Golf in the United Kingdom is still dominated by the traditional members’ clubs with all the characteristics that entails; most of them good, but some not to everyone’s taste. Dress codes and formality are still the norm at many such establishments, but as golf looks to attract the next generation, there has been a void in the market that is only just starting to be filled. Many of today’s younger – and just as importantly, younger-minded – golfers are looking for somewhere that is welcoming, inclusive, and family-friendly.
With this being a relatively new model of golf in the UK, where better to implement it than at a site close to the capital? Situated just north of London and within easy striking distance of the city and Heathrow Airport, the Centurion Club opened for play in the summer of 2013. Ideally positioned for access from all directions, it is already appealing to a huge and affluent audience, whilst its members- and guests-only policy means that it will never be crowded despite its popularity.
English architect Simon Gidman was involved in tentative plans for a course design at the Centurion site before the current owners took over in 2010. Given the remit of revising his original specifications and building a course of championship status, Gidman developed greens with greater and more dramatic contouring, added and revised bunkers, and created greater length. An extra parcel of woodland was also purchased, allowing for the creation of three new holes at the start of the round. The result is a quite unique mixture of tree-lined and heathland holes.
Although it stretches to a prodigious 7,084 yards from the back, the regular tees for everyday play offer no fewer than seven par 5s, which means that with five very attractive short holes, the par is 74. There are plenty of elevated tees, approximately 80 bunkers, and four water features, the most daunting of which is a pond in front of the 12th green.
The course is being widely recognized as one of the very best designs of recent years. “It’s a course that will excite and test golfers in equal measure, and one that I am confident will be quickly seen as a modern classic,” says Michael Harris, editor of Golf Monthly. The club also won “Best Golf Course, UK,” in last year’s International Property Awards.
Work has started on an impressive new clubhouse that will become the social heart of Centurion, though until now it has been operating from a smaller building that would actually be the envy of many other clubs. Here you can order fresh, well-presented dishes that are served by a friendly staff. Outside is a lovely, south-facing terrace that overlooks the closing hole, the perfect place to relax before or after a game.
The club boasts a number of celebrity members, many of them from the sporting world such as former footballer Darren Anderton and cricketer Darren Gough. European Tour professional Oliver Fisher is proud to act as an ambassador for the club. “I love the fact everyone I have met at Centurion so far has been very friendly and welcoming which gives Centurion a great ‘club’ feel,” says Fisher. “Most importantly, the course is improving every time I play and it’s clear the greens staff take a lot of pride in the course.”
“This is very much a club for the future, appealing to a younger demographic who are less enamoured with too many rules and regulations and are just out to have fun with their friends.” – Ian Bulleid, International Sales and Marketing Director, Troon
In keeping with the welcoming and family-oriented approach, Centurion membership includes a spouse and their children up to the age of 21, the perfect way to bring in members of the future. There is also an overseas membership that includes play up to a dozen times a year.
“The whole setup at Centurion is geared around inclusiveness and a refusal to be drawn into the ‘old ways’ with committees and so forth,” says Ian Bulleid, International Sales and Marketing Director, Troon. “This is very much a club for the future, appealing to a younger demographic who are less enamoured with too many rules and regulations and are just out to have fun with their best friends.”
Scott Evans, the club’s managing director, is justifiably proud of what the club has to offer. “I believe that Centurion brings something new and very unusual here to the UK,” he says. “The course, the ethos, and the atmosphere are all very different from what you will find at our more traditional clubs. It will appeal to those looking for great golf in a totally relaxed environment.”