According to avid players, night golf presents unique challenges to your swing that require some adjustment and adaptation. The initially confusing lines and shadows on the greens can make reading the course challenging at first, but they add an element of unpredictability and fun to the game.
"It's like driving at night," says Jim Leisenring, General Manager of Angel Park Golf Club in Las Vegas. "Even though there are plenty of streetlights and other sources of light, there are still many blind spots. Adapting your eyes to this imperfect situation can be a challenge."
One of the most appealing aspects of night golf is the relaxed and communal atmosphere it fosters. Eric Hummel, a third-generation owner of a hot dog company, began playing night golf with other parents from his son's baseball team over 13 years ago. Their weekly gatherings have created a close-knit bond among the group.
"We call ourselves 'golf hacks,'" Hummel says. "Every Thursday, our wives send texts asking, 'Are you hacks playing golf tonight? Is everyone showing up?' This tradition has become a part of our lives. We look forward to Thursdays like it's the highlight of the week."
The 8 PM tee time accommodates the group's work schedules and family commitments during the day. Hummel notes that the laughter and joy shared during each round are addicting. "Sometimes we're pushing the ball through tears because we're laughing so hard," he says.
Many associate night golf with driving ranges and miniature golf courses, but there are at least 60 regular golf courses in the United States with night lighting. However, the demographics of night golfers differ slightly from their daytime counterparts. From workers in specific industries who just finished their shifts to Generation Z young adults gathering for Friday night fun, low-key night golf courses attract a diverse range of players.
Angel Park Golf Club in Las Vegas is one of the most popular night golf venues. This 36-hole course, designed by Arnold Palmer 30 years ago, added the Cloud 9 par-3 course as an extra feature during renovations. Designed by Bob Cupp and John Fought, Cloud 9 recreates the most famous 12 short holes, including the iconic 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass and the postage stamp hole at Royal Troon, with LED lighting on nine of its holes.
"Las Vegas is the city that never sleeps, so many people have unconventional work hours," Leisenring says. "We also get a lot of young guests who want an alternative to going to the movies after school."
During the summer, the greens fee for playing from 6 PM to 10 PM is just $10, and they host weekly competitions on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. Retired Air Force officer Brian Brown has been a regular participant in Thursday night competitions for the past 11 years. The group varies in size, ranging from 24 to 36 players, and they tee off at 5 PM, rain or shine. Players also bring headlamps and flashlights in case of a power outage, and smartphones now provide additional lighting.
Brown joined the Thursday night group through a fellow Air Force colleague and has found that the schedule caters to those in the construction industry. "This timing accommodates the construction industry's work schedule," Brown says. "Fridays are their days off, so they all look forward to Thursday nights."
The evening tee times are a significant advantage for those who work during the day. Since the pandemic began, night golf businesses have seen a significant increase in rounds played and an influx of new players. According to the National Golf Foundation, 50% of surveyed golfers expressed interest in night golf and were willing to try it, but only 23% had actually teed off after dark. This suggests a substantial market for night golf that current night golf courses cannot fully satisfy.
Most night golf courses in the United States are par-3 courses, with either 9 or 18 holes. However, outside the United States, there are more full-length 18-hole courses with night lighting, some of which stay open until the early hours. The Seletar Country Club in Singapore, for example, offers Singapore's only 18-hole public golf course, measuring 7,100 yards and equipped with 186 lighting fixtures. Golf is gaining popularity in Singapore, and the relaxed atmosphere of nighttime play is particularly appealing to beginners.
Lianne Wong started learning golf seven months ago to strengthen relationships with clients. She has found that nighttime tee times are the easiest to secure, offer a great atmosphere, and allow her to avoid the hot and humid daytime weather.
Even private golf clubs in the United States are beginning to embrace night golf. The Indian Wells Golf Resort recently converted four practice holes into a 9-hole par-3 course with night lighting, staying open until 1 AM. "We offer various beverages during play," says assistant golf professional Justin Baudhuin.
Naples Beach Golf Club in Florida, surrounded by more than a dozen private clubs, is another example. General Manager Scott Allen explains that most night golfers are employees of nearby clubs. During the peak season, those clubs' caddies and assistant golf pros cannot sneak in a round after their members finish playing, so they visit Naples Beach Golf Club to satisfy their golf cravings.
While night golf has its market, there are still some significant challenges to overcome for it to become more widespread. The cost of installing LED lighting on a 9-hole course is approximately $500,000, not including the underground infrastructure. Additionally, the climate in some regions of the United States is not conducive to night golf, and many courses are located far from densely populated areas, making it difficult to guarantee nighttime revenue.
As golf strives to improve service quality and attract new clientele, night golf presents an enticing option. Even Tiger Woods has given it a try. The Long Beach Hartwell Golf Course in California is one of the courses where Woods played when he was younger. This 2,143-yard par-3 course operates around the clock, and Woods used to play until midnight. "It's really different," Woods said during the 2000 Battle of Bighorn golf event, where he played the final four holes in the dark. "The shadows on the course are unlike anything else. It's challenging to see the lines or feel the contours. Driving and hitting the second shot are fine, but hitting off the ground is a big challenge."
Playing golf after dark offers a unique experience, but it's essential to maintain adequate lighting. Here, it's worth mentioning the latest croc lights, specifically designed for night golf. They provide effective illumination when you swing the club and can also help you avoid encountering snakes and rodents on the course, ensuring your safety at night.