centurion so as to stand out when they are, and holes like 12 demonstrate why. From the middle of the fairway the hole slopes steeply downhill, and approaches are played over a lake to a green that sits a good 70 yards below the level of the short grass. It’s a visually stunning hole, and one that would be classed as signature on the majority of courses in England.
The term visually stunning can also be applied to the 13th. After putting out on 12, you head steeply uphill to the 13th tee – which presents a view that is as spectacular as I’ve encountered on any golf course in England. The fairway is also extremely wide, so you really can give it a rip with driver, provided you avoid the cluster of trees and large fairway bunker that guard the right of the hole. From the fairway, you’ll only need an eight iron or so for a lay-up, leaving a wedge to a wide but shallow elevated green. The back nine is filled with great golf holes, and the 18th – a severe par 5 with a water-guarded green – is a fitting end to a really good golf course.
There was much hype surrounding the opening of Centurion Club, and from what I saw, it was all justified. Yes, the course is young, and it will require some time to fully bed it, but the design, variation and quality of greens are all exceptional. In time, this course could rise up to become one of England’s best. Overall, I’d give it a rating of 8/10.
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