An extraordinary story of success, innovation, and reinvention.


OUTSIDE BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA: You may remember the famous United Airlines commercial from 1989 when the boss handed out airline tickets to visit clients in person because the sales team had “lost touch” with their client base. Today, email and texting have replaced faxes in business communications, but the power and effectiveness of human connection has never been more important.

Pursell Farms is an ideal destination to connect with family, friends, and business associates. With all activities onsite—and little else around—you and your guests can bond and look each other eye to eye instead of relying solely on digital communication.

The resort is about an hour’s drive from Birmingham and the Talladega Speedway (which can draw up to 175,000 NASCAR fans on race weekends). The Hurdzan-Fry design has been ranked Golfweek’s No. 1 all-access Alabama golf course for the past decade. It is a noteworthy honor, considering the 11 golf courses that pepper Alabama, which comprise the popular Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, established by the state retirement fund to generate tourism tax dollars.

The Connoisseurs of Manure

 The story of the Pursell family and their highly successful business in fertilizers begins more than a century ago. “I was the youngest of three siblings,” recalled David Pursell, CEO/Co-Founder of Pursell Farms. “My parents weren’t overly strict, but we were a cohesive family that valued hard work. My first job at age 12 was shoveling cotton seed, making a ‘robust’ $0.50 per hour. Looking back at my productivity, I probably was overpaid for actual work completed!”

After attending Auburn University, David entered the family business. “For generations, we were known as the connoisseurs of manure,” recalled Pursell. “Although I was the only golfer among us, our golf division was an important revenue division. Golf course superintendents gravitated to our higher margin fertilizers and valued the aesthetics of application.”

A Brilliant Marketing Program

 The impetus behind the resort began with a creative sales plan to invite golf course superintendents to a three day, all expenses paid soiree that blended education and entertainment with the ultimate goal to grow the business. The Hurdzan-Fry golf course was utilized as a living laboratory to allow superintendents to see for themselves the benefits of Pursell branded fertilizer.

“Over the years, we had 10,000 superintendents partake in the offer. Typically, they were guarded during day one,” described Pursell. “On day two, they were receptive to hearing our sales pitch, and on the final day, many felt like an extended family with bear hugs all around. The closing rate was an incredible 90 percent, more than justifying the cost of the invites. Our mantra was ‘I heard, and I forgot; I saw, and I remembered; I did, and I understood.’”

Creating a Better Widget

The Pursell family was instrumental in creating one of the original formulas of time-released fertilizer. “It was a game-changer for us,” said Pursell. “Our team of scientists and researchers generated more than 100 patents and trademarks on sulfur-coated urea in what is a more sophisticated process than you might imagine. While we didn’t produce a huge quantity of the cutting-edge product, we held the recipe similar to the syrup that goes into Coca-Cola.”

The family received an unsolicited offer to purchase the company and, more importantly, its robust portfolio of patents.

“At first, we were hesitant,” continued Pursell. “After all, this was all our family knew for generations. But, to recite the famous phrase from The Godfather, we received ‘an offer we couldn’t refuse.’ After 24 months of due diligence, the deal was closed.”

With a reported nine-figure payday deposited in the bank after more than 50 years of involvement in the family business, David now faced a looming question: What’s next, if anything?

Weaponizing Southern Hospitality

“We could have retired,” conceded Pursell. “But that’s not in our DNA. Although we were no longer in the fertilizer business, we owned the highly-rated Hurdzan-Fry golf course and we knew how to effectively run a hospitality business from our hosting of thousands of golf course superintendents.”

At first, the golf course was open as a daily-fee facility. “The bottom line was cash flow didn’t cover operating expenses,” recalled Pursell.

In a quandary, David received an opportune call from Orvis. “They are also a family-owned and operated business, so the connection was instant,” said Pursell. “They explained that the Southeast is their core market, and when placing a finger on the map, Birmingham was the center of the bullseye. With our 3,200 acres of wilderness, a partnership seemed natural. The trust factor was mutual. So much so that our original agreement was crafted on the back of a napkin.

“I considered the call from Orvis a vote of confidence in what we wanted to offer and a blessing that they chose us. With our golf, spa, and shooting amenities, we now had the critical mass to support our 81 rooms, cottages, and cabins.

“I am a person of faith, and if you are familiar with scripture, you are encouraged to ‘show hospitality to strangers,’” concluded Pursell.

“I invite you to see what we have established and what five generations of family born in the Heart of Dixie have to offer.”

For information on seasonal packages, please visit PursellFarms.com.