The Bagpiper at Spanish Bay: An Unforgettable Pebble Beach Tradition

The silhouetted bagpiper against a brilliant sunset-splashed sky is an unmistakable Spanish Bay image.

But how did it come to be? A brief history:

The inspirational bagpipe is the national instrument of Scotland, proudly embraced by Highlanders since the 1400s. Bagpipes soon replaced trumpets to motivate and lead Highlanders into battle. Their shrill and penetrating sound stood out above the roar of battle, carrying a tune that could be heard from 10 miles away.

The sound became so fearsome during the Highlander uprisings of the 1700s that London actually passed an Act of Parliament, declaring the bagpiper to be a weapon. Carrying one became a penal offense.

Today, the playing of the Scottish Highland Bagpipes is a welcomed tradition. The unique instrument is at the heart of Scottish culture:

The three pipes that rise out of the instrument create a constant sound, with a fourth pipe holding nine holes for chord and pitch changes. The bags are usually made of sheep or elk skin and fill with air, which is then pressed by the arm to push the air through. The sound is undeniable when heard and evokes a sense of time-honored tradition for those who love the music of the Scottish Highlands.

The bagpiper has also become a beloved tradition at The Links at Spanish Bay. When building the Scottish-style course — the first of its kind in America — Tom Watson (a five-time British Open champion) reflected one day after surveying the transformed dunescape:

“Spanish Bay is so much like Scotland, you can almost hear the bagpipes.”

By the time Spanish Bay opened in 1987, you could. Inspired by Watson’s observation, it was natural to marry the uniquely Scottish experience of playing a seaside links-style course with the national instrument of The Home of Golf.

Happy Hour, Spanish Bay style. Happy #weekend! #WeekendReady #MyPebbleBeach 🎶

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The bagpiper was soon scheduled for daily twilight performances, and it was adapted as the logo of both the course and the Inn at Spanish Bay.

The relaxing and nostalgic performance is now a standalone attraction for guests, visitors and locals alike.

A rotation of six esteemed bagpipers play every night — starting around 5:45 p.m. during Daylight Savings, and a half hour before sunset during the winter months.

Two of the bagpipers have played at Spanish Bay ever since it opened on Nov. 5, 1987 — Mike Gillen and Missy Olson.

Playing at Spanish Bay is a special tradition for Missy Olson, as she has now been joined in the bagpiper rotation by two of her children: her daughter Lane Olson, and son Charles Ables.

It’s a girl this year! Made my day. I’m thankful for her & her talent #bagpiper

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Clad in the vibrant garb and regalia of a Scottish Highlander — accented by that colorful tartan kilt — the bagpipers begin their daily performance with a 10-minute session outside the fire pits at STICKS on the first tee of Spanish Bay.

Love you to the moon @socalialli Live in this moment! #allmyexs #girltalk

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They then play while marching down the first fairway, serenading golfers finishing their afternoon rounds, before hooking around to the second green by the fire pits outside the lobby at The Inn at Spanish Bay. (The bagpiper will play rain or shine on the patio by the lobby.)

Bagpipes + sunset + cigars on 18 = great success. @ciaramburton @burto34 @betsyburtondesign

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The performance lasts about 45 minutes, and is a charming introduction to a lovely evening at Spanish Bay.

So grab a drink and relax outside by the fire pits at STICKS or the lobby patio.

Or catch the bagpiper before a dinner reservation at STICKS, Roy’s at Pebble Beach or Pèppoli.

The bagpiper is an unforgettable Spanish Bay experience you won’t want to miss.


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