Bringing Europe Home


I don’t know much about golf.  I know that it’s “a good walk spoiled.”  I know that my dad shot his age several times and made a hole in one twice, and that those are plaque-worthy accomplishments.  I know that golf originated in Scotland.  What I didn’t know is that there is a difference between a regular golf course and a “links course,” which my oldest son was astute enough to point out during our family’s visit to Spanish Bay at Pebble Beach, California.


The Pebble Beach website explains that “Links is an old Scottish word for sandy wasteland, usually near the sea, with bristly grasses and ever prevailing wind.” Thus, around five hundred years ago, the enterprising Scots found a sporting use for their sandy, salty-aired wasteland ridges and developed the game of golf.  The words “golf course” and “links” have been bandied about here in the U.S. until they have become almost interchangeable.  As I understand it and traditionally speaking, if a tract of land is buildable or farmable or fit for a multitude of uses, it can be developed into a golf course.  If it is good for absolutely nothing, except perhaps as the location for a sandy, windy, salty-aired picnic along the sea, it can become links.  But that’s just me.  What defines a true links course has become more elusive, and golfers, both expert and amateur, continue to debate the terminology in books and articles and over beers at the club.  It all boils down to opinion.  Some say that playing a links course has to do with the experience itself, and some maintain that this is an experience which can only be attained in the British Isles.


But maybe you don’t live down the bonnie lane from St. Andrews.  There are a number of links courses in the U.S., and two of them are in the Pebble Beach community:  the Pebble Beach Golf Links and the Links at Spanish Bay.  The Links at Spanish Bay course is relatively new to the game, having opened in 1987, and often gets lost in the shadow of Pebble Beach’s spotlight.  But the Spanish Bay links course was designed specifically to utilize the wind, the atmosphere, and the lay of the land to create a true links-style experience.  For those of you who care about such things (and if you do, you probably already know this), I will tell you that the Links at Spanish Bay was designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr., Tom Watson, and Sandy Tatum, who took great care in making it as authentically Scottish as possible.

But we didn’t go to Spanish Bay to golf.  We went there for the sunset and bagpipes.  Our day trip along the Pacific Coastal Highway ended with the Seventeen Mile Drive along the Monterey Bay peninsula and coincided—just barely–with the appearance of the 5:30 bagpiper at Spanish Bay.

We were also hoping to see a glorious sunset, since our drive along the coast consisted entirely of sunny, blue-skied weather and views like this.

And this.

When we arrived at Spanish Bay, however, a mantle of clouds had already enclosed the place with a cold misty gray, and the ambience was uncannily similar to that of the Scottish Highlands.

(Genuine Scottish Highlands)

We commandeered some seats on the benches around the outdoor fire pits where a crowd had gathered in anticipation of the bagpiper and the hidden sunset.  Waiters and waitresses took drink orders and passed around blankets to fend off the damp chill.  We chatted with the others who were gathered around the fire pit with us (and who, I suspect, were chagrined to see the previously empty spots become occupied by a family of six), but they warmed up to us as we all warmed up beneath blue flannel blankets.  One couple among us was there with their daughter and grandson, so that eased my comfort level.

Finally, the whining strains of the piper could be heard, and we saw his beanied head appear amidst the sandy wasteland and bristly grasses.

The Links at Spanish Bay employs the Scottish tradition of calling in the golfers at the end of the day by means of a roving bagpiper.  I’m not sure how effective it is for the golfers, but it is extremely effective in calling the guests and tourists to run hither with their cameras and ithings at the ready.

I took enough pictures, myself, to create my own flip book feature of the bagpiper.

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I was taken by this statue of a man and girl sitting on a bench.  I thought it was depicting some celebrity golfer and his granddaughter, but evidently it is not, and is called simply “A day in the park.”  If you’re in the neighborhood of Spanish Bay and have a few hours to spend, try cozying up on the benches around the fire pits in the park near the links while an honest-to goodness Scottish bagpiper entertains you.  You might even catch a sunset.

Want to know more?  This is what the PGA has to say:

Here’s a Wikipedia link to the Links, in the U.S. and elsewhere.


  1. I value the information on your web sites. Thanks a ton!

  2. Happy New Year to you, may 2013 be your year of happiness, love, and success..
    And thank you for keep following my blog. I hope my blog posts have been of any use to you. Many blessings and much love to you. 🙂

    Subhan Zein

  3. You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation
    but I find this matter to be really something that I think I would never understand.
    It seems too complicated and very broad for me. I’m looking forward for your next post, I will try to get the hang of it!

    • Oh, don’t be fooled, Zorgkiezer! I did a lot of research on this matter before I committed it to a post. But the beauty of the Links at Spanish Bay can be enjoyed by anyone, thankfully, and we were delighted to be able to spend a pleasant hour or two there.
      Thanks for stopping by, and welcome to my site!

  4. JRJ2015

    Dropping in to see how your doing 😉


    • It’s nice to have you drop by, JR–thank you! I’m taking a little break from the blogosphere these days; (I made my formal “farewell for a while” in my last post, “Petering Out”). But I’m so happy to see my blogging friends every now and then, so thanks again. 🙂 I hope that all is well in your world. Blessings to you, as well.

  5. How did I miss this post? While in grad school, I worked at the Ansel Adams Gallery that used to be in Spanish Bay. You brought back some fond memories… especially the bag piper walking over the hills. I used to love sitting out on the patio by the fire pits. Such a gorgeous spot. Great post!

