The sun. It’s the double-edged sword that helps make for a beautiful day of golf and signal that it’s time to take the carts in for the day.
On some courses though, sunset doesn’t mean the end of golf for the day as they flip on the lights and create a Friday Night Lights-type atmosphere to keep the fun going.
Recently, I had the opportunity to play some golf under the lights while at the Junior Invitational at Sage Valley on their three practice holes. The experience was far from overrated.
First of all, the lights bring a stadium-like atmosphere to the course. A simple 147-yard, par 3 now looks and feels like you’re stepping onto the court at Madison Square Garden or onto the field Saturday night at The Big House.
Secondly, it brings that much more competitive spirit out of everyone in your group. The teens playing in the tournament — who are a fiercely competitive group already — became even more spirited and more competitive in their matches.
But if you’re heading out to play a round under the lights and expecting to play like you do during the day, you’ll be in for an eye-opening surprise as there are some big differences.
Here are three tips to help you be a little less surprised and enjoy your time a little better out there playing night golf:
1. Trust your numbers and your swing
If you’ve ever played any sport under the lights, especially any sport that involves a ball such as football, baseball or soccer, you know that your depth perspective is completely different under the lights than it is during the day. You must train your eyes to see the ball differently and judge distances.
The same goes for golf. A 100-yard shot under the lights does not look the same as it does during the day. So if you have a rangefinder, it will help you out immensely. But also trust the sprinkler heads and yardage markers to give you a much better idea of how far away you are from the hole. From there, you just have to trust that your club selection and swing power is correct. Don’t have that trust? This is a great way to learn how to with a little trial by fire.
2. Play controlled golf
Probably a good lesson for golf in the daytime as well, but especially true here. One of the holes at Sage Valley clocked in at about 470 yards. During a normal daylight round of golf, I would take driver or maybe 3-wood off the tee. I played a 5-iron.
Even though the lights are on, it’s still not incredibly easy to see the ball. The lights only illuminate the fairway and certain areas of the rough between holes. So, unless you’re hitting your driver straight and have the utmost confidence a duck hook isn’t going to rear its ugly head (I definitely do not), take the safe shots that give you the best opportunity to keep it inside the lights. It’s also a safety thing, too. If you can’t see your ball, you can’t alert other players it might be heading toward them. Playing controlled golf and avoiding the hero shot makes sure everyone stays safe and has fun.
Which leads to the last point…
1. Have fun
Always remember that golf is fun. But when you’re playing under the lights, remember that even more. Sure you might hit a bad shot because your shadow was in the way or misjudge a distance because of the lighting. But also remember that you’re one of the lucky ones to be playing at 11 p.m. on a Saturday night. The sound, feel and sight of a perfectly striped 9-iron illuminated by floodlights is like watching the finale of an amazing Fourth of July fireworks show. Embrace that feeling and let it fuel your joy no matter how many less than perfect shots might follow.
Have you ever wanted to play the game where you pick three or four clubs and have to play an entire round with only those? This is the perfect setting to give that a go. Instead of keeping a stroke score, play a game of H.O.R.S.E. where you have to try and match your partner’s shot. Be a kid again and just make up a game of your own on the fly.
So what are you waiting for? Get out and enjoy an incredible experience on the course that you won’t soon forget.