CENTURION CLUB; a course golfers will remember for centuries to come.
Opened for play in the summer of 2013, this South East of England gem takes its name from the era when St Albans – or Verulamium as it was known back then – was the third largest settlement in the country.
In AD60, the town was scene of the famous Battle of Watling Street, in which Roman general Gaius Suetonious Paulinus and his Centurions were victorious over Icenian rebel Boudicca, thus ending resistance to Roman rule in southern Britannia for almost 400 years.
It somehow felt right to find myself playing a bit of Roman Army golf up the stunning par-5 first… left, right, left, right…
1,954 years on, the ancient site now features a stunning golf course designed by acclaimed English architect Simon Gidman, a former President of the European Institute of Golf Course Architects.
Gidman, whose belief is that a golf course should be defined by the spirit of its landscape, has created a challenging layout meandering through spectacular topography and including some 80 bunkers, four major water features and undulating bent grass greens.
As you march out for battle at Centurion Club, you’ll soon find yourself playing from perfectly manicured and tight fairways, beautifully presented bunkers, giant rainforest-like trees and a links-style fescue grass used in the open rough.
However, the best feature of this course is the greens. They might be lightning fast, as reflected by my first de-green of the year at the par-4 third, but they’re incredibly pure. I also like how there’s a variation between both flat and two-tier greens.
At 7,200 yards from the back tees, the course comprises a fine set of diverse holes, both long and short, making it easy to get excited about Centurion Club.
The Woodland-style opening and closing few holes are juxtaposed tremendously with the middle stretch of holes which sweep outwards with elevated tee positions, providing spectacular views over the course.
The first five holes are sculpted into the mature St Albans woodland before the course opens out until the 14th hole onwards, which is said to provide a luxury close to the round.
This strict par-72 test comprises a plethora of water hazards and more than 80 bunkers to exam your technique throughout the round, with your last approach shot needing to avoid an imposing pond.
Signature hole: Par-5 18th
The juices might not get flowing until you march to the top of the hill at 18, but once you do, you’ll witness a terrific closing hole.
The drive itself is no easy bargain. Blind, OB left and right, and giant bunkers guarding the fairway. There’s plenty of room to thread a driver up there but you’ll need your Sunday best to get home in two, being careful to miss the giant lake to the right of the dancefloor.
If the pin is stuck back-right of the green, then playing safe down the left-hand side of the putting surface to avoid the drip and the front right greenside bunkers is a must.
With the greens running true there's always a good chance of holing a long one so play the hole with respect and you could reap the rewards.