Bagpiping & golf: the sounds of Scotland in the New World

Pebble Beach, CA

Pebble Beach, CA

On a windswept piece of landscaped rough, overlooking the Pacific Ocean and its pounding surf, as golfers and guests gather to wrap up their day and reminisce about their drives and putts, they witness a beautiful sight and sound as a bagpiper strolls along the fairway at sunset, playing the sun down with haunting airs and laments as waves crash below him.

Every night this iconic image of a piper along the shore takes place at the Pebble Beach Resort, The Inn at Spanish Bay – south of San Francisco. The top golf course resembles a Scottish-style links course but instead of bordering the North Atlantic, duffers enjoy theScreen capture from The Inn at Spanish Bay salty tang of the wild California coastline. Designed by Robert Trent Jr., Tom Watson and Sandy Tatum, the course is a natural beauty. For many of the guests, including golfers and diners, the piper closing down the day is the highlight of the evening. Setting down drinks near an outdoor fire, a setting western sky.  and what they have settled in to hear. In fact, a piper figures prominently in the golf courses logo.

In the US, seven golf courses are committed to providing guests with a taste of “auld Scotland”. Those courses include:

  • Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay in Half Moon Bay, Calif.
  • Sea Island Resort, St. Simons Island, Ga.
  • The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa in Scottsdale, Ariz.
  • Arcadia Bluffs Golf Club in Arcadia, Mich.
  • Ballyowen Golf Club at Crystal Springs Golf Resort in Hamburg, N.J.
  • The Golf Club at Newcastle in Newcastle, Wash.

Each of these golf courses has a piper play at some point during the evening throughout most of the spring and summer.  The Golf Club at Newcastle, WA General Manager David Uchida says hiring a bagpiper is well worth the cost because it’s “another differentiator” that impresses customers. And guests and reviewers on GolfAdvisor.com have glowing comments, including this comment about Spanish Bay: “If you play near sunset, the bagpipes send chills down your spine. Play this course.”

Andersons Creek Golf Club, PEI

Andersons Creek Golf Club, PEI

In Canada, PEI’s Andersons Creek Golf Club on the Island’s north coast has a piper play each day. This is a course designed by Graham Cooke and only minutes to the famous sand dunes of Cavendish. “We have people taking pictures with her (Piper Sarah Simpson)” says Ben King, director of golf at Andersons Creek. “Everybody seems to really enjoy it and they seem really interested in it. It’s really cool to see all the reactions to it.”

Of course, Canada’s #1 golf resort, the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge is also home to a resident piper.  Aside from these two, it appears that no other Canadian golf course has its own resident bagpiper, despite golf origins in the “old country” of Scotland many centuries ago.

There is a course in Canada called Piper’s Heath Golf Club near Mississauga, Ontario, which uses a stylized piper in its logo, but there no mention of a piper on its website, or in its

Piper's Heath Golf Club

Piper’s Heath Golf Club

photos. It has a Piper’s Pub, and even a golf deal called “Piperlicious” but alas, no mention of an actual bagpiper who plays at the course.

Not having a piper is often an economic decision, and hopefully not a “taste” decision. As Pebble Beach knows, a piper can be a draw for additional bums in the seats of restaurants at sundown, or a pleasant way to provide guests with a magical experience.  In BC, a piper would be perfect on the 14th hole at Furry Creek Golf Course, overlooking Howe Sound. Likewise, the Point Grey Golf & Country Club, where I have played for weddings in the past, is also ideally situated for an evening piper strolling the fairways towards the club house. With the Canadian Women’s Open wrapping up in Coquitlam recently, it’s always nice to look back and recognize where golfing began, and to acknowledge the link between Scotland and the new world with the ancient sound of a well played great Highland bagpipe.

About Mike Chisholm

Bagpiper, writer, fisherman and father born and raised in Nova Scotia, now living in Vancouver area.

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