The opening of the exclusive Centurion Club on July 1st 2013 was a surprising event. Very few private clubs have opened during recent tough economic times and there is no shortage of golf clubs in this saturated golfing area to the north of London.
Simon Gidman, formerly an assistant of the Hawtree design team, was chosen by the Centurion owners to fashion the exclusive golf course. The Centurion management decided not to pay the design fees associated with a big named architect and chose instead a relatively unknown designer with a modest portfolio.
The Centurion Club is located to the west of St Albans in rural Hertfordshire countryside and we were invited to play the course shortly after its official opening.
With woodland flanking the first five holes, there’s a feeling of maturity from the off and there’s more than a passing resemblance on these early holes to those located at nearby Brocket Hall and a few miles further north at Woburn. There’s an open country feel at 6 and 8 though 13 (reminiscent of the London Club) and from 14 to 18 you are transported to Grove-like holes.
Donald Ross thought that “variety is the spice of golf, just as it is in life” and so, if you seek variation and you have a few spare pounds in your pocket, then the Centurion Club may be for you. However, if you want to experience an exciting new golf course but don’t want to join, you’d better start looking right away for a friendly Centurion member to sign you in.
The inaugural Golf Sixes event concluded with Denmark winning the final against Australia on the closing green. It remains to be seen whether or not this particular format will become golf’s equivalent of cricket’s Twenty20, but it was an encouraging start and an exciting respite from the usual strokeplay humdrum.
I really enjoyed my day there. As people have said its a tale of two courses with a treelined first few holes then opening out. Good condition even for the time of year with a few wet patches but good greens and bunkers. Clubhouse is modern as expected with a nice outdoor and canopied area.
Centurion is a weird one for me. I think it lacks an identity with the first 5 holes being in a heavy forest like Woburn (with the exception of the approach into 4). The remaining holes are extremely open like The Oxforshire, with no trees in play.
It's a championship layout, with too many tee boxes for my liking, and it's long almost just for the sake of it. The condition is great, and there are some really good holes (2 7 17 come to mind). The clubhouse is very nice, but it lacks atmosphere.
If you're into resort courses like Celtic Manor and The Grove then you'll probably like it, but it's not my cup of tea.
The Centurion Club is a relatively new private members club in Hertfordshire. The facilities are excellent, great clubhouse and nice practice facilities…The course starts off with 5 nice holes threaded through the trees giving a feel of Woburn. The 3rd is the highlight in my opinion a longish dogleg right par 4 that requires length and accuracy from the tee to give you the opportunity to reach the well contoured green. From hole 6 onwards the course opens up a little and instead of trees framing the fairways the holes are divided by man made dunes. These holes are ok but not overly memorable until you reach 14 a cracking par 3 set in amongst the trees. 15 is long par 5 back up the hill before you reach 16 a long downhill par 4. The par 3 17th is a short par 3 played over water although it is a shame the water does not come into play. 18 is long par 5 also slightly uphill playing in the same direction as 15…if you hit a decent tee shot you can reach this green in two although water on the right awaits the miss struck approach. I have played The Centurion on a number of occasions and the conditioning has always been good as has the service and welcome…I would happily return here when the invite presents itself.
Centurion is a well routed and well conditioned golf course, with excellent practice facilities and the meanest sausage sandwich you’ve ever tasted.
The first 5 holes have a distinct heathland feel with fairways framed by tall, majestic pines and cleverly contoured greens that keep birdies off the card.
The aesthetic then changes somewhat and becomes more downland in style. Something I found quite unusual at first, but one I appreciate the more I play it.
As you move into the stretch of holes from 7-13, each hole is framed not by pines but by the natural contours of the land. Humps, bumps and hollows all come into play along with some well positioned bunkers and water hazards. In some ways, this part of the course feels a little like the Grove.
The course closes with three great holes, including the signature par 5 18th which plays over water to the green. It gives the golfer a risk / reward option: lay up short or hit the 3 wood.
For those old enough to remember Tin Cup, there’s only ever one option...
Had a lovely (albeit chilly) round at the Centurion Club on 21/11/2019.
Felt very privileged to have the course to ourselves.
The course was in very good condition, despite the recent heavy rainfall. There were a couple of fairways that were sodden, but that was not in any way, the ground staff fault!
Greens were tricky, and the first five holes especially, were picturesque. A lovely finishing hole in front of the clubhouse too!
Staff were friendly and helpful, and we were made to feel very welcome. Overall, if you get the chance to play here, then do it.... you won’t be disappointed!
I was lucky to play here as a guest of a member, and will hopefully return as its a wonderful place to play golf.
