No committees, no captains and a casual approach to clothing – welcome to Centurion Golf Club: where the normal rules do not apply.
The Hertfordshire course, situated 25 miles north of London, celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2023 and has been creating headlines right through its first decade.
From hosting the inaugural GolfSixes in 2017 and women’s Aramco Team Series, through to staging the first LIV Golf event in June 2022, Centurion Golf Club does not shy away from the innovative or controversial. And just like the course, future aspirations are big and bold. The LIV Golf and the Aramco Team Series tournaments came to Centurion Golf Club in 2023, while planning permission has gone in for another nine holes.
CENTURION’S AIR OF EXCLUSIVITY
An elegant clubhouse offers a warm welcome with most players gravitating towards the spacious Courtyard wing. The retractable roof is in place, to shelter us from the threat of rain on this otherwise mild autumnal morning.
There are several bar staff milling around, fetching coffees and enormous pastries and breakfast sandwiches. The relaxed and informal vibe is a world away from what I was expecting when I rocked up 10 minutes earlier. This is a private members club. An air of exclusivity hits you from the moment you drive up to the entrance gate and have your name checked to gain access to the car park – a car park that I’m delighted to find has half a dozen electric car charging points.
CENTURION GOLF CLUB LIV PARTNERSHIP
I’m running late, having spent a frustrating 90 minutes circumnavigating St Albans and Hemel Hempstead trying in vain to find a working charging station, so it’s a huge bonus to be able to fill up the car while I play. From the Courtyard, which allows an early view of a well-guarded 18th green, flanked on one side by a lake and the other by bunkers, it’s a short walk to the driving range.
On my previous visit to Centurion Golf Club, for the LIV Golf opening event, the range was home to the tournament’s fan zone. Now the infrastructure has gone, it’s easy to forget this championship-standard course hosted the first event of a series that led to civil war in the sport. It is somewhat ironic though that the Saudi Arabian millions that have caused such controversy in the men’s game, are being lauded in the women’s game, despite coming from the same Public Investment Fund source. The $2bn Saudi involvement in the men’s professional game was polarising. And while there are those who will disagree with Centurion staging the events, it’s easy to see why they are difficult to turn down and good for the club.
A FOUNDER STEEPED IN GOLF ELEGANCE
Centurion Golf Club was the brainchild of Scott Evans; a man who has been involved in the opening of Dubai Creek, Loch Lomond and Bearwood Lakes in Berkshire; a man who is fully supportive of the Saudis investing huge sums of money into the sport.
In 2022, Centurion Golf Club had been set to host the first Asian Tour event to be held in Europe – funded by the Saudis. The head of Saudi Golf then said he wanted to turn the $2m prize fund into $25m and launch LIV at Centurion in June. “It took me two seconds to decide ‘yes’,” Evans told Golf Business News.
CENTURION: A COURSE OF REAL QUALITY
What is not up for question is the quality of the course at Centurion Golf Club. Designed by the relatively unknown Simon Gidman, there are five teeing areas on each hole, meaning Centurion can play as short as 5,500 yards, or as long as 7,100. And this flexibility allows the par score to fluctuate between 70 and 74. For the LIV event it was a 70. The 1st, 4th and 9th holes, all par-5s off the silver tees I was playing from, were played as par-4s by the professionals. The round can consist of as many as seven par-5s, with six par-4s and five par-3s. It’s tough to find a weak hole.
The 1st plunges downhill into the woodland and instantly immerses you in the round. The severely undulating green is fast but true. A sign of things to come. The 2nd is a strong par-3, well-bunkered with another rolling green. The par-4 3rd demands length and precision off the tee to thread between the pines that dominate this opening stretch.
The 4th opens out and finally allows you the freedom to swing the driver without fear of finding the trees. The short 5th plays to a tight green with a huge drop off for anything slightly overhit, the muscular 6th has out of bounds all down the right. You can’t stray right on the 7th either. A more cautious approach is rewarded with a short iron into the green.
CENTURION GOLF CLUB LIV COURSE
And then to the vista that sold the course to the early pioneers who took up those first membership packages. The elevated 8th tee also overlooks the 9th, 10th and 12th holes, offering wonderful views. Before teeing off, we call in at the halfway house to put in an order for one of those breakfast sandwiches I didn’t have time to sample before the round. The 9th flummoxed many of the LIV players. It played as a long and demanding par-4 for them but will be lengthened to make it a five in 2023. And then to the sausage sandwiches. Thick. Meaty. Juicy. A dash of brown sauce. The finest to grace a golf course? Quite possibly.
The 10th is similar to the 8th, driving across the valley and leaving a punchy second up the hill. And while the hum of traffic on the nearby M1 provides a constant soundtrack, it’s not a distraction. The downhill par-four 12th is hugely entertaining with a sizeable pond guarding the green. The 13th demands a long and accurate drive with cavernous bunkers in the landing zone. The short 14th is arguably the finest on the course, with traps surrounding a tight green as we head back into the woods. The 15th is an energy-sapping uphill slog, while the downhill 16th and super-short 17th offer a little respite before finishing with the longest hole on the course.
And then it’s back to the sanctuary of the Courtyard as we beat the rain by half a hole. It’s mid-afternoon on a Thursday and the adjoining Centurion Club dining room is packed. The stylish and contemporary restaurant serves everything from afternoon teas to evening meals and Sunday lunches. It is open to non-members and regularly booked out, adding another vital revenue stream to the club.
And while the club accepts its laissez-faire approach to captains, committees and clothing is not for everyone, a membership of 800, with a healthy contingent of international players attracted by the course’s proximity to London, suggests Centurion Golf Club is getting a lot of things right.
CENTURION GOLF CLUB: KEY FACTS
*For membership enquires visit centurionclub.co.uk
CENTURION GOLF CLUB SCORECARD
CENTURION GOLF CLUB COURSE MAP
CENTURION GOLF CLUB: FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs)
What is the Centurion golf club membership cost?
Centurion Golf Club membership ranges from £15,000 to £121,000 but this is a very different type of golf club membership with a number of different membership categories at Centurion which include Senate Membership (which offers the opportunity to purchase life membership), Corporate Membership, Centurion Membership, International Membership and Business membership.
How much are Centurion Golf Club green fees?
Centurion Golf Club is a private club, which means the only way you can play golf here is if you are a member or an invited guest. In that sense Centurion Golf Club green fees don’t really apply. This is a deliberately exclusive experience.
Is Centurion Golf Club London based?
In a loose sense, Centurion Golf Club is a London Golf Course, but it’s not based in central London, in fact it’s located in Hertfordshire some 25 miles north of London.
Who owns Centurion Golf Club?
Centurion Golf Club is owned by Scotsman, Scott Evans. The former professional golfer, who hails from Ayrshire, was nicknamed Tenerife, because he scored in the high score 70s, or low 80s during his brief career on tour.