SYLACAUGA, Ala. -- Back in the day, when I used to cover the turfgrass industry, I made several trips out to Pursell Farms and FarmLinks Golf Club in Sylacauga, Ala., just southeast of Birmingham. It's one of the most unique settings I've ever been to, not just because the golf course was a living laboratory for golf course equipment, products and superintendents, but because of the hospitality.
We throw around that word a lot, and in the South, hospitality is usually a given. And if I said they treat you like family at FarmLinks, which they do, that would be an understatement. Because as we all know, families aren't always congenial, but at FarmLinks, you're treated so well you wonder if there's an ulterior motive. There isn't.
I love the way they do business here. The golf is a flat rate, and you can play as much as you want. Included are breakfast, lunch and non-alcoholic drinks, on or off the golf course. But the meals aren't just usual golf course fare; it's true Southern homestyle cooking, done like your grandma would have done it, and served pretty much the same way. (Yes, cheese grits at breakfast.) Fresh vegetables from the garden, terrific steaks and desserts -- it's all good.
They treat you like they've known you all your life, whether it's in FarmLinks' fantastic clubhouse, on the course or back at one of the cabins they have for visitors who stay overnight. We even had a meal cooked in our cabin tonight -- pecan-crusted chicken, potatoes au gratin and a giant piece of chocolate cake.
And speaking of the cabins, those are a fairly new addition. The Masters cabins we stayed in even have their own chipping and putting green, in Augusta-like condition, which should be as no surprise given the resources and drive to excellence here. Because FarmLinks, at its core, is still a testing ground for the latest and greatest in turf products. Couple that with a top notch maintenance staff, and you get golf course conditions that are unsurpassed.
Which brings me to the golf course, a wonderful Mike Hurdzan-Dana Fry design that opened in 2003. They had the state amateur here a few weeks ago, and in many circles, FarmLinks is considered the best golf course in Alabama. It would be hard to argue against that, given the collection of holes.
It's known for a couple of incredible par 3s, the fifth and the 17th, which both play from highly elevated tees, but there's really not an uninteresting hole on the golf course. And even though the course features a variety of grasses -- with perfect bentgrass greens and playing conditions -- the different turf spieces are hardly noticeable.
There's other stuff to do here, too, like fish and trap shooting. We did the latter today. I haven't fired a shotgun in 20 years, but I had a blast (literally) trying to hit those moving targets. It was harder than golf, by the way.
In the end, though, I still couldn't help but think about the hospitality, how you're just as likely to be greeted by owners as you are the help, and how their well wishes are always genuine. It should come as no surprise given their outside altruistic efforts; they're just good people. Even without that, though, FarmLinks is worth the trip. But add in the good vibe you get here, and the FarmLinks experience should be on every golfer's bucket list.
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