Do Digby Pines Resort Like the Mighty Babe

Babe Ruth swings a golf club.

Babe Ruth brought along his golf clubs during a whirlwind tour of Nova Scotia in 1936.

Locals still talk of the July day in 1936 when Babe Ruth visited Digby Pines Golf Course and brought Stanley Thompson’s daunting par-four 11th hole to heel.

Famous as the Sultan of Swat for his mammoth home runs, Babe Ruth conquered Digby Pines Golf Course in typical Ruthian fashion during a visit to the iconic Stanley Thompson-designed layout in 1936.

Babe Ruth at Digby Pines GC (Image: Digby Pines GC)

The Babe and new friends at Digby Pines. (Image: Digby Pines Resort and Spa)

Baseball’s mightiest slugger was enjoying a whirlwind tour of Nova Scotia the year after his retirement from the game. Reporters and throngs of adoring fans followed his every footstep. Photographs of Ruth fishing and hunting, feasting on lobster, splitting wood, and catching salmon in the St. Mary’s River featured prominently in newspapers across the province.

An enthusiastic golfer, who in 1932 served as the president of the American Left-handers Golf Association, Ruth routinely outdrove Walter Hagen, Gene Sarazen and other premier players of the day during pro-ams and charity events. And just as he wielded a far heavier bat than his fellow ballplayers, the Babe’s extravagantly oversized custom-made driver, known as the Bludgeon, weighed in at a stout sixteen ounces.

One of Canada’s finest golf resorts awaited his kingly pleasure in Digby. Opened by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1929, Digby Pines Golf Resort and Spa is a Norman-style chateau overlooking the Annapolis Basin on the Bay of Fundy. Well-heeled vacationers came by rail from Toronto, Montreal, Halifax and the Eastern United States for the scenery, invigorating sea air, and to dine on Digby’s world-famous scallops.

By the time he unveiled his course in Digby in 1931, Stanley Thompson was already renowned for his template-setting Rocky Mountain designs in Jasper and Banff. Canada’s greatest golf architect set his layout in Digby on rolling farmland atop a hill about a kilometre from the hotel. Built in the classic style, with tight fairways and small, subtly undulating greens left open at the front, the 6,222-yard parkland design places a premium on accuracy.

Babe Ruth with dead animals after hunt

Ruth with his trophies after a hunt near Yarmouth.

Several holes at Digby Pines rate among Thompson’s best. Golf writers once voted the 184-yard second one of the country’s two most “picturesque” holes. Set in a small valley edged by spruce trees, the par three demands a pinpoint carry over a large pond to a sloping green flanked by a steep hill on the right.

But it was at the 285-yard, par-four 11th hole that Thompson, a mischievous man with a wry sense of humour, had his best fun by placing a question mark-shaped bunker at the right-hand side of the uphill fairway. Clearly, the architect was asking golfers, “Can you drive the green?”

Many came close, but locals confirm no one accomplished the feat until the July day when Babe Ruth set up, waggled his trusty Bludgeon, and pounded the ball up the hill and onto the green while his audience watched in awe.

Despite one small mishap, Ruth is said to have thoroughly enjoyed his visit to Digby Pines, a property that is still one of Canada’s most attractive golf resorts.

Late one night, a disappointed Babe found the gate to the swimming pool locked. Undaunted, and no doubt well-fortified with alcohol, he clambered over the windscreen protecting the pool and dove in. But when he had trouble getting back out, Ruth woke up the hotel with his roars for help.

Nobody made an entrance—or an exit—quite like Babe Ruth.

Digby Pines Resort historical (Image: Digby Pines Resort)

Digby Pines Resort and Spa as it looked in 1936. (Image: Digby Pines Resort and Spa)