    • So glad you liked the post, Linda, (especially since you’re both a nature mom and a California girl!) Now, may I say, Wow! An Ansel Adams Gallery at Spanish Bay–what a sweet job!

      • Yes, it was a lovely spot to work (both inside the gallery and out!). I feel very fortunate to have worked at the gallery while it existed (of course, the one in Yosemite Valley is still there!).

  6. Dana

    Thanks Robin for presenting such a fun, interesting and upbeat experience. Love the concept, love having access to beautiful places. THANK YOU!

    • Thank you, Dana, for such an upbeat comment! So glad you enjoy the blog.

  7. I like all the traditions about golf, and the bagpiper is just wonderful! And your pictures are beautiful 🙂

    • Thanks so much, Meg. I’m glad you like the pictures, even though they’re “Scottish Gray.”

  8. Gina

    interesting and pretty!

  9. Really interesting post!

    • I’m glad you thought so, Kenley. Thank you for your comment.

  10. TBM

    I didn’t know any of that. Pretty cool I should check out some courses in Scotland. I don’t play, but maybe it is time to pick it up.

    • Or, you could just take a good walk…and not spoil it. 😉

  11. Great post and what a fun little memory for your family! Tim is obsessed with golf and was supposed to go and play at Pebble Beach, etc. but it was right around Josh’s due date. I’m sure he’ll manage to get out there sometime! It looks beautiful and he loves “link” courses! 🙂

    • Well, Tim’s a lot closer to St. Andrews than he is to Pebble Beach, and St Andrews is the Mecca of links courses, is it not?! 😉

      • I asked him if he’s ever played at St Andrews and he said no and oddly didn’t seem that interested. Seems typical that when something is so close you take it for granted! He did say if he could play anywhere he’d like to play at Augusta! 🙂

  12. Neat post Robin! I am like you when it comes to Golf. R played for a while, but gave up when we moved here, too hot. Loved the pictures and the history Thanks

    • It’s awfully hot in Georgia and Florida during the summer, too, but those golfers still get out there. Don’t know how they do it (or why, really!). Glad you liked the post–thank you!

  13. I love this post! 🙂 Uta

  14. found this fascinating and the pics beautiful, bit every time I click on like the whole blog disappears . So take it as read that you have another like!

    • Oh, sweetie, I will gladly accept your like. Thank you!

  15. pattisj

    Great post! I like to hear bagpipes. There’s a fellow who plays in the neighborhood where we walk. Once in awhile, we get to hear him.

    • There’s a fellow down the street from us who plays bagpipes, too. Is there one in every neighborhood?

      • pattisj

        Must be!

  16. Who was the golfer who died 4 or 5 years ago and the bagpiper at his funeral emerged from the mist like a ghost?

    • That I do not know, Robin.
      Can anybody out there answer this question? Anybody?

  17. Thank you Robin, I didn’t know the difference between a golf course and links. Love the bagpiper calling. Good post.

    • I didn’t either, Valentina. The things I learn while writing a post!

  18. I’ve never been interested in golfing, yet I found your post very interesting and educational. I would have never know there was a difference between links and golf course.

    Love the photo, especially the two photos of Monterrey Bay. The landscape is really amazing along the Pacific Coast. I have some photos of the coast around Point Loma that I posted last summer before I had audience and after seeing your pictures here I think I might re-visit that post.

    • Thanks, Nicole. Glad you liked the post, and I’d love to see your Pacific Coast photos.

      • I’m definitely going to do a blog entry in the coming weeks with those photos.

  19. Looks like you have an ongoing theme here. Scotland and its beauty are something I’m yet to experience but no doubt it’s referenced here in the delightful traditions in the course. Sadly the closest I get to any sporting green is on the Wii, but I think kilted men with bagpipes is hilarious and we should write to Nintendo to include them next time…

    • Nothing says “Scotland” quite like a quilted man with a bagpipe.

  20. Lovely! I always assumed a links course was simply one by the seaside, where you have extra sea breezes to make the job of golfing even more challenging. Seaside courses are certainly very popular in the UK, but then we have a lot of coastline for the size of the place. Your day out looked very Scottish with swirling mists and the piper. I like your flip book feature too, that’s great!

    • Your assumption fits the tradtional definition of links, Lorna. But I understand that there are courses here that are inland and still call themselves links courses. I’m not one to debate it, though, which is why I opened my post with a disclaimer!
      It’s true, while we were disappointed to miss a sunset, the swirling mists did lend that Scottish atmosphere that made our visit extra memorable.

  21. elisaruland

    Is this the start of Scottish week? I hope so, I’ve never been and look forward to a visit through your posts!


    • Well, it was really a continuation of “finding European themes in California” month, with a detour to Scotland to enhance the mood. But, maybe I’ll hang in Scotland for another post, if I can swing it. 😉

  22. Interesting post Robin, and fitting to your earlier photo of the castle too! 😀

  23. cristinasandru

    Such an interesting place! There is a place of great natural beauty.Thanks for sharing!

  24. Amy

    A beautiful place to spend a day in park. Golf courses are fine, but it’s not environment friendly, they use too much fertilizer and water…

    • That might be one of the distinctions of links, at least traditionally–that they were left basically in their natural state. The Links at Spanish Bay does advertise that it takes care to protect the enviroment. My understanding is that one of the reasons they don’t hold tournaments there because they don’t want droves of people trampling through the natural dunes.

  25. lntci

    VERY fun and interesting post, Robin!


  1. Quotes from the Masters: Hugo « Bringing Europe Home

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