Night Golf: The Definitive Guide To Playing Golf at Night
One of my earliest memories of playing this great game was night golf. A small executive course near my house had 9-hole golf tournaments that didn’t start until it was dark.
Once you checked in you received two glow in the dark golf balls, a glow stick, and a scorecard. It was a fun way to play golf despite the challenges of not being able to see much. Since the course itself wasn’t lit up, it made for some eventful evenings.
While night golf is far from the norm, there are more and more places offering some type of night golf. Keep reading to learn more about glow in the dark golf, practicing at night, and maybe even finding your own tournament.
Night Golf – Can You Play Golf at Night?
If you watched the Match with Tiger Woods, Justin Thomas, Jordan Speith, and Rory McIlroy in December 2022 you probably asked, “Why isn’t there more night golf?” That was a fun event to watch on TV as we got to see some of the best golfers compete under the lights.
While playing sports under stadium lights is normal in football, soccer and baseball, it’s not the norm in golf. Instead, most golfers play from sunrise to sunset and maybe finish the last few holes in the dark. But we never think about teeing it up when the sun goes down.
As the game continues to grow at an unprecedented rate, there are more ways to play golf even if the moon is out. Here are some of the most common ways to play golf at night.
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The first way to play golf in the evening is called twilight golf. This isn’t actually night golf but when you tee off later in the afternoon. It’s your chance to play as the sun sets at a reduced rate as you might not get in all 18 holes.
Playing golf in the evening is a great way to end the day after work and sneak in 9–18 holes depending on pace of play. Summer is when you can play night golf very late in the day, sometimes up to 8 or 9pm depending on where you live.
Lighted Driving Ranges
Another type of night golf is not playing but practicing under the lights. This is a great way for golf facilities to increase revenue by staying open later. Plus, it works great for golfers who work day jobs but still want to scratch their golf itch in the evening.
Lighted driving ranges aren’t typically at country clubs but instead public golf courses or standalone facilities. Some are double or even triple-decker facilities and allow 50-100+ golfers to bang balls into the night sky. This is much more cost-efficient than a fully lit golf course (more on that later) and typically stays open until 8 or 9pm.
Depending on where you live you might also have access to Topgolf which has taken the world by storm. Topgolf is owned by Callaway and has a much more casual atmosphere than a typical driving range.
Collared shirts and nice pants or shorts aren’t required.
Instead, it’s a relaxed vibe of golfers and non-golfers coming together to play games, drink, eat, and hit some golf shots. They provide clubs, are open morning-night, and it’s more of a social outing than a place to work on your game. But you can still work on your tempo, stance, and hit all types of golf shots or compete in leagues.
Glow in the Dark Golf Tournaments
The third type of night golf is likely what you’ve seen on social media and what I referred to in the beginning. Glow in the dark tournaments are true night golf as you don’t actually tee off until the sun is down and the sky is pitch black.
Night tournaments tend to happen more at executive golf courses as the courses aren’t lit up. Because as you can imagine, it’s not cheap to install lights on every tee box, fairway, and green. Instead, it’s you and your group, glow in the dark golf balls, and some lights spread throughout the course.
Most golf courses are very dark though and only have the tee boxes, part of the fairway, and flag sticks illuminated. Otherwise, it’s pitch black but luckily glow in the dark golf balls make it easy to not lose your ball.
Glow in the dark golf is typically tournaments, not individual play otherwise it would take all night. By making the format a scramble it speeds up the pace of play, makes it easier to find balls, and finish before it’s too late. Plus, it makes for a fun way to play golf with friends and family in a new environment.
Make sure to Google “Night golf near me” to see if there are any tournaments nearby. If you are able to find one here are some of my best tips to navigating golf in the dark.
Night Golf Tips
Golf is a hard sport but playing it with a different type of ball in the dark is not easy. Here are some ways to make the most of your fun and hopefully win your tournament.
- Glow in the dark golf balls don’t travel far. Don’t expect to hit these golf balls as far as normal. Due to the design they typically only fly 70% of their normal distance which leads to a lot of guessing. Plus, I’d always suggest having a few extra in case you accidentally donate one to a pond or lose it out of bounds.
- Rangefinders don’t work. Since the greens aren’t lit up, rangefinders don’t work. Instead, it’s a lot of guessing on your approach shots and why these events are typically at shorter, executive style courses.
