Night Golf: Can You Really Play Golf at Night?

lights on golf court

You’re a hustler, a nine-to-fiver that doesn’t have weekends to burn—you don’t have the time to get to the golf course during broad daylight.

Luckily for you, your hobby isn’t restricted to the morning and afternoon hours anymore.

Yes, night golf is real, and it’s tons of fun. It’s not exactly the same as going a full eighteen holes on a Sunday afternoon; it’s a different experience, but it will still scratch that itch you have to play golf as much as possible.

We’re going to break down night golf, its rules, and how you actually see the ball at night (not how you think). By the end, you’ll actually be excited to play golf when the sun goes down.

What is Night Golf?

night golf

Night golf refers to a few different activities, although we’ll start with the most famous night golfing experience and work our way down from there.

Golfing at night. Yes, it sounds like that simple of a concept, but there are a few things that have to change to allow night golfing to be effective.

The first type of night golf involves flood lights, backlit holes, LED flag poles, and anything else that can paint a picture in the dark. The only difficulty you face here is ball retrieval, so if you hit it too far, it’s gone to the dark and not worth hunting down right now.

Plenty of golf courses will simply use flood lights to light up their courses at night, leaving a surprisingly large portion of it available to see. There are some benefits to this that we’ll get into a bit later on in the guide. Visibility is the biggest concern for anyone who’s trying to maintain their night golf game.

What About Nighttime Mini Golf?

You’ll find that a lot of night golf isn’t really “golf but just at night,” it’s more like a souped-up version of a mini golf course.

These are meant to be attractions for nighttime users, but they’re done differently.

Night golf in the way we’re referring to it is simply golf at night with the assistance of fluorescent markers and floodlights. You play the game normally, just with the added difficulty of low visibility.

With night mini golf, everything on the course is going to look neon, or you’re going to just have a very well-let facility that doesn’t require sunlight to operate. Nighttime mini golf is fun, but more as a hobbyist activity than a serious round of golf. You can play the full eighteen holes during night golf if you really wanted to.

What Type of Equipment Does Night Golf Use?

There are a few different things you can expect to see on a night golf course. Based on the courses we’ve viewed and seen, these are what you can expect to see on a night golf course.

Floodlights

flood lights for night

These are what really make a golf course suitable for nighttime use. Floodlights will illuminate large areas and give you the clarity you need to visually track where your ball is travelling through the air.

Any golf course that’s serious about this, especially in the fall, will have some powerful floodlights.

The problem is that some floodlights aren’t enough, and based on the number of people who actually use the course at night, some places might not maintain or upgrade their floodlights as needed. This can lead to some issues with visibility at night, and make it harder to find your ball on the green, or track it through the air.

Any decent night golf course will be absolutely stacked with floodlights. While night golf has become more of a trend recently than it used to be, some golf courses may not be up to the test. It’s best to roll by a golf course at night to see if they’re lighting it up properly before you bother spending your money.

Fluorescent Tees and Markers

Light-up fluorescent tees will be extremely useful. While courses might provide this, they also may be expecting you to bring them. In the dark, a fluorescent tee helps you avoid digging up the turf.

There’s no telling how visible the spot you’re standing on will be (it all depends on the course and the floodlights), so bring these to be prepared.

Markers are going to become all but invisible, so for time’s sake, having a fluorescent marker makes things easier. Just make sure whatever it is, it’s large enough that you can see it from a distance, and heavy enough to stay in place if another ball taps into it.

Fluorescent Flags or Lights in Place of Flags

fluorescent on golf court

Fluorescents may also be used in flags and lights that can circle a hole to replace a flag. Ideally, the flag will be visible from a far distance so you can properly tee off, and may be used in addition to a ring to light up the hole at night.

Carry-On Bag Lights

I’ve yet to find a course that will provide these to you, but it’s a good idea to have lights that you can hang off of your bags. While it’s unlikely that anyone will go missing on the golf course, it helps you keep tabs on one another from a distance.

If this is an option you want to explore, you can simply get LED lights that come with lanyards and hook them onto your golf bag, or you can hang small LED flashlights from your belt in the on position. Flashlights will need a high lumen output to be visible by anything over about fifty yards.

How do You See or Hit a Ball at Night?

playing with fluorescent ball

That would be thanks to the floodlights. We’re going to talk about glare a little bit later, but when you hit a ball, you have to monitor where it’s going through the air.

Floodlights will be able to help you with that, because as the ball travels, light will shine off of its surface. All those dimples will act like tiny mirrors.

Do not take your eyes off of the ball. When you line up your shot, do you best to aim within areas of light. If you have to, pretend like the darkness of the course are walls—you have to aim straight and stay in the light to avoid hitting those walls, otherwise your ball will be lost.

There are no fluorescent golf balls that are going to help you here. From the moment you tee off, keep your eyes dead set on the ball as it travels through the air. If it lands in a darkened area, pinpoint where that is and move towards it, taking your eyes off of the spot as few times as possible.

Are the Rules of Night Golf Different From Regular Golf?

Not necessarily, but there are some unwritten rules that you should follow to uphold the experience for yourself and for others.

Night golf is definitely harder than daytime golf: lower visibility, the inability to find your balls, light glare, and more reason are all against you. Follow this set of unofficial night golf rules for a better experience.