If you get the chance to play, do it..! From the outside people will disregard it as a new modern course with a private/exclusive membership, but I can easily say I've never felt so welcome at a golf club before. No silly dress codes or rules, an incredibly relaxed atmosphere and members who are passionate about their club. Many places can learn from Centurion on how to run a club in the modern day.
As for the course itself, it starts with 5 holes through the trees which are really high quality. The 1st and 4th are reachable par 5's (with 2 very good hits), the second is a delightful par 3 with an interesting green providing tiers and undulation. The course opens up from the 6th hole and mixes some great vistas, nice driving holes and some fantastic second shot approaches.
After 13, it's back briefly into the trees for a stunning par 3 (favourite short hole on the course) and a great finish with some tough holes. The 18th is a cracking par 5 to finish in front of the modern clubhouse.
There are not many places in the UK that have the mix which Centurion does, a top class course and facilities, almost hotel like service and a welcoming and relaxing atmosphere. Bearwood Lakes, The Wisley and The Grove provide obvious comparisons and it is great to see that not all top100 courses need history and lunch with a tweed jacket.
The Centurion has been open around six years and this week I had my fourth visit. Like most courses, they need time to mature, develop and bed-in and that growing period is very much on track here. In the early years, observations were that the course was a bit of a mix between a tight tree-lined style and a more open set of holes from the 6th onwards. Things are changing on this front as the 37,000 trees that have been planted on the course grow and make the open holes that much more intimate now – this is really good on the eye.
As you would expect, condition and presentation (not always that high in ranking importance) is of a high standard, tees, fairways and the greens all a pleasure to play from. I do think that comparisons will be made with The Grove which is only seven miles away – another ‘new’ course (2003) and The Grove has set the bar very high for this style of course. In time, in my opinion probably due to a better piece of land, The Centurion could challenge The Grove in the rankings.
The first five holes, as mentioned in many places are ‘Woburn’ like – which is never a bad thing as a comparison, with the dog-legging par-4 3rd my pick of these. The par-5 9th hole is developing into a very strong hole; a double fairway, water on the left at landing point from the tee, six bunkers and a slight uphill approach to the green all combine to make this a very strategic hole indeed.
The par-3’s on the course are really enjoyable to play with the 14th the longest and toughest but I do have one suggestion (and I have mentioned it to key people at the club). The 17th is the shortest of these holes but I would still like the water hazard that is left of the green to be seen from the tee – not sure of the very best way to make this happen but it would add to the excitement of the hole no doubt.
Getting the chance to play The Centurion may not be as easy as playing at The Grove (very private v very public) but if you can get on, I think you’ll enjoy this strong modern course.
I’m a member but this is a really good golf course. The opening holes through the trees might give a false impression of the remainder, opens out after the 5th before returning briefly, but always in immaculate condition and relaxing place to play. Likely to improve as it matures but already a great place to play.
Found everyone there friendly and food in clubhouse is excellent.
I’ve been umming and ahhing over this review for some time. It’s not easy to be objective about a course that isn’t your cup of tea.
My feeling is that Simon Gidman has done a good job with land that has plenty of interesting movement. The routing is actually very clever – it’s effectively out-and-back, in anything but a straight line. Eight holes occupy two completely separate parcels of ground, linked by two connector holes at #5 and #14.
The more compelling holes, through the pines (which crop up in most photographs), occur at the start of the round. These would be better suited to appear at the end of round, but the location of the clubhouse is a constraining factor. The closing holes are not bad, but they just don’t compare favourably with the opening holes. So instead of finishing on a crescendo you come home on a diminuendo.
As I already said, the closing holes are decent enough, but they’re not holes that will stick in the mind for very long, except perhaps for the exciting water-protected closer.
I enjoyed my day here on a blustery sunny day last summer, but left feeling underwhelmed. The wind direction on the day was blowing the adjacent M1 traffic noise constantly across the course and the bent grass greens (that were part of the club’s early marketing promotion) are not quite as pure as I’m sure they were when the course first opened for play.
Clearly the club is pitching at wealthier clientele, and I can absolutely see why the upwardly mobile might choose to be members here, but it’s not to my taste.
Perfect Corporate Venue. Whilst the course is very pleasing and the first 6 holes are absolutely stunning opening holes, the back 9 loses the links with the firs and with that loses a little bit of character. the course is built to be played off the back tees, some of the holes off the forward tees lose all character whilst off the backs it is a completely different look and feel.
The food in the clubhouse is absolutely gorgeous and the wine selection is far beyond the wine you would get at most clubs. I'm thoroughly looking forward to returning when the "Summer" weather returns.
Ultimately, this isn't in the same league as the Surrey Sand belt clubs, but feels much more welcoming and focused on the experience rather than just the course.