- Glow in the dark golf ball doesn’t spin much. The cover of these balls are extremely firm and have a very different internal design as well. Needless to say, glow in the dark golf balls aren’t going to get the same amount of backspin as your Titleist Pro V1.
- Putting is challenging. Reading greens with the sun isn’t easy so trying to read them in pitch black is even harder. Make sure to bring a flashlight or two to the green so you can try to read the putt.
- Make sure you have your clubs after every hole. It’s easy to accidentally leave a wedge or club around the green when playing golf in the dark. Before going to the next hole make sure to double-check you have all your clubs.
Drive safe. Lastly, make sure you drive your golf cart a little slower than normal as it’s easy to not see obstacles while driving at night.
Fully Lit Golf Courses
The final way to tee it up at night is to find a fully lit golf course which is an incredible experience but quite rare to find. However, this is true in night golf as you don’t need to play with a different type of golf ball. Instead, it’s you and your group playing a sport that is normally never played under the lights.
Most fully lit golf courses are in Asia but there are a handful of courses in the United States including:
According to Golf Pass, “When the lights were installed at Manor Valley in 1964, it became the first regulation-sized lit course in the world and the only night course between New York and Chicago. The lit front nine plays 2,888 yards, so golfers can hit plenty of drivers, something rarely available to night golfers anywhere else in America.”
I’m impressed they’ve had lights since the 1960s!
If you need some night golf in Southern California you can’t beat Mission Bay golf course. The tee boxes and greens are lit plus the facility is open until 930 pm. It’s a great mix of par 3s and 4s plus a fully light practice facility as well.
This is the only lighted golf course in South Florida and the third-longest night course too. At more than 4,000 yards you can play night golf seasonally and hit every club in the bag.
Why isn’t night golf more popular?
If you’re like a lot of people you probably wonder why isn’t night golf more popular? A few reasons…
First is safety – since most golf courses aren’t lit up it can lead to a lot of safety issues while playing at night. The second reason is that most courses don’t have the demand for evening golf due to weather conditions. Most players don’t want to tee it up when it’s 30 or 40 degrees outside and not have the sun to warm them up.
Lastly, it’s very expensive to install lights on a golf course as there is so much room to cover compared to a driving range. It’s simply not an economical option for most golf courses but luckily there are plenty of lighted driving ranges.
Top Questions About Playing Golf at Night
Have more questions about playing golf without the sun? If so, keep reading…
Is night golf a thing?
Yes and no.
It’s more common to hit golf balls at a lighted driving range than playing 9 or 18 holes at night. While it’d be fun to play under the lights like other sports, it’s not an option for most golf courses.
Night golf with fully lighted courses tends to happen in warmer weather destinations. Even then it’s seasonal and typically only on shorter golf courses that are easier to light. If you’re ever near one while traveling though I highly recommend it!
Is there night golf in the USA?
Yes, there are a handful of facilities that allow you to play golf at night in the United States. Most of the courses are par 3 or executive courses and found in better weather. Places like California, Nevada, and Florida are the most popular places for playing golf at night.
But there are tons of Topgolf and fully lit driving ranges throughout the country as well.
What do you need for night golf?
To play night golf you really only need a different golf ball and you can buy a pack on Amazon. Most golf courses running night tournaments will provide 1-2 glow in the dark golf balls, have lit putting cups, and glow sticks on the flag sticks to see your target on approaches. It’s also a good idea to bring a flashlight as well.
What is evening golf called?
Evening golf is referred to as twilight golf. This is usually after a certain time of day (maybe 2-4pm depending on location/season) and you play golf for a reduced rate.
You typically have to play faster than normal and hope the groups ahead of you are doing the same thing to finish all 18 holes. But rates are much cheaper and the course is usually less busy so you can play faster and hopefully beat darkness.
How much does it cost to put lights on a golf course?
It’s not cheap and why most golf courses light their driving ranges, not the full facility. But the fees are pretty inexpensive to play on the few courses in the world that are fully lit.
Playing golf at night is a fun way to make golf even harder but even more enjoyable.
If possible, I highly recommend finding a golf course that is running a glow in the dark tournament in summer. This is a great way to mix up your golf routine and have fun in a new atmosphere.
If you can’t find a fully lighted golf course or glow in the dark tournament, try to find a night driving range or Topgolf. It’s still better than nothing and a great way to hit golf balls under the lights. It’s a fun way to end the day after work and still get in your golf fix.
Have you ever played golf at night? What was your experience like?
Let us know in the comments below.