Sometimes there are not enough hours in the day to play golf. That is especially true this time of year, when the sun sets not long after most people are leaving work. Cutting out of the office a few hours early still isn't enough time to get in a full round.
Daylight savings time can't get here soon enough, but until it does, there is still a way to scratch the golf itch, even in the dark.
Play golf at night.
That's what they do on select Wednesdays at Treasure Bay Golf Course in Treasure Island. The short executive course is transformed into glowing golfers, tee boxes and greens.
"The land is just sitting there," Treasure Bay director of golf Gary Metzger said. "We might as well use it."
Largo Golf Course has also held lighted tournaments in the past, and plans to do so again in the future.
"It looks like an airport runway when they're done setting it up,'' Largo GC golf director Don Brannon said. "People really like playing it."
How it works
At Treasure Bay, where the next lighted tournament will be held Wednesday, Metzger breaks out the glow sticks and balls, and sets up the course. There are lights on the tee box and on the borders of the fairway.
A light stick is taped to the flagpole, and a lighted ring is placed inside the rim of the cup. As part of the $20 entry fee, each player is given a glow ball, which has a glow stick in the middle. If one should wind up in Tampa Bay, Metzger has extras.
"This is ideal for us,'' Metzger said. "It only takes about an hour and a half to play nine holes, and people seem to enjoy it. We do it once every other Wednesday to keep it more of a novelty. I think that might wear off if we do it every week, but if we get a lot of response, maybe we will do it weekly in the future.''
Treasure Bay is an ideal course for night golf. It has nine par 3s and only measures 990 yards from the back tees, so it doesn't take as many glow lights to set up the course as a longer one. And Metzger said the quality of play doesn't go down just because it's dark.
"Usually, when we have a tournament during the day, 3 or 4 under par will win,'' he said. "That same score is usually what wins at night.''
The night guy
Mike Kilgore has created a niche preparing golf courses for night tournaments. His Palm Harbor-based business (www.nocturnalgolf.com) has been around for more than seven years, and he said he does about 15 to 20 tournaments across the country each year.
He can set up an 18-hole course in about 45 minutes using nearly 1,300 lights, but generally he does nine-hole courses. Most of the tournaments are charity events.
"Eighteen holes of night golf is just too much," Kilgore said. "People are just too tired after playing nine holes at night."
Kilgore lines each fairway with LED (light-emitting diode) lights. Water hazards are lined with blue lights, and sand traps have red lights. He uses LED balls that stay lit for eight minutes at a time, then recharge when they're hit again.
The cost to set up a course varies. When he set up the Largo course for its Halloween tournament, it cost $4,500. He said he also sets up nine-hole courses and putting greens for monthly night tournaments at Champions Gate Country Club in Orlando.
"We set up a course in Butte, Mont., once and it was next to an airport,'' Kilgore said. "The course called the airport to get clearance to light the course because they thought it might confuse planes looking for the airport.''
Kilgore said technology has made night golf better.
"Golf courses were trying to figure out how to supplement a little income,'' Kilgore said. "It used to be you take $35 from people, give them some chili, and put a glow stick on the flag and tee box. I wanted to take it to a higher level. The difference between me and some others is I use LED lights instead of glow sticks. They last longer and are just as bright."
It starts with the balls, which retail for about $2.50 each. However, at most night events a ball or two is provided to each player. Most have a mini glow stick that fits into the middle and illuminates the ball. It doesn't look like a regular ball, and it does not travel like one.
"It travels about 15 to 20 percent less than a regular ball," Metzger said. "We always tell people to use at least one more club."
Then there are the LED golf balls that Kilgore uses. These can retail for about $3.50 per ball. They have a harder cover to protect the electronics, but they still don't travel as far as a regular golf ball. But there is one advantage to playing a glow ball. "You don't lose your golf ball as much at night," Kilgore said. "If you hit it in the trees, the trees are glowing. Hit it in the bush, the bush is glowing.''
Other equipment includes glow stick necklaces for each player as well as glow sticks for the carts. That way, groups on the tee box can see the players ahead of them.
Also, it would be wise if one person in each foursome carried a flashlight, just for some extra light in finding balls or reading scorecards.
Golf every night
Terrace Hill Golf Club in Temple Terrace doesn't need glow-in-the-dark balls or flag sticks. The nine-hole, 1,854-yard layout is lighted throughout the year, making it the only lighted course in the area. It offers a full driving range and a practice putting green as well.
It has three par 4s as well as a long, 222-yard par 3. The course allows golfers to use just about every club in the bag, and it takes only about an hour in a cart to play nine holes. Walking is allowed, however. The cost to play after 6 p.m. is $19.80 for nine holes or $30 for 18.
The course takes its last tee time at 8:45 p.m. and the last bucket of balls on the driving range is 10 p.m.
For more information on area public courses, go to www.tampabay.com/golf.