I was around Danny Spybey for only three days. In that time he caught a 10-pound bass; shot a one-under 71 on a tough golf course; prepared a spread of local strawberries and asparagus, plus crab cakes and grilled beef medallions for a poolside dinner; and shared stories about his days as a caddie for PGA golfer John Daly.
Spybey, operations manager and executive chef at Stewart Lodges in Loxley, Ala., is one of several big personalities at this executive retreat near Mobile, Ala. The resort’s fishing guides and golf professionals are in the same category.
As a result, a hospitable, distinctly Southern “Roll Tide” affability permeates Stewart Lodges and becomes one of the drawing cards for meeting groups.
“We had 30 attorneys and spouses here last week,” said CEO Jennie Campbell when I visited in April. Campbell ran her own meeting planning company in New Orleans before being coaxed into managing Stewart Lodges. “We had about 60 in all for three days and two nights. They needed lots of privacy for meetings between general partners and junior partners. While the attorneys held meetings in the clubhouse, we took their spouses to Fairhope for lunch and then to the pool for the afternoon.
“They had dinner one evening at the clubhouse for the entire group, and we did a more formal dinner for them the second night here in one of the lodges,” said Campbell. “Some of them played golf, others fished, and we had a lot of runners as well. They loved running here because it’s so private and there’s no traffic.”
There is no traffic because Stewart Lodges is remote. Halfway between Mobile and Pensacola, Fla., the resort has emerged over the past few years from what was a private country club.
It now includes two large lodges that combined offer 20 private rooms with baths. The lodges are joined by a pool complex equipped with a kitchen and patio seating. Additional guests stay in onsite condominiums.
Through an arrangement with Steelwood Country Club, on whose property Stewart Lodges operates, the small resort offers meeting planners use of both lodges, the club’s 200-acre freshwater lake, its Jerry Pate-designed championship golf course and its members’ clubhouse.
I visited Stewart Lodges with a group of golf writers and played the Steelwood course twice. Four sets of tees allow golfers to play the course anywhere from 5,102 to 7,096 yards in length. Play is limited on this private course, so it has a wonderful pace and is a first-class golf environment.
The course was carved from acres of Alabama hardwood and pine forests. The 18th hole is a long par 5 that follows the shoreline of the lake that many groups enjoy for fishing.