It's like playing golf in the dark...
As if golf isn't hard enough, some crazy fool decided to give us the concept of night golf. For those of you who haven't heard of it before, here is a brief description of the kind of night you could expect.
The key part of the game is the ball. Some of you may spend a lot of money on soft feel, pro flight, named balls. Well leave them at home. The balls for night golf need to be lit up (for obvious reasons). There are a few different concepts of lighting up balls, some are glow in the dark balls that need charging with light rays, some are flashing balls that have a tiny battery inside but the balls used by the professional night golf companies tend to use clear plastic balls with a hole drilled through the centre where a small glow stick can be inserted. These glow sticks seem to do the job nicely, the glow didn't fade away through the night at all despite you thinking they might be hard to find, we found almost every single ball we hit. Contrary to the normal game of golf, they were super easy to find in the rough - the darker it is the better. Speaking as an individual that spends a lot of time in the bushes trying to find a ball from a sliced shot, I've never found so many balls in the rough. The balls are meant to perform almost as well as a normal golf ball but they are anything but. It's like hitting rocks, but it is pretty awesome watching them go!
Now, the course is dark! Of course you would expect that, it's night golf after all. But I don't think any of us realised just how dark a golf course is until we were out there. This is where more glow sticks come into the picture. The fairways are marked with glow sticks in 50 yard intervals all the way to the green and then the greens are also marked in a different colour which stand out as you get nearer to them. When I say marked, standing on the tee doesn't exactly give you a clear or well lit pathway to the green. You can make out the direction you need to go but distances are almost impossible to judge so it's a good idea to rely on a distance device of some kind. When you are near the green and want to chip on, the greens seem a lot further away than they really are and we over-hit a good few times. Putting is a real giggle as you have no way of judging the undulation of the green and have to hit and hope - when one actually does go in you hear the roars of celebrations from greens around the entire course.
You use your own clubs of course so no lights required on them but it's also a good idea to put a light of some kind on your golf bag as if you put it down, it's unlikely you'll find it again or at least one of your four ball will trip over it. In fact, it's a good idea to have at least one torch on you as well. Although it's easier to find the balls when it's darker, when you are walking to your ball, the torches are a safety item so you can see where you are walking. Bunkers are also marked with glow sticks so you can avoid them, but it's the little lumps and bumps on the fairway that are the real dangers. It also helps if you know the course, we spent 10 minutes trying to find the next tee in the dark.
Finally, the only thing that potentially could have spoilt our night, I mentioned judging distances was hard well it's even worse when you can't see if anyone is ahead in front of you (you definitely can't make out people on the course) and even if you can see someone, you have no concept of how far away they are. We took a shot and were horrified to see some frantic light flashing coming from where our ball landed and likewise the group behind us dropped some well lit but particularly dangerous shots at our feet. We eventually established some rules where we would flash our torches 3 times when we were out of driving distance and again when we left the green and it all seemed to work out but I wish we'd have done this before we had incoming drama.
The night was great fun once we fell into a routine although was completely different from a normal game of golf and was a little hairy at times until the 'flashing' routine was defined. It may not be a game for the faint hearted as there can be some risk of twisting an ankle in a dip and I can tell you now, there is nothing more terrifying than a shout of 'fore' when you can't see a thing!