On a recent golf trip to Alabama I had the opportunity to visit the beautiful and expansive Pursell Farms Resort just 15 minutes outside the town of Sylacauga. Turning off of Talladega Springs Road onto wood-fenced lined FarmLinks Boulevard brings with it a warm welcome and a sense of entering a downhome preserve of peace and tranquility. Pursell Farms is a one-of-a-kind destination set in this extraordinary 3,200 acre enclave of mother nature. There are pastures where Longhorn cattle graze before passing through stands of tall pine trees and one of Pursell’s best fishing spots-Lake Christine.
This unique boutique resort is the result of a life well-lived by patriarch Jimmie Pursell, who was introduced to his wife Christine by boyhood friend Jim Nabors, a native son of Sylacauga. Surprise, Surprise, Surprise! That’s right the same person who starred in the title role in Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C. was the best-man at their wedding and performed at the grand opening of Pursell Farms’ new golf course, FarmLinks, in 2003, and was a lifelong friend of the family. After marriage and serving his country in the United States Air Force, Jimmy joined his father-in-law in the fertilizer business in 1955, selling Sta-Green fertilizers to lawn and garden shops. Over the years the company grew and was fortunate to be near the National Fertilizer Development Center(part of the Tennessee Valley Authority) which created a new slow release product called POLYON in Muscle Shoals.
At the turn of the century, Jimmy and son David decided the best way to sell their new fertilizer to golf course superintendents was to actually show them how it worked in a real-life situation. They decided to build an experimental test golf course where their product would be used on different grasses side-by-side the competitors. Nothing like this existed before, and as far as I know, there hasn’t been one built since. In keeping with Christine’s love of the farm and its natural flora and fauna, they enlisted Dr. Michael Hurzdan and Dana Fry, a successful duo of golf course design very considerate of the environment. The three story, 14,000-square foot Parker Lodge was built, hidden in the forest and overlooking the beautiful par 3, 17th green and Lodge Lake. It included 8 deluxe guest suites, a great room, game room, full kitchen and large dining rooms. With a majestic stone fireplace and space for meetings, it was the perfect place to house a small group of customers.
From 2003 when FarmLinks golf course opened, Pursell Farms has hosted over 10,000 golf course superintendents and other potential buyers to The Experiment… as it was called. In 2016, the fertilizer company was sold. What to do with this magnificent golf course and Lodge on this pristine property?
Today, this sportsman’s paradise offers a complete array of activities to entertain their guests while staying in the relaxed luxury of the beautifully appointed accommodations:
The Parker Lodge is available to small groups and must be rented as one unit.
Masters Row Cabins and Cottage features 4 cabins named for winners Hogan, Sarazen, Nelson and Snead and the cottage named for Bobby Jones which includes a full kitchen. These five can each house 4 guests comfortably and overlook the 11th fairway with their own putting green and chipping area, plus a golf cart for each guestroom while staying. There are pencil drawings from David Pursell, a prolific artist in his own right, in each of the units as well as in the Butler Cabin at Augusta National and the Clubhouse at St. Andrews, Scotland.
Overlooking the par 5, 18th fairway are two Architect Circle Cottages named Ross and MacKenzie, with four guests rooms each, a spacious great room with generous seating around a stone fireplace, large dining table and kitchen. Again golf carts for each guestroom.
Historic Hamilton Place Home is a Greek Revival-style restored house originally built in 1852 and previous home of Jimmy and Christine Pursell. It is listed on the National Register of Historical Places. There are two bedrooms, a living room, dining room, kitchen and 12 ft. wide “dog trot hall” rented as one unit, often used for bridal parties.
The oldest home on property is the Orvis Farmhouse, meticulously restored with 19th century antiques, has a kitchen, dining, living and 3 guest rooms.
I stayed in the latest addition at Pursell Farms, the Inn, a three story stone structure built into the side of a hill and tucked away amongst a forest overlooking the golf course. and the foothills of Talladega Mountains. With 40 beautifully appointed rooms, a fitness center, meeting space, a bocce ball court, swimming pool, the Inn is the gathering center for families, company outings, golf groups and wedding parties. It has the fine dining experience at Arrington, and Old Tom’s Pub, a Scottish-American Gastropub complete with Nabors’ own pool table.
Pursell Farms has one of only three Orvis sporting locations in the country, where sportsmen can enjoy hunting, fishing, sporting clays, wing shooting schools in a richness of antebellum tradition with a modern touch of design and class.
There is nearly three miles of biking and walking trails that meander through the property. You can rent John Deere Gators for a UTV Mountain Experience to explore trails and ride up Sulphur Mountain.
For a little personal pampering, guests can make an appointment at The Spring House Spa near Hamilton Place that has three spacious treatment rooms and a professional staff. Speaking of Hamilton Place, they have a new state-of-the-art entertainment venue for large weddings built in the similar style as the Home with catering kitchen, large gardens for outdoor receptions and a 3,500 square foot room for weddings with additional 800 feet of all glass patio area.
The FarmLinks golf course has been chosen the #1 “Best Courses You Can Play” in Alabama for 8 years by Golfweek Magazine. The 7,444 yard, 18 hole layout is a diverse assortment of challenging holes, par 3’s with dramatic elevation changes and spectacular views of the meadows and mountains surrounding the property. Tees are signified by names: Longhorn for the tips; Copperhead at 6,970 yds; Whitetail at 6457; Bobcat at 5,919; and Quail at 5,250; Most of the fairways have spacious landing areas and the greens are quick with subtle breaks. A couple of unique touches include an old Farmall tractor near the clubhouse and driving range, a tire swing near the 15th hole and a couple of pollinator plant patches sprinkled throughout the course. The signature hole is #5, a 201 yard par 3 from the tips with a 175 foot drop to a smallish green with a bunker on the left. I really enjoyed my day on the FarmLinks. This place should be on your bucket list for top courses to play.
To find our more about this beautiful boutique resort or make a reservation go to PursellFarms.com