When the sun goes down, it doesn't mean that golf can't be played. You just have to get creative about what your definition of golf is.
With summer right around the corner, warmer temperatures are heading our way, both day and night. That means night golf in all its forms is open for business no matter where you live in America.
I've written in the past how much I love playing golf at night. It's a whole different culture and vibe. Nowadays, you can do it in more ways than you probably ever imagined. Here's how:
Golf under the lights
Could no. 1 be more obvious?
No matter how fun simulators and Topgolf can be, nothing beats real golf outside under the stars ... and the lights. By my research, there are more than 60 greengrass courses around the country that offer real night golf. I list them all here and rank the 10 best here. I've teed it up after dark with young kids in Orlando and with golf-writer colleagues in South Korea. It's almost a spiritual experience. If you're not doing it at least once a year, you're missing out.
Where do you play your golf after dark? Let us know in the comments below.
Not even a pandemic could slow the momentum of Topgolf. The popularity of Topgolf has led to 74 facilities being built across the globe the past two decades, including 67 in the United States. That growth shows few signs of slowing down. After opening 10 new facilities last year, Topgolf has nine more currently under construction in destinations like St. Petersburg, Fla.; Colorado Springs, Colo. and Baltimore. The National Golf Foundation credits Topgolf for introducing millions of golfers to the game and making it seem more fun, enjoyable and relaxed. You can do Topgolf casual - whacking balls with non-golfing friends - or serious - by taking lessons or bringing your own sticks for a practice session. The food, drinks and music keep the energy up either way.
Indoor Simulator Golf
Indoor simulators have been popping up everywhere: golf clubhouses, gyms, youth sports facilities, casinos, resorts and bars, often in cooler climates when it's dark and gloomy throughout the winter.
Two of the more popular brands are the Topgolf Swing Suite and X-Golf America. X-Golf America currently boasts more than 55 locations in 30 states with another 25 potentially opening up by the end of the year. All of them serve up a bar-like experience with drinks, food and multiple simulators. Lessons and party rentals are available.
The Topgolf Swing Suite offers a comfy lounge with a massive screen stocked with a multitude of games. Golf is the draw, but throwing baseballs and footballs, kicking soccer balls, blasting hockey slap shots and playing zombie dodgeball are possible, too. There are more than 75 locations throughout America, many integrated into bars, hotels, casinos and resorts.
I've heard of golf clubs of every distinction, from scruffy munis to elite private clubs, that annually host glow golf events. I've done it once at Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, Va., on a short course that no longer exists. It's good fun. The best experiences involve glow balls, pins and greens lit up with glow sticks, a cocktail and short holes that only require walking. Adding carts and longer clubs only invites potential crashes, lost balls and injuries into the equation.
Shots in the Night
Shots in the Night is a unique experience at Indian Wells Golf Resort in the California desert. It's 'destination night golf', if you will. Nights are the perfect time to tee it up in the summer in the Coachella Valley. The Shots in the Night experience is two-fold: You can either use the range to swing away or an expansive putting green for mini-golf. On the range, golfers hit balls that glow on contact, aiming at targets like bowling pins and beach balls that also light up when hit. The putting green features an interactive putting course created by lasers. Music and a truck serving food and drinks keep the party going.
Lighted driving ranges
Lighted driving ranges are popular hangouts for golfers after dark, especially in warm locations like Phoenix, Houston and Sacramento, where it gets too steamy during summer days to play. But pleasant summer-evening temperatures in the Midwest also attract the night owls with clubs. If you're having a bad week at work, but dying to get out, an after-hours range session can provide a great stress reliever. Banging a bucket is cheaper and faster than playing nine holes.
Lighted putting greens
With a few exceptions, resorts around the country aren't investing in new regulation courses. They're building large putting greens and short courses for faster, fun and more affordable golf experiences. Some of these putting greens are lit for night play, a great way to entertain any golf group. Wisconsin seems to be the epicenter of this trend. Erin Hills, host of the 2017 U.S. Open, added the lighted Drumlin putting course in 2019. This summer, the 54-hole Geneva National Resort & Club in Lake Geneva is following along, debuting the "Dance Floor", a lighted Himalayas-style putting course designed by Craig Haltom with 27 holes, fire features, bocce ball, surround-sound speakers and an on-site taco bar & cantina.
Finding a golf dome these days is kind of like a Bigfoot sighting: rare. But these relics from the 1980s do exist in various climates. A few of the famous ones are located near Mistwood, one of Chicagoland's great public courses in Romeoville, Ill., and at Turning Stone Resort Casino, a golf mecca in upstate New York. A winter storm blew down The Golf Dome in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, in 2020 before a new owner built it back up this spring with new infrastructure, amenities (like air conditioning) and technology (5 Trackman Studios). The advantage of practicing and playing in a dome is the chance to watch your ball fly for 50+ yards and aiming at airborne targets.
Indoor lessons and club-fitting
The rise of launch monitors and simulators has led to an explosion of indoor facilities for lessons and clubfitting across America. There is probably a Club Champion, GolfTec, True Spec, PGA Tour Super Store or some other independent place within 30 miles of your house where you can take a lesson, practice or get a clubfitting. It's not 'real' golf, but hey, you're swinging the sticks and likely getting better while the sun is sleeping.
You can debate if mini-golf (or putt-putt) is golfy enough to be included in this list. But for millions of people, this is their first introduction to the game. Plus, if you've got a good stroke, it will translate between goofy golf and the real course any day.
And if you're too cool for mini-golf, tell that to Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, who have invested millions each in two new and improved versions of the game - Popstroke and Puttery (an upscale bar with indoor mini-golf for adults-only). Both have big expansion plans.