1. A Ball for an A Game

The A ball rule dictates that you can use whatever ball you find near the hole once you’ve already teed off. If balls were left behind when day turned to night, they may be yours, unless they’re clearly marked by your competitor prior to teeing off.

Nobody wants to “be that guy” and spend twenty minutes fumbling around in the dark when you could both be golfing instead. Follow this rule for a more relaxed, care-free time and don’t take the scores too seriously. Actually, speaking of that…

2. Don’t Take the Scores Too Seriously

Ever notice how the PGA doesn’t have a nighttime tournament? That’s because nobody is out here taking nighttime golf too seriously.

You should be having fun more than anything else, shooting the breeze with your friend or opponent, and enjoy what you’re doing. After all, nobody goes night golfing unless they absolutely love to golf and truly enjoy it. Keep score if you wish, but focus on having a good time instead of who wins, and night golf will go a lot smoother.

3. Take the Two-Minute Rule

night golf rules

If it takes longer than two minutes to find your ball, you’re going to waste a lot of time during this night golf session. Do you know where you think it landed?

As long as you’re not giving yourself a major advantage, place a new ball down (with your opponent in agreement), and get golfing. You have to sleep at some point tonight—there’s no need to waste your time hunting down a ball or two.

As you can see, the main theme here is to just focus on the fun, the sportsmanship, and never take night golf too seriously. Night golf is reserved for those of us who love golf and want to get out of the house for a bit, so treat it like a getaway instead of a cup tournament.

Night Golf Tips and Tricks

You Won’t Hit a Ball Further at Night Than You Can During the Day

Cold weather affects the distance that a golf ball can travel. That sounds ridiculous, but it’s true: nighttime golfing occurs when the sun is down and the ambient temperature of the course has lowered.

The way that energy transfers from one space to another is affected by the temperature change, and because cold air is more dense than warm air, you encounter more friction to move through the same airspace.

Ever notice how it feels harder to move your legs through the cold air when you’re walking versus when it’s summertime? It’s not just because you have thicker clothes on; you have to apply more force to be able to move through the same space that you normally would.

There’s no real cure to this. You can keep your golf balls in a warm place in the car (heated seats or cupholders work well), and then place them in an insulated pouch in your golf bag before you make it onto the green. Of course, this is only going to help the first few balls that you drive. Even then, you still have the air to worry about.

A cold golf ball moving through cold air is going to move five to twenty percent slower, depending on just how low those temperatures are.

Glares Happen and They Suck

lights on golf court

Those floodlights are great… until they aren’t. The dimples in your golf ball can help you see it shine in the night sky as it travels, or it can produce a glare that you can’t really follow all that well.

It all depends on variables that you can barely control when you tee off. When there’s a glare, it shines bright and appears like an orb of light that’s larger than the golf ball itself. It completely throws off your ability to track the ball.

Don’t Let the Ball Out of Your Sight

This may sound pretty straightforward, but don’t let the ball out of your sight. As the image of the ball shrinks while it gets away from you, so does your awareness of where it’s going.

Blinking or having someone walk in front of you can completely throw off your situational awareness and prediction for where that ball is going to land. Make sure the area around you is clear when you hit the ball, and keep your sight straight ahead.

Is Night Golf Difficult?

Well, it’s not technically any more difficult than normal golf. The thing is, visibility is going to be your biggest concern.

Night gold is only made more difficult than regular golf by the course you’re on, and how its caretakers have set up floodlights and other equipment for night golf.

The rules of night golf are the same as regular golf, so as long as you have those in mind, you’ll be good to go. The one thing that I will say for night golf is that it’s generally a more relaxed, casual tone from all players, which can ease up the tension on the green a little bit. Night golf is leisurely compared to standard daytime matches.

How do You Find Golf Balls at Night?

fluorescent balls for easier play

Well, you might actually find more than you bargained for on the course. When golf balls go missing during the day, they still have a bit of UV light withheld in the poly shell. When you flash a gold ball finder over them, the balls light up like tiny solar lamps on your front lawn, allowing you to see them.

The thing is, this is only going to find balls that were lost that day and are sitting in the grass or forest somewhere. They’re not going to locate your golf balls that came out of the box when it was already dark out and then get lost.

How to Find Places That Allow Night Golf

Local searches are going to be your best option. You might be surprised to find that your local course that you go to all the time has night golf since it’s a growing trend. Talk to people at your local course in the club and see if that specific course offers night golf, or if they know of another place that does. You could also do some online searching.

Because night golf is still largely being rolled out as a new feature by a lot of courses, you might run into a lack of information online. Truth be told, lots of independent courses don’t update their online information regularly.

Once it’s done, it’s done, and it serves its purpose for people to find them. It can’t hurt to call the facility and ask if they’ve introduced night golf. At the very least, you can find out when they close, and if it’s around the time the sun is setting, be prepared to show up on time and get in some later games at the very least.

Visibility? Forget About It

If you’re worried about visibility at night, just know that either way you do night golfing (at a course that offers it or a service that offers it), night time golfing technically has lower visibility.

But if you’re in the camp that agrees you can actually see better without the cascading waves of light blurring your view during the day, there’s nothing wrong with that. On a well-lit course, you might actually be able to see better.

Night golfing isn’t for everyone, but it is something that everyone should at least try once. It’s a different feeling and experience than going during the day.

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