Who's that sneaking 'round your course at night?
More and more disc golfers so it seems. One industry source shared that tens of thousands of LED bobber lights have been sold in the past few years that are duct taped to discs so they can be seen at night. In the Twin Cities, players in leagues that run early in Spring or late into Fall know to carry a few LED bobber lights and tape. The last few holes on several nights will be finished at dusk, sometimes slipping into darkness.
Why play at night? Courses aren't crowded, at least not yet. It extends the season everywhere in even the coldest places. The Twin Cities may have the most extreme league each year when the Moondog starts around Thanksgiving and runs every Tuesday night until Daylight Saving starts in the Spring even when it's -20 out and a foot of snow on the ground. In the few sanctioned events where we've calculated ratings, it doesn't seem like playing at night affects the scores much. The SSA for the courses came out close to daytime rounds there. Maybe not seeing the trees reduces any nervousness about hitting certain routes?
To support the increasing popularity of night golf, the PDGA is looking into expanding equipment specs to allow discs and other gear to be designed for night play. Manufacturers have recently been surveyed for their advice on this topic and we should have some good ideas by mid-July. (Note: Any disc manufacturers we missed, please contact [email protected] to participate in the survey.) Besides glow discs that have been around for 20 years, there are some discs containing LEDs designed for night play on the market like those from Black Jax Sports pictured below. However, the Black Jax Quest and any other LED models currently do not yet meet PDGA specs, primarily because they contain metal.
Night events currently can be PDGA sanctioned as X-tiers where players can earn points and ratings. It's common to have one or more day rounds and one night round as the event format but all rounds can be at night if desired. Players must use PDGA Approved discs under the current standards. However, when the TD requests a waiver for the event, players are allowed to tape the LED bobber lights to their discs (even max weight discs) in addition to using longtime PDGA Approved discs where the glow compound is blended in the plastic.
You can find the LED bobber lights at online and retail disc golf stores for around $4 each. A new type of LED (see photos) has become available for just $2 each in packs of five. However, these are not waterproof and should be taped as shown so they are sealed pretty well from water.
As equipment for night play evolves, it will include more devices with replaceable and, ideally, rechargeable batteries. Solar panels to recharge batteries for lights in targets would also be desireable.
The LED light sticks pictured do have replaceable batteries and are probably the least expensive way to temporarily light the targets for night play. A set for an 18-hole course runs less than $50 and should last for 12-15 rounds before needing new batteries. Replacement batteries only run around $20 for the whole course to get another 12-15 rounds. (check PDGA Store for LED products shown) Single use glow sticks have been used for many years and might run $50 for an 18-hole course and last just one round. That cost is why your hardcore night golfers have tended to not light the baskets. In fact, even "spotting" them with a flashlight during played is sometimes not allowed.
Speaking of hardcore, here's what the "cool kids" use for night golf (ex military?) - night vision goggles! While the pair shown in the photo "only" run $500, the really good (read: longer distance) night vision goggles run into the thousands of $$. Just for fun, check out these night vision binocs for under $50 that apparently see just beyond 50 feet in the dark: EyeClops
Add infrared LEDs to your discs, produced by filtering visible light LEDs, and you have the stealth version of night disc golf - fun but a bit pricier. If rangefinders are made legal for night time play, they use infrared lasers so distance to the basket can be determined as long as you know where to aim.
While the stealth version may be the only way to play some courses, the future for night disc golf could literally be much brighter by lighting more than is typically done today once manufacturers are turned loose to innovate more items for night play that mostly use rechargeable batteries. Envision players carrying a rechargeable battery belt where they plug in their jacket, pants and shirt. Or maybe each item will have its own battery? Some might add a lighted cap and even shoes which are already available. Is it possible to emulate tie-dye with LEDs?
Discs containing multiple LEDs will streak thru the sky with open shuttered videocams tracking their flight. Baskets might be lit subtly or perhaps with gaudy multi-colored blinking LEDs. With dramatic and colorful night lighting everywhere, we could create a spectacle that could really grab the attention of the media and bring us out from under the big shadow cast by ball golf.
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