Dean Bailey returns to Centurion Park to find a course improving quickly
There has been a lot of change and at Centurion Park since my last visit. Today you’ll find a golf course which has come a long way in a short time thanks to the arrival of head greenkeeper John Grey, formerly of Middlesbrough Municipal.
The traditional English parkland course is improving week-on-week, the members tell me while walking the fairways, while the tall tress lining the fairways present a far sterner test at this 6,000 yard layout than they did back in 1973 when the course opened.
The two loops of nine here head off left and right as you cross the bridge from the clubhouse. The first is a tough opener with out of bounds left and trees close to the right edge of the fairway. Play just left of the fairway bunkers to leave a mid-iron to a green guarded by two large bunkers.
The second and third, 429 yards and 376 yards respectively, are both tough driving holes. At the second you must hit driver while avoiding the trees on both sides to have a chance of reaching the green, which is guarded by four bunkers and a steep slope to the right. Those taking driver at the third must find the correct line to left side to navigate the right to left dogleg through the corridor of trees.
The par four fourth will have a new green in 2019.
The par five fifth is the longest hole on the course at 528 yards from the back tee and will test the very best drivers with the left to right dogleg requiring length and accuracy to leave a chance of reaching the green in two. There are three bunkers on the corner of the dogleg to avoid, while the second shot is played to a generous fairway and green guarded by a bunker well short of the putting surface and another deep trap on the right side, which you can’t see from the fairway.
The 435-yard sixth is another tough driving hole, played through a corridor of trees to a green guarded by a small front bunker on the left side, which leaves a tricky up and down.
The short par four seventh and eighth holes, 300 and 285 yards respectively, offer a chance to improve your score – if played correctly. The tee shot at the seventh is more inviting than many of the previous holes but beware the severe slopes and undulations in this fairway. A large bunker protects the front of the green – which is the most undulating on the course. If you’re tempted to take on one of these holes, make it the eighth. If you fly it over the deep bunker short of the green, which is a must as it’s around 5ft deep, you have a great chance of an eagle putt with a generous, relatively flat green here.
Heading to the turn, the ninth is played as a short par four from the back tees and a mid-length par three from the yellows. Big hitters will again be tempted to drive the green as the lay up must flirt with a large cross bunker in the centre of the fairway as well as two deep bunkers at the front left and front right corners.
The birdie chances keep coming should you keep your ball out of the trees at the 482-yard 10th, which is within reach from the fairway. The second shot is uphill to a wide green though two bunkers are waiting at the front edge to catch any mishit approaches.
The par three 11th is a simple par three – play right to catch the slope and kick the ball onto the green while avoiding the bunker cut well below the putting surface on the left side. While many tee shots on the front nine require accurate drives, the back nine often requires precision over length. At the 12th you must choose the right club to make the corner – playing as far left as you dare – while avoiding running out of fairway on the right. The second shot here is short but uphill and must be well struck to reach the green.
The par three 13th got our pick for signature hole – see fact file.
The tough shots keep coming at the 14th, the toughest hole on the course at 435 yards. The fairway turns right as you reach the main landing area; from here you’re faced with a tricky approach to a green with a narrow entrance between two front bunkers – if you miss the green go left.
The par five 15th is a simple prospect if played correctly – and can make a mess of your card if not! Lay up from the tee at this 506-yard par five, playing to the widest part of the fairway on this right to left dogleg while avoiding the fairway bunkers and their steep faces. Next play short of the water hazard at the front of the green into the narrowest part of the fairway to leave an uphill pitch, which you must carry onto the green or risk running back down the slope into the burn.
The 16th is the best chance of a two here at just 152 yards with a small green guarded by two bunkers, while the 17th requires good course management – either lay back and left or go long and straight toward the fairway bunker to leave an angle through the trees to the green, which sits below the fairway with a deep bunker right and another smaller bunker left.
Total distance White tees – 6,031 yards
Yellow tees – 5,767 yards
Red tees – 5,463 yards
Features Floodlit driving range
Bar and lounge with catering
Caddy’s tip Work out your plan of attack before you head to the tee – the front nine requires good driving to find its narrow fairways and reach its long par fours while the back nine requires great course management from the tee to unlock good scores.
Signature hole The 13th may be a short par three at 160 yards, but it’s a very tough one. A water hazard runs the length of the hole on the right side, and within a yard of the green at the back right of the putting surface, while anything short will hit the slope and be sent toward the water. A confident shot is needed here.