PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- The haunting tone of a bagpipe floats in on the breeze behind the Inn at Spanish Bay.
It gets stronger as a bagpiper in a traditional Scottish kilt walks up the first fairway of The Links at Spanish Bay, then fades away as he disappears behind a dune.
A crowd of people huddling around fire pits on the patio of the lobby bar has been waiting for this moment, a popular daily ritual at dusk. Some snap pictures as the piper stands atop a dune next to the second green; others revel in the music by swaying side to side almost in a trance.
This scene plays out nightly at Spanish Bay and other U.S. courses and resorts committed to giving their golfers and guests a little taste of the Auld Sod of Scotland. Golfers don't have to fly across the pond to hear "Scotland the Brave." They can pencil in rounds or dinner at these nine premier destinations -- including Spanish Bay -- where men in skirts are the show-stopping stars, not a freak show.
At the Half Moon Bay Golf Links, for example, the sunset bagpipes accentuate an already stirring finish on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific.
"If you play near sunset," wrote one GolfAdvisor reviewer. "The Bagpipes send chills down your spine. Play this course."
Renaissance Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa, Hoover, Ala.
The music started the day the 259-room megaresort and adjacent Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail course opened in 2005. The bagpiper plays every night at sunset, starting on the first tee and working his/her way around the resort.
At 8,191 yards, Ross Bridge is one of the longest courses in the world. Not even the Champions Tour players dared to go back to the tips during the Regions Charity Classic from 2006-10. Ten holes skirt two artificial lakes. An 80-foot water feature spills between the ninth and 18th greens from a grist mill built to celebrate the area's mining history.
Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay in Half Moon Bay, Calif.
The bagpipes heard wafting across the Ocean Course and Old Course at Half Moon Bay Golf Links are actually coming from the on-site Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay, a luxurious retreat on the cliffs of northern California's rocky coast. The piper, a tradition since the hotel opened in 2001, plays Wednesday through Sunday (and every other Tuesday) year round. The piper begins his nightly walk at the front of the hotel near the first hole of the Ocean and ninth hole of the Old and continues around the hotel until finishing at the Ocean Lawn adjacent to the finishing hole on the Old. When the gloomy marine layer rolls in, guests are almost magically transported to St. Andrews.
Sea Island Resort, St. Simons Island, Ga.
The veranda behind The Lodge is the place to be at dusk every night on Sea Island, located about an hour north of Jacksonville, Fla. People love the drinks being served and the views of the water, of course, but it's the bagpiper who draws the crowd. The bagpipes became a tradition in 2001 when the five-star Lodge opened. Every day, no matter the weather, the bagpiper wanders near the 10th fairway of Sea Island's Plantation Course and the putting green, starting the performance somewhere between 5-7 p.m. depending on the season, and playing for about an hour. The melodic sounds ride the breeze off of the ocean, carrying to players on the nearby range and chipping green.
The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa in Scottsdale, Ariz.
A program using a bagpiper to honor the contributions of Scottish immigrants in the development of the state's railroads, mines and towns has become so popular that the tradition continues a decade after it started at the 54-hole resort in the Arizona desert. Each evening all year round, guests gather around the fire pit at the Resort's Dreamweaver's Canyon patio to enjoy the "Scottish Pipes at Sunset" series. Master bagpiper Michael McClanathan (or another piper) plays for about an hour, standing just at the edge of the finishing hole of Kierland's Acacia Course.
SunRidge Canyon Golf Club in Fountain Hills, Ariz.
This Keith Foster design is best known for its "Wicked Six" finishing holes, one of golf's best nicknames for a stretch of holes. Ongoing changes have made SunRidge Canyon more playable. In 2015, a bagpiper started performing Fridays at sunset at the fire pit outside of the Wicked Six Bar & Grill. Note that sunset times change as days become shorter/longer, so call ahead for start times based on the time of year. Arrive early because seats fill up quickly.
Arcadia Bluffs Golf Club in Arcadia, Mich.
Arcadia Bluffs Golf Club might be closest thing to a true links than any other course in this story, thanks to its dunes along Lake Michigan and sod-wall bunkers. Bagpiper Stephen MacNeil plays for approximately two hours four nights a week (Tuesday, Friday-Sunday) from June 1-Sept. 30. The performance ends with a stirring rendition of "Amazing Grace" as the sun crashes into the water.
Ballyowen Golf Club at Crystal Springs Golf Resort in Hamburg, N.J.
Ballyowen Golf Club, a Roger Rulewich design that some consider the best public course in the state, works overtime to promote its links theme, despite a layout that has too much water to be a pure experience. A virtually treeless site and endless acres of fescue do fit the links profile, though. Men wearing kilts greet golfers at the bag drop. Later, the day finishes with a show from bagpiper Brian Hahn, who plays for about 20 minutes at 6 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday all summer long. When his season starts and ends depends on the weather. He has started playing as early as March 16 and as late as May 1 and his performances are reduced to weekends in the fall. His songs, played while standing between the clubhouse and 18th green, can be heard by golfers out on the course from the fourth hole to the final green.
The Golf Club at Newcastle in Newcastle, Wash.
Bagpiper Neil Hubbard performs at dusk from May 1 to Sept. 30 at this 36-hole semiprivate club with views of the Seattle skyline, Mount Rainier and the Cascade and Olympic mountains. The spectacular 44,000-square-foot castle clubhouse sits high on the ridge, overlooking the difficult Coal Creek Course. Dinner reservations fill up around the time Hubbard plays, so book early. General Manager David Uchida said hiring a bagpiper is well worth the cost because it's "another differentiator" that impresses customers.