My Friends and I Like to Play With Glowing Balls

Young Nick, first tee, 9:45 p.m., July 5, 2013.

Young Nick, first tee, 9:45 p.m., July 5, 2013.

All golfers brood obsessively about the weather; my friends and I also track the phases of the moon. The reason is that we like to play at night, with glowing balls, and glowing balls look best against a truly black sky. The ideal time to play is an hour or two after sunset during a new moon, but other times of the month work, too, as long as the moon either hasn’t risen yet or has already gone down. I now monitor all that with a free program called Moonphase 3.3.

Moonphase

On Friday night, we met on the clubhouse porch at 7:00, for pizza from The Upper Crust, the official provisioner of the Sunday Morning Group.

Austin, John.

Austin, John, pizza, clubhouse porch.

Then we played Putting for Dollars on the practice green while we waited for the sun to go away.

In all our putting contests, we use the stymie rule, which the rest of the golf world abandoned in the 1950s.  Closest to the pin wins, double points if the ball goes in. Luke (second from left) was the only competitor to actually sink a putt.

In all our putting contests, we use the stymie rule, which the rest of the golf world abandoned in the 1950s. Closest to the pin wins, double points if the ball goes in. Luke (second from left) was the only competitor to actually sink a putt.

When the sky finally began to seem sort of promising, we turned on our flashing light sabers, to let them warm up.

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Then Hacker (real name) and Tim went out in a golf cart to place light sabers in the cups on the first second, seventh, eighth, and ninth greens, so that we’d be able to tell where the holes were. They also put glowing green rings in the bottoms of the cups.

Paul, Middle Nick, Tim, Hacker.

Paul, Middle Nick, Tim, Hacker.

Night golf has been a feature at my club for more than twenty years. For most of those years, we used translucent balls with glow-stick inserts. They were fun to play with, but they didn’t behave like real balls, and they didn’t fly anywhere near as far, and the glow sticks were sometimes hard to cram all the way in. Last year, we switched to Night Flyer balls ($70 a dozen, in six colors, at nightflyer.com). They’re self-illuminating—each one contains its own LED and battery, which isn’t replaceable but lasts for many rounds—and when they’re not lit up they’re visually indistinguishable from regular balls. You switch on the LED by hitting the ball or rapping it against anything hard, and it stays lit as long as you hit it again within eight or ten minutes, which is plenty of time to find it, even in the woods.

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We had eleven guys. We played a scramble—each team with its own color—and we all played together. Hacker drove the beer cart. We teed up every shot, including chips, because divots are just about impossible to find at night. Here’s what the second green looked like when everyone was ready to putt:

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The red balls look the coolest, both in the air and on the ground.

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Austin made a brief video of someone missing a putt on the eighth green. Paul’s team had already clinched the title by then, so the miss didn’t matter.

Last year, I spoke with Pat Chapman, who is Night Flyer’s sales and marketing manager. She lives in New Hampshire but she grew up in New York, and when people give her a hard time she asks them, “Do you really want to mess with a girl from Brooklyn?” Largely as a result of her steady evangelism, night golf has rapidly grown in popularity all over the world. (“Not so much in France,” she said, “but France is France. What can I say?”) Scandinavians have been particularly enthusiastic, she added—perhaps because they spend so much of the year in the dark. She has organized full-scale night-golf events in many countries—for corporate outings, bachelor parties, wedding receptions, and other golf-appropriate occasions—and Night Flyer sells an almost comically extensive line of glowing accessories, including hole inserts, hazard stakes, tee-box markers, and black-stemmed margarita glasses. (That’s where we got the light sabers.)

3 thoughts on “My Friends and I Like to Play With Glowing Balls

  1. We have a similar couples event every September at our that is just a hoot. My favorite part is that, since it is a scramble format, when you are chipping and putting, as shown in your video, you get a perfect read on the path of the shot. The chips are really cool as they skuttle across the green looking like a rock skipping on a pond.

    We switched to the Night Flyer balls two years ago and it became much more fun. They still only go about 80% of the normal distance but we play the advantage tees and it is a very recognizable game.

    The biggest challenge each year is keeping people from driving the carts into the bunkers. The incidence is much greater later in the nine as the effect of the ceremonial intake of adult beverages waiting for the sun to go down has taken full force.

    Reminds me each year of playing capture the flag at summer camp just without war paint.

    Great posting.

  2. I have been playing night golf for a few years – love the Night Flyer balls. However, my introduction to night golf was out of necessity. I have young children and I have a hard time getting out to play any golf One evening, I put my kids to bed and I looked out and there was just enough light to play a couple holes on my neighborhood course. After 2 holes I couldn’t see the ball, so I had to give up and go home. I figured someone out there must have solved this problem and I found the Night Flyers on line. It changed my golf life. After that, I happily played 12 or 15 holes after getting the kids to sleep – and it cost me NO husband capital at home! I played with a buddy, and we would not illuminate the holes – it was fun to hit to the green (is that the green?) without any idea of where the pin was – a good idea even when it’s light!

    One of my favorite golf events in my life was a Guinness-fueled late night mini-tournement that we had at Ballybunion with some new-found friends. Could hardly see our own feet, but we thought it imperative that we play after dinner in the clubhouse. We pulled out the Night Flyers and carried only 4 clubs each. We played 10 Cashen and 18 Old and we ended up all square (this is not a recommended hole combination as the walk between the 2 holes is treacherous even in the day – but it sounded like a good idea to us at the time). The playoff was 17 and 18 Old. We were beat by an incredible par-par by the 20-something son of a father-son (fellow Americans) group that we had met. We could hardly hit our shots from laughing so hard. The joy of the golf was only slightly dampened by the fact that we were then locked out of the clubhouse with all our belongings – including our clothes and car keys – still inside. It all worked out in the end and just added to the great story of the evening.

    I carry a couple Night Flyers on every golf trip – just in case we play into the evening — you never know!

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