|Approach to the par five 18th - bunkering yet to be completed.|
The Centurion Club is close to St. Alban's, in Hertfordshire, no more than 25 miles north of London's city centre. It's location will prove instantly attractive and, despite sitting close to the M1 motorway, the course is strikingly peaceful. Early holes, in woodland, are enchanting.
The name comes from the ties to the Roman presence at St. Alban's (known then as Verulamium) and in the surrounding areas. This was one of the Empire's key staging posts on the island and there is a rich history all around. The club has embraced that, with membership titles of Centurion and Senate, and holes all have Latin names. The 18th, fittingly, is called Ad Infinitum.
|The par four 1st, tee to fairway.|
Which begs the question: is there a market for such a thing?
"Our first official Senate member lives in Kent," Jade told me, as she drove us around the course in a hefty jeep.
Where in Kent, she didn't say, but the closest location in Kent (Dartford) to the Centurion Club is 45 miles away, and an hour's drive. Consider the number of clubs that this golfer would drive past to get to the Centurion, and you get an inkling of the attraction of exclusivity. Since my visit there have been many more member applications (for as much as £65,000 for the highest level - see below), and corporate membership is proving highly attractive, too: Fuller's Brewery is the latest to join... which may help to sort out the beer brands in the clubhouse!
|The par four 12th (on the right) comes down the hill - the green sits this side of the small |
lake - while the par four 13th sweeps left and up the slope.
The Golf CourseFor the most part, the Centurion Club is a lazy, meandering affair, rolling sweetly over the Hertfordshire countryside. From the back Black tees it measures 7,200 yards, but most golfers will be playing from the Silver tees, making it a more manageable 6,850 yard Par 72. A 6,555 yard option is also available (Purple tees). There are five par fives and five par threes - personally, I love that. It adds to the thrill.
The course was designed by Simon Gidman. Irish golfers may not have heard of him, but he designed the wonderful, flowing and highly rated Galgorm Castle outside Ballymena. It has a rhythm not dissimilar to the Centurion and it will be just as enjoyable to play.
Simon's philosophy, he says, is to "combine the three main elements of golf course architecture; namely the penal, strategic and heroic philosophies that make golf such an exciting and varied sporting challenge."
While the Centurion is not exactly penal, what I particularly liked were the strategic options a golfer will face: short or long off the tee, there are premium landing sites; and approaches to greens leave you with choices too. The wriggling 6th is a case in point (see photo below). It makes the game more fun, and the raised tees show off the course and surrounding countryside to their full advantage.
When completed, over 30,000 trees and 5,000 gorse bushes will have been planted (see photo below), giving greater definition to the mounding that accompanies the more open holes - as well as providing screening from the M1.
|The 6th hole, tucked up close to the woodland|
|The rather perfect par three 17th|