Getting Started with Night Golf: Golf at Night without Night Vision Goggles
There’s still time left in the summer to get out and do some old fashioned sports.
But every year seems like it gets hotter and hotter what with "Global Warming" and all. The good old days of working up a modest sweat with some SPF 30 are long gone. Every yard you run or goal you make is going to come with a risk of heat stroke if you’re not careful. Even the most leisurely of sports, Golf, suffers under the hot midday sun. But there are more hours in the day than just daylight. If the glare and heat of the sun are too much to handle, why not just wait until they’re gone and play after dark?
That’s the basic premise of Night Golf. For those who work all day but still want a round on the green, or for people who prefer the cool atmosphere of a dark sky and lit-up green, Night Gofd is a rising sensation and a new way to play a respected old game. It’s just new enough that it has its own set of rules, places to play and equipment you’ll need to get familiar with before you go out swinging in the night.
What is Night Golf?
Very simply, it’s Golf at Night 🙂
Not much changes between Night Golf and Regular Golf except for the time of day. However, that is a significant enough change to be worth noting, because of how it impacts the way the sport is handled. Normally, golf uses golf balls, white plastic composite balls that can take a heavy beating from the club to the landing point on the course.
When did it Start?
Night Golfing may as well have started around the inception of Golf itself. Back then there were no timelines or deadlines for Golf, it was just a pleasure sport to do as one could. With the introduction of more sports-centric clubs and record keeping, however, it very much did become a day job as tracking the ball and number of strokes was much easier under the daylight.
Night Golfing didn’t gain public traction, or even the notion of regular possibility, until at least the 1950s. That was when the first televised Night Golf tournament was viewed, and not intentionally. The day just ran so long that the golfers had to go by night to finish their scheduled matches, so they propped up as many flood lights and lamps as they could across the course to give the players as much light as they would have during the day.
The new twist on the old sport has enjoyed a renaissance very recently as millennials have come out in droves during later hours to give golf a try. They either work or attend classes all day, so most of their free time is only available at night. That means late night gyms, restaurants, bars and clubs all enjoy an uptick in service from the younger generation, which has recently come to include sports clubs.
Where To Go:
Since Night Golf is so simple, it should be widely established and available at any local golf course or club, right? No. There are more preparations and equipment that a course needs to have at the ready to open up to night golfing. You may belong to a currently existing golf club or know a course nearby that takes walk-ins and does rentals of all the necessary equipment. But if they don’t have the right equipment in stock, they won’t be able to open the course up to you - even if you have it.
One of the main hurdles a club has to overcome to institute night golfing into its schedule is the scheduling itself. Most clubs have strict hours for their employees, and having more on staff at later hours requires additional shifts, more personnel and more dedicated landscaping. It reduces the time the club has to clean up and get ready for another day of business. That’s why many existing clubs that have introduced night golfing only do so on set days for the week, and it’s different for everyone.
Other clubs have fully dedicated themselves to the new trend and offer night golfing at extended hours. These are usually more expensive, but easier to access clubs in or near major cities that have a long history of catering to professionals and burgeoning amateurs alike. Some of the best night golf courses made specifically for night golfing are in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The Emirate Golf Club’s Majlis Course has a full suite of state-of-the-art floodlights that illuminate every inch of their greens, as was shown off during the 2018 European Tour.
Contact your local club to find out if they have night golfing, and if not, try to find one nearby. Even if they aren’t equipped for it, see if they’ll take a reservation provided that you can bring your own equipment to the course. Not all clubs will have the World Tour level of setup for just anyone to use. It costs a lot to staff and stock a golf course during the day, and even more at night when all those lights have to run without shutting down.
Check this directory of courses that offer Night Golf.
What You’ll Need:
Night Golf has its own unique set of equipment. This ranges from simple conveniences to custom built, specialty accessories available primarily online. Since night golfing isn’t necessarily recognized in the same vein as the professional sport, pro golf shops might not be able to sell these night golf essentials just yet. However, if it continues growing in popularity, the sales of night golf equipment may start to equal up to the regular variety. Especially in the winter where daylight is reduced, even for warmer climates that enjoy summer-style weather all year round, they will need some way to stay busy when the sun sets early.
LED Golf Balls:
You can’t play golf without a golfball. Even if you bring nothing but a heavy stick, as long as you can aim and swing, you can play golf with the right ball. However, the balls used for regular golf aren’t bright enough to stand out during the night. On underlit courses where the lights might not catch the glossy white surface, especially if you slice the ball, it may go a little too far off course into the rough. Pretty much all of the floodlights that brighten the course at night will be on the main thoroughfare, pointing away from the trees or the rough between the courses. Even pro golfers can lose their balls in tall grass in the middle of the day, and you’ll be looking for it in the dead of night. Do you take the penalty and start from the tee? Or would you rather see it from a hundred yards away?
