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.


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.


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 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.


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:


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


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.)

Alien or Shooting Star? Mystery Golf Photo

I took the photo above the other night and shared it with Graham Stevens, the reader who was kind enough to write about his recent experience at a carts-only course in North Carolina. He used his iPhone to show the picture to his daughter, who is seven, and asked her to guess what it was. Her responses, in order:

  1.  A skinny alien.
  2.  Saturn and a shooting star.
  3. A spooky person staring through the crack of a door with a glow stick on their ankle.

Stevens, in an email, told me: “She then used her fingers to zoom in on the bottom of the picture and said, ‘It looks like a green golf hole.’  I said, ‘Correct!  It is a golf hole.’ She said, ‘Tell your friend he needs a new camera.’ I said, ‘He was playing at night.’ She said, ‘Is he crazy?'”

My crazy friends and I did play golf at night last week, and I’ll be writing about our experience in a future issue of Golf Digest. If you’ve never played golf in the dark, or if you haven’t done it recently, you should watch for the story. As with every other aspect of the game, the technology has improved.

My glowing red ball.


News From the 2012 Member-Guest

Amazing member-guest discovery: golf-cart Surround Sound.

My brother, John, and I played in my club’s member-guest tournament this past weekend. One of our five matches was against Fritz and Klinger, whose golf cart you see in the photograph above. That’s Klinger’s iPhone, in the one cup holder that isn’t holding a beer. It’s playing “Send Her My Love,” by Journey, and If you could hear the music you’d be blown away, because Fritz and Klinger have discovered that a golf cart cup holder acts like both an amplifier and a Surround Sound speaker system. Try it with your own iPhone or iPod if you don’t believe me.

Three golfers, nine drivers.

The golf bags in the photo above belong to (from left to right) me, Tim-o, and Tony.  You will notice that the three of us, in addition to apparently being infatuated with obsolete Nike products, carry three drivers each. The lofts are 10.5, 13, and 16 degrees. I’ll have more to say about this club selection in a week or two. (Full disclosure: after the 9-hole stroke-play opener, on Friday—which John and I won, at 7 under—I removed my 13-degree driver, which I’d bought on eBay the week before, to make room for a second 6-hybrid.

Rob and miscellaneous member-guest stuff.

Usually, the so-called gifts you get at a member-guest are pretty crummy, but this year the ones at my club were great: a golf hat, a golf towel with a zipper pocket and a semi-mysterious Velcro strip, and a belt with a buckle that’s also a beer opener. In the photo above, Rob is wearing his belt on the outside, for easier access (although he’s got it upside down). He’s also wearing his give-’em-a-brake safety-yellow golf shirt and carrying a beer, two putters, and a portable cooler.

Jaws, lighting the putting-contest qualifier.

On Friday night, after the stag dinner, so many guys wanted to keep trying to qualify for the putting contest that Jaws drove home and brought back his big workshop lights. That’s him in the photo above, setting up one of the units. My brother and I qualified but were eliminated the next evening, in a four-hole playoff for the last three spots in the final.

Putting-contest qualifier, under the lights.

On Saturday night, after Fritz and Klinger had won the putting contest and a dozen of us had played a five-hole one-club tournament in a race with the setting sun, we held an unofficial supplemental putting contest, using glowing balls and glowing cup inserts—items about which I’ll have more to say in a week or two. The winners were Tim and Chick. Here’s what the putting green looked like in the dark:

Glowing ball, glowing hole.

Also here:

Doc, Jr.

There were thunderstorms in the forecast all weekend, but the rain and lightning held off until halfway through the final shoot-out, on Sunday afternoon. Here’s what the rain looked like when it was coming down:

The gutter in that photo has been clogged for ten or fifteen years, but when it’s raining no one wants to go up on a ladder to unclog it and when it isn’t raining it doesn’t overflow. During most of the rest of the weekend, though, the weather looked like this:

Chick, Rob, putting-contest qualifier.

The overall winners of the member-guest were Ray and Mike. My brother and I beat them, one-up, in our final match of the weekend, but that wasn’t enough to knock them out of first place in our flight. Here’s Ray resting during the lightning delay. (Mike was on the phone apologizing to his wife for already being several hours later than he had said he was going to be.)

Ray, resting in the clubhouse during the lightning delay.

And here’s what the shoot-out field looked like on the first tee. We determined honors by using the Sunday Morning Group’s limited-edition collection of numbered poker chips. Art and Scribby (on the right, with the white hair and the no hair) were the first to be eliminated, when they bogeyed the first hole.