At Barnsley Resort, the greens are fast and the pace delightfully slow

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The Jim Fazio-designed golf course at Barnsley Resort.
Courtesy Barnsley Resort
Godfrey Barnsley was in high cotton when he traveled north from Savannah to the Georgia high country in the late 1840s. There he would create a magnificent compound on 10,000 acres for the love of his life, Julia, and their eight children. The manor house, which he named Woodlands, included 24 rooms, a garden planted with every rose then known to exist, and the “unheard of convenience of hot and cold running water.” Several generations of Barnsleys raised their families on property, and across the decades it embodied the warm, welcoming feeling Godfrey had intended.
It wasn’t always rosy, however. There was the Cherokee curse, the Civil War ransacking and the massive tornado that tore the roof off the place. But throughout it all, grace and hospitality prevailed.
Those same qualities (minus the mayhem) pervade throughout Barnsley Resort in Adairsville, Ga., to this day. It’s a welcoming place that somehow feels familiar even if you’re visiting for the first time.
For golfers, the generosity begins with the spectacular Jim Fazio-designed course. The championship layout rolls over 378 acres and, with its slick greens and notable collection of par-3 holes, is consistently rated among the best in the state. It’s described as a “quasi-mountain course” with elevated tees, wildlife and splendid views that go on for miles. It’s also kept in remarkable condition.
But beyond the tee-to-green particulars, which are certainly worthy of exploring, the course and its surroundings tell a tale that’s hard to describe.
So, here’s David Friederich, president for Barnsley Resort, to give it a shot.
“I think storytelling is incredibly critical in the resort landscape,” he says. “People can have a nice piece of land or be in a geographically perfect location, but if there’s not really a story attached, then it only has one layer. This is a magical piece of property out here. The resort sits in sort of a little punch bowl in the foothills, which in and of itself makes it pretty magical. As the seasons change, you get to see the land here look entirely different.”
The magic at Barnsley is preached not just by Friederich, but by the 280 employees working every minute to make sure every guest experience is an extraordinary one.
“It’s a great honor to be responsible for such a tract of land,” Friederich says. “It creates memories for our guests today, but it’s attached to these stories of what made it so special back then. We’re not just selling a sleeping room and a function space. We try to use our landscape to create and curate authentic, unique, individual experiences.”
And that they do. You could spend a month here and still not be able to get to every activity offered at Barnsley Resort. The nature-inspired experiences alone will wear you out. From fishing to horseback riding to quail hunting, Barnsley takes full advantage of its surroundings. Throw in the Beretta Shooting Grounds, axe throwing and archery and you still haven’t scratched the surface. The sporting opportunities extend well beyond golf, with tennis, swimming and a cleverly designed disc golf course, just to name a few.
It sounds very busy, and make no mistake, the internal work involved in running all this activity is brisk. But they make it look easy and, more importantly, they make you feel like it all happens so naturally. There’s no rush at Barnsley Resort.
“We want you to understand just exactly how relaxing our property can be,” says Friederich. “You can connect with yourself, with nature and with whoever you might be traveling with. You can be totally undistracted, except for the things that you choose to be distracted by.”
There are some great options to distract which don’t involve physical effort. Chief among those is The Spa at Barnsley Resort. Talk about relaxing, the warm Bamboo Massage is good for whatever ails you. They actually grow their own luffa gourds on property.
It’s only fitting that the resort features a surprise Meditation Garden for guests who want to really immerse themselves in the Barnsley bliss. It’s a vast grassy space enclosed by muscadine grapevine and 30-foot bamboo stalks. It’s the perfect spot to contemplate that five-foot par putt you missed on 18.
Once you’ve mentally sorted out your bogey, it’s time to head back to your room to clean up for dinner. Accommodations range from the 55-room inn to a collection of stand-alone cottages arranged along winding lanes designed to resemble a small English village and further encourage the hospitality central to Barnsley’s DNA.
“We have 13 fire pits around the grounds,” Friederich says. “And at nighttime, you find people gathering around them and just talking. That’s why the village was designed that way. You end up connecting with those people. You want to know your neighbor. They’re having an experience. You’re having one. And you get that moment to capture it and share it during your time here.”
Currently there are three main restaurants on property, each with its own unique offerings. The Beer Garden is a come-as-you-are open-air joint with picnic tables and local brews on draft. Woodlands Grill overlooks the Fazio course and serves up amazing steaks and other signature dishes (don’t miss the deviled eggs!). The Rice House offers a garden-to-table selection of Southern dishes you will not soon forget.
As amazing as everything is — Barnsley celebrates its 25th anniversary this year — there are big plans on the horizon thanks to its recent acquisition by South Street Partners, the group behind such developments as Kiawah Island Club, The Cliffs and Palmetto Bluff. Among other things, they’ll be increasing capacity at the inn, renovating the restaurants and cottages, installing a resort-style pool and lazy river and developing real estate. There are even rumors of another golf course.
Rest assured no amount of expansion will change the ethos of Barnsley’s dedication to experiential hospitality.
“We get to create,” says Friederich. “Every day we feel like we’re artists out here. We have a canvas to paint, and we get to go to work every day in this environment. That’s critical to connecting with our guests.
So, if you happen to be heading to Augusta for the Masters, do yourself a favor and take a detour north into the high country for a round at the Fazio course or a pint at Woodlands Grill or a stroll through Old Man Barnsley’s splendid gardens. The Manor House ruins are still there, and legend has it that Julia’s ghost appears from time to time. Don’t worry about that though, she’s friendly too.

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