In central Alabama, about halfway between Birmingham and Auburn, an unlikely meetings venue spreads across a 3,500-acre family farm in Sylacauga. Pursell Farms and its highly regarded 18-hole FarmLinks Golf Club trace their origins to the boyhood vision of David Pursell, who grew up on the property.
Raised in a family with a large fertilizer business and an avid golfer from a young age, Pursell walked the family farm many times and envisioned a golf course that would accentuate the rolling Appalachian foothills that grace the property. After graduating from Auburn University and taking over the family business, he put a plan in place to build the course. He also built high-tech meeting facilities and gracious accommodations in order to host those customers over several days.
Today, Pursell Farms and FarmLinks continue that mission to some degree, but the full-service resort’s business has been expanded to that of a full-fledged meeting facility.
“The family sold the fertilizer business several years ago, and today we offer hospitality for meetings and events of all types,” said Joy Donehoo, director of sales for Pursell Farms. “Depending on the configuration and what the group needs, an ideal size for us would be 35 to 40 people. The great thing about Pursell Farms is that a group that size can basically take over all 3,500 acres of the property.”
Pursell Farms has broadened its guest activities to become more attractive to the nongolfers in many groups.
“Golf remains our most popular activity,” said Donehoo. “We’ve been rated the best public play course in Alabama three of the past four years. Our second-most-popular activity is five-stand skeet shooting, and after that, I’d say our cooking classes. We have groups do full meals where a few do the appetizers, others do the main course, and others the dessert. Those have been a big hit for us.”
The resort has several lodging options, including cabins, cottages and small lodges. Donehoo assigns groups their accommodations based on size and interests.
“If someone tells us, ‘We have a group of 20 coming in,’ we’ll put them over on Masters Row, where they can have four cottages and one cabin with their own putting green,” she said. “They have patio space there for an outdoor reception, or we can do a fish boil there just for them.
“If someone is coming in with a dozen people, maybe a board retreat or something that size, we might put them in Parker Lodge. It has its own boardroom, a billiards room and kitchen. The view from the deck overlooks the 17th green on the course.”
Come for the Golf
As the name suggests, FarmLinks Golf Club was built on former Alabama farmland and is a central feature for many corporate outings at Pursell Farms. Winner of Golfweek’s No. 1 all-access golf course in the state of Alabama three of the past four years, FarmLinks offers players a nationally known layout to enjoy.
The links course is impeccably manicured and features several holes that play from elevated tees in the upper reaches of central Alabama’s Appalachian foothills. Most fairways are wide and unforgiving, making the course a good option for groups with mixed handicaps.
Meeting groups may play using standard tee times or have the pro shop manage a best-ball outing, if they prefer. The course is closed on Mondays for maintenance.
Solutions Made Easy
The Solutions Center at Pursell Farms is designed for groups of 50 or fewer who want to use a high-tech classroom environment to tackle problems. The 4,712-square-foot facility offers touch-screen audiovisual controls, large plasma screen televisions and a high-definition 1,080-pixel screen for presentations. The theater adapts easily into a focus group room, and three video cameras allow for taping and reviewing meetings and presentations. An outdoor pavilion is attached.
Another meeting venue that meeting groups use is the Technology Loop Building, a 2,172-square-foot, two-story facility that features large meeting rooms and breakout rooms equipped with laptop connections, plasma screens and wireless broadband. An outdoor patio is attached.