LED Golf balls are the staple of night golfing. They glow bright in the dark and are made of the same durable stuff as regular golf balls with the same weight ratio, giving them an identical feeling of being hit as a normal one. They aren’t bogged down with heavy lights or weighed with some kind of chemical fluid that affects the aerodynamics. They’re basic glow in the dark balls that can take a solid stroke without breaking or leaking or turning off.
They also come in a variety of colors, which is essential for multiple people. It can already be difficult to keep track of your ball in the day when it lands too close for comfort to another ball on the green. You might be able to tell by the brand marking or a custom logo, but those details won’t be readily seen at night. Some balls shine even brighter with rechargeable LED lights inside. They do need recharging between holes but will stand out easily even in the thickest grass from the hardest slice.
It’s harder to judge distance at night than it is in the day. Some courses cut their lawns with long bands that measure several yards across to give an easy metric as to how far you are at any given time from the hole, but when it’s dark the difference between shades of green tends to blur. Golf is all about positioning, advancing along favorable lines toward the hole one stroke at a time, and that can be especially hard when you can’t see how far away the hole is.
GPS technology has advanced to the point where we can now wear them on our wrists. Special GPS watches can come loaded with full maps of thousands of golf courses specifically for night golfing so you don’t have to wander around or squint in the dark to tell what part of the green you’re on. They also have voice commands that tell you how many yards are left to the hole from your position based on the distance you travel from the tee and direction. When your eyes fail you, leave it to your ears and listen to the computer.
The visor is a vital piece of equipment for the pro golfer. It keeps the sun out of the eyes and prevents glare from interrupting a perfect putt. However, even when there’s no sun at all, it’s still useful to wear something on the head, not as protection from the light but as a source. Headlamps give you a mobile, self-centered source of light that helps track and illuminate the course where floodlights or glow sticks might not be suitable.
Having your own source of light is crucial to finding or following your ball, but juggling an extra handheld accessory while managing your clubs can be brutal. Keeping a flashlight on hand is good, certain high power flashlights can light up the field better than stadium lighting. But using that while golfing? You’d need a third arm, or a caddie, and even then the tool will take up precious space in the hands of someone that could be using them for something else. That’s why having a headlamp is a perfect tool for night golfing. It’s bright enough to see what you need to see and is always aimed to where you’re looking. It has the added bonus of making you much more visible while out on the green as well, or if you need to head into the trees or close to a water hazard, the light will keep you safe.
Some courses that offer night golfing might only do so under the precaution that you come very prepared to light it up yourself. They may have some lighting available at the teeing green or around the hole, but will leave it up to you and your party to figure the rest out by the moonlight or handheld lights. For less than fully lit courses, you will need to have a lighting solution of your own. Floodlights are heavy, hot, and require a source of energy. They’re an overall pain for a golfer to bring just to play a round or two.
Glowsticks, on the other hand, provide just enough light to see from a distance and can be used to line a fairway so you know where it’s safe. They stay lit up thanks to chemical reactions, and some are actually rechargeable LED sticks that you can charge up between holes. Using glow sticks to mark things like hazards, boundaries and holes in the dark adds to a set up and teardown time where you’ll have to retrieve them from each green you play on, but that’s part of the challenge of Night Golfing.
An upgrade to the basic glow stick in the grass are full-length flag replacements. These can fit into the hole and give a bright display of exactly where you’re ultimately going with your game. These can be as simple as rechargeable or battery-powered spare Christmas lights that you tie onto the flag. As long as it doesn’t obstruct the hole, it’s night golf legal. And it can help moderate other golfers from coming in on your green while you’re playing. If the color doesn’t belong to them, it’s not their turn.
Standing out and being bright is the primary purpose of most night golf equipment. It’s all built to be durable enough for use on a professional course for a full round, but is also disposable, replaceable or rechargeable. If a golf club has its own night golf equipment for rent you can be assured it will be the highest quality, because they’ll need it to keep working night after night as more golfers come through to wear it down.
A Night on the Green
Night Golfing has become more popular thanks to being freed up from daytime restrictions and guidelines. Golfers aren’t competing for space on the green, rushing through their relaxing hobby and squeezing their schedules together just for a round. With all the hours and space night golfing opens up, courses gain more business and continue to improve their hosting abilities with brighter lights and cleaner greens to golf across.
The selection of night golf tools and accessories is only set to improve as the new take on the old sport gains popularity. If you’ve always wanted to try golf, but hated the idea of getting a sunburn, heatstroke, or thought it looked too boring with all those standard, sterile colors of nature, give night golfing a try. You can light up the course with your own colors, there’s no risk of sun, less heat and as courses continue to expand to the growing, glowing demand there will be plenty of time after the day is over to still have fun.