Day 2 - Farmlinks
After the disappointing cardboard breakfast the day before and the upcoming golf marathon we had planned on day 2, we ate at one of Dink's favorite joints - the Waffle House. To keep our energy up for another 28+ holes of golf a good breakfast was important. Smothered, covered, chunked and dunked was deemed good enough. Farmlinks Golf Course is off the beaten path. How far? Have you ever heard of Sylacauga Alabama? OK you and Google Maps are the only two.
So why play a course that is so far off the path you have to have ask for directions when the GPS cannot find it. Just like any other course, it's there. Admittedly the draw to Farmlink's is the deal. For one price, $125, you get unlimited golf and a sit down lunch. Break that down. Sit down lunch would be about $15, snacks would be about $10, so if you just play two rounds that is only $50 each. Even Putts can do that math. ;) You are looking for Sylacauga on Google maps right now aren't you?
The story behind Farmlinks is they were a farm. They took a chance on growing grass, legal grass, different types of grass. Bermuda, tiff eagle, bent, diamond cut, blue, green, etc. Their goal is testing herbicides, fertilizers, irrigation, etc. They even get sponsors such as John Deere and Toro. My understanding is most if not all of their equipment is donated. Companies come in a test the products with their staff and the on site researchers to find out how to make the grass grow under all different types of conditions. The Parcell family that owns the farm are not golf people. But do not take that the wrong way. The Parcell family are farmers. Why is that important? Farmers are the definition of family. You are on their land. You are visitor at their place. Put it all together it spells h-o-s-p-i-t-a-l-i-t-y. First class southern hospitality.
The scenery driving up the mile and half driveway is gorgeous. Hills in the distance, pastures in the fore front, pecan trees, oak trees, creek, Alabama at its finest. The club house looked like your favorite rich uncles cabin. We stopped at the bag drop and a sharp dressed man named "Henry" welcomed us to Farmlinks. "Let me get your clubs, gentlemen. If you have you been here before, welcome back. If it is your first time, it will not be your last." Henry gave a little grin as he put our bags on the bag drop stand. He then asked which bag went with the golf cart driver. I said, "It's my turn today Henry. This bag." Henry told us to "park the car and mosey on into the clubhouse".
We moseyed into the clubhouse and felt very comfortable inside. The clubhouse was nice real nice. Hard wood walls, wood floors, stuffed animals on the wall, real manly, yet full of class. The Pro-shop, dinning room, and bar were all in one big room. The bar turned out to be a snack bar. No alcohol at Farmlinks. This truly is all about golf. The clerk behind the counter was just as nice as Henry. "Gentlemen you picked a fine day. We want you enjoy you visit today. We have you teeing off at 8:00. We will get you set with some soft drinks and snacks before you go. Then we expect you back here for lunch about 11:30-12:00. After your lunch, you are free to play the rest of the afternoon. Where are you from?" A different planet if you relate it to getting here. Smiling our host continued, "That's a fine place. You are all set gentlemen. Let me show you where your cart is waiting for you and point you to the driving range." We followed his instructions and found the cart.
My golf shoes were sitting on the floorboard of the cart. Why did I notice? They had been shined. That's right, shined. Hey Dink check this out. Henry shined my shoes while we were inside. Why didn't you tell him to do mine? Maybe you can leave them on the cart at lunch. Unparalleled service second day in a row.
We drove down to the range and noticed a group of golfers that looked like they just had just purchased their first set of clubs in the Pro-shop. Uh-O. We hit about a half a bucket of balls when we heard. "Good morning gentlemen my name is Mike." We introduced ourselves. "This is Dink, I am Putts." Mike said, "I am the starter here at Farmlinks. I would like to ask you guys for a few favors. Your tee time is just after this group you see here. (He points to the three stooges) They are not real good golfers. Just by watching you two warm up tells me you have played this game before. If you will oblige me and wait to tee off about 8:15 and allow them to get a hole or two ahead of you. There is a not another scheduled group to tee off until 8:45. I have instructed them to let you two play through on number 10. I would let you go out first, but you guys would catch the mowers. You catch the mowers you will be waiting. By delaying your start then letting you play through we should be able to accommodate everybody." I was amazed. A starter that cared. After I hugged Mike...no just kidding...I couldn't, Dink was already hugging him.
At 8:15 Mike returned from starting the stooges. "Gentlemen your up. If you will follow me I will take you to the first tee box." Mike stopped at the first tee box and gave us information of the course, the GPS system, and the smart cart. Dink and I had never been in a smart cart. "Gentlemen there are a few fairways that have been seeded and have been watered pretty good. We ask that you stay off the fairway on holes 8, 12, and 16. The tires will spread the seed to other areas we do not need seeded. If you happen to forget, the cart has been programmed to let you know of your mistake. I will leave you two to the course. Enjoy your day gentlemen."
The course was as advertised; quiet, plush, easy on the eyes. The tee boxes and fairways had different types of grass. The greens however were the same consistent grass. To the golf course aficionado this would seem to be a distraction. Trust me though, with the layout, the surroundings and the wildlife, the different grasses were unnoticed. What we did notice rather abruptly was on hole 8. We had started through the fairway to our tee shots. The golf cart lost power and came to a stop. "Putts what are you doing? I know I out drove you but that is no reason to to stop short." "Dink, it's the cart - it just quit."
I did what most people would do, I jammed on the accelerator a few times. I then checked to see if the Forward\Reverse switch had been moved. Everything checked out. Then...because I am a fast learner I glanced at the GPS screen. YOU HAVE ENTERED A RESTRICTED AREA. PLEASE RETURN TO THE CART PATH. The only option that got the cart moving again was to put it in Reverse. The only way it would move in forward again was when the cart was back on the cart path. Yeees...we "tested" the system again on 12 and 16.
The rest of day went as planned. We enjoyed our morning round of golf at a very good pace of play. The stooges let us play through on hole 6. We paced ourselves to not catch the mowers. We ate lunch at 11:30. Once again were treated to staff and a lunch that would make your grandmother jealous. We loaded back up on soft drinks and snacks from the snack bar before round 2. We were back on the course at 12:10. We enjoyed our afternoon round relaxed and unseen by any other golfer. Nothing like playing a great course with no distractions. Golf nirvana second day in a row, except this time it was legal.
64 holes completed in about 24 hours; we were done. We grabbed one more soft drink to choke down the Aleve. We grabbed a few snacks to put in the bag for tomorrows round. Bidding all the staff farewell was like telling family "see ya soon". We left the course at 4:00 headed for the Castle. Our experience at Farmlinks was first class.
We made it back to the Castle at Ross Bridge just as the sun was going down. We had moved to the balcony overlooking the pool and the landscape of the Hoover hills and enjoying the spring breeze. When suddenly we heard the most pleasant music a golfer could ask for...bagpipes. Below us was a bagpipe dude standing at attention in a full plaid kilt, white shirt, plaid hat, and everything else those guys wear. He started playing a little ditty (that's Scotish for 'warming up'). I do not know the name of the song, but if you have watched John Wayne and Maureen O'hara in The Quiet Man you have heard the song. The Quiet Man was directed by four or six time (depending on which website you go to) Oscar winner John Ford. It is not a western but it is still a darn good movie. When the bagpiper dude finished his ditty he slugged his whiskey set his glass down and fired up Amazing Grace. He started walking the grounds and played his bagpipes until the sun went down (nearly an hour).
We called the wives to let them know we were alive, safe, and our golf trip was going fine just fine.
To be continued...