Almost a decade after it opened its doors for the first time, Centurion Club is preparing for by far the biggest fortnight in its relatively brief history.
The eyes of the golfing world will be trained on the exclusive St Albans venue from 9 June when it stages the inaugural LIV Golf Invitational, the debut tournament of the new Greg Norman-fronted, Saudi-backed, big-money series aiming to shake up the professional game.
If that were not enough, just days later Centurion will host the London leg of the Aramco Team Series, the innovative and lucrative string of tournaments featuring some of the biggest names on the Ladies European Tour.
“It’s a huge year for the club, having two events back to back,” Centurion’s general manager Michael Duffy tells City A.M.
“The first of the LIV events, and the significance around that, and the second year of the Aramco Team Series and what that’s doing for LET golf. It’s a huge year for the club and really the next step in its evolution
“I think it brings an element of kudos to the club. We believe the golf course is worthy of these type of events, and those events coming to the club validates that.
“It gives the members a sense of pride and it encourages other people to join, because people want to play where the professionals play.”
Staging elite competitions is not new for Centurion – it hosted men’s European Tour events in 2017 and 2018 and the Aramco Team Series last year – but next month is on another level.
The private club is in the thick of preparing to welcome thousands of spectators, swathes of media from around the globe and some of the game’s very best players.
“The build for both events is on a very large scale. Compared to last year’s Aramco Team Series, the LIV event is bringing another dynamic,” says Duffy.
“I’m sitting here looking at a huge media centre being built. That gives you an idea of the interest that there is going to be.
“The hospitality structures that are being built around the site, and facilities being built out on the golf course as well – every green will have a television camera on it.”
Centurion Club opened in 2013 but has already seen significant change, mostly on the Simon Gidman-designed course, where 37,000 trees and shrubs have transformed the backdrop as they have grown.
“I would say the course is maturing very nicely since I came here in 2015,” says Duffy. “The rough is one of the biggest challenges, with the growth that you have come April, May, June. It gets thicker and there’s more of a premium on hitting the fairway because if you get into the rough you could be in difficulty.”
It is in many ways a very modern golf club, with a deliberately more relaxed approach that stands in stark contrast to some more traditional but stuffier venues.
“Being a new club, we had an opportunity to do things slightly differently,” says Duffy. “People don’t necessarily want to be part of a golf club that has a lot of rules and committees.
“We decided to set up a club without any committees, captains or presidents, and we’ve been told people like the relaxed atmosphere. People respect the very few rules we have and everybody gets on very well.”
That willingness to embrace change makes Centurion a fitting partner for the LIV Golf Invitational and the Aramco Team Series, which both showcase innovative formats.
“You can choose to be part of something different and see what that brings,” says Duffy. “These are an exciting few weeks in the world of golf and we have an opportunity to be part of that new experience. We’ll see where it goes.”
Centurion’s increasing prominence on the men’s and women’s calendars is already proving a major boost to the club’s ambitions of growing its profile – and membership – globally.
“Definitely we have seen an uplift in the number of enquiries from around the world of people interested in membership and we have had a number of people join recently,” says Duffy.
“Television coverage increases awareness of the club and gives people an opportunity to see it who wouldn’t necessarily see it. You do find you will have an increase in interest in the club which will ultimately translate into people joining.
“We want to have a club that the members are proud to belong to and like coming to, that they will remain members for a long time and bring friends and family as well.
“In terms of promoting the club, we are looking at doing this on an international scale. [The ambition] is to build the reputation and image of Centurion, and one way of doing that is through events.”