Standing on the first tee at the Centurion Club on a bright November morning, it’s easy to forget that the course has only been in existence for just over three years.
Mature pines flank the hole and its left-handed dogleg is marked by oaks and sycamores decked out in a lustrous combination of autumnal hues.
‘Putt for dough’
Course designer Simon Gidman has been kind in allowing the first to feature a relatively friendly downhill fairway that is wide enough to forgive a little waywardness off the tee. Even a very average golfer such as myself stands a good chance of getting to the green without too many problems.
The greens themselves, though, are challenging for the uninitiated. Standing over my ball I’m put in mind of the South African golfer Bobby Locke, who famously pointed out: ‘You drive for show, but putt for dough.’
Locke, who was a golfing superstar in the 1940s and 1950s, was famed for his ability to read a green and he’d no doubt have relished the challenge of Centurion, whose putting surfaces are fast (even on a damp November morning) and feature seemingly innocuous inclines that gather up even slightly errant putts and carry them off into the middle distance.
After five elegant holes set within the woods, the course opens out into more of a heathland feel, with elevated tees to provide commanding views of the target area. Those vistas will change over time because the club has planted 30,000 mostly native trees and 5,000 gorse bushes to flank the holes.
These should also provide some shelter from a prevailing wind that rather savaged my own scorecard at the eighth and ninth, where one of the course’s four water hazards waits to catch any drives that drift to the left.
The water appears again at the splendid 12th, where a lake will embrace any shots that fall short of the green, before the course returns to a more wooded landscape for the final four holes.
The last of all weighs in at 559 yards off the back tees and lives up to its name of Ad Infinitum (all the holes feature Latin names in homage to the Roman heritage of the area). The large water feature that lies between the final green and the elegant modern clubhouse provides a good excuse to lay-up and play safe.