Tuesday Tips: Play Better Glow Disc Golf

Glow golf is fun -- and a great challenge!

Photo: PDGA

In my club, November means the end of our regular league season and the beginning of our Winter League, a team competition that will take us all the way to the Spring. The first few months are glow golf, playing in the darkness, throwing at baskets lit by flashlights. For some clubs, there is a glow season, but for many clubs, glow events happen year-round.

Playing in the dark brings, unsurprisingly, a whole set of new challenges. It also offers opportunities to be a better player and learn things about your form and your game. It is a fun way to challenge yourself – so how can we play better glow golf?

Make Sure You Can See

The first step it to make sure you have a way to light the baskets and your discs. This can be through LED lights you tape onto your discs, using discs in glow plastic, or by applying glow tape. I don’t like using LEDs because every backswing makes me feel like I am being pulled over by the police, but they are usually brighter and more reliable than glow discs or tape. If you are using glow discs or tape, you can’t always count on the inherent glow to be strong enough to be easy to find (especially if the leaves fall heavy in your area.) Instead, make sure to bring a flashlight to “charge” them before each throw. It is better to use a blacklight flashlight (they are very cheap on Amazon) because they will not ruin your night vision the way a regular flashlight will.

One important note – putting lights or tape on your discs makes them illegal for PDGA tournament play. If you are going to be playing tournament rounds after you play glow, you must remove any tape or lights from your discs. If you are having trouble getting the tape off, try soaking them in warm water: it makes tape much easier to remove. Also, tape will often damage a disc’s stamp when you remove it, so place it on blank areas or use discs that don’t have stamps you need to preserve.

Playing in the dark is like playing in the rain; preparation can save you a ton of strokes. If you are using glow discs or tape, have a flashlight and a spare. Put glow tape on your mini. That seems unnecessary but trust me. It is also important to have a specialized routine for glow golf. You are managing a lot of stuff – discs, towels, flashlights – and if you don’t have a routine for how you mark your position, choose a disc, replace your discs, and store your flashlight, you will leave something behind and have to do without it or run back in the dark searching for it. Running back to previous holes to search for something is especially risky in glow golf because, well, people on other holes can’t see you.

Always be careful as you move around the course. Not only are discs more likely to be thrown off line in the dark, but your normal senses that alert you to roots, holes, and uneven ground are going to be less effective. If you are at an unfamiliar course or off the fairway, use your flashlight (especially if it is a blacklight) to help guide your way.

Slow Down

Slow everything down. It’s easy to get anxious in the dark and the normal cues that help you feel confident and pace your swing aren’t always there. Your depth perception isn’t going to give you the same feedback that helps you know how hard to throw the shot and this can lead to a lack of comfort and confidence. It is easy to find yourself going through your routine faster just to get the throw over with – but don’t rush. In the dark it is even more important to go more slowly so you can feel your form.

Prepare yourself to score worse than normal. This is obvious – you are playing in the dark! – but it is very common to have expectations about what you “should” shoot on a given course. Feeling that you aren’t scoring can make all the frustrating elements of glow golf even more painful. You may play great but give yourself permission to not make all the shots you usually make. You will also probably throw it shorter. Until you get comfortable with glow golf, not being able to see your surroundings makes it harder to really let go and throw. That is totally normal, but until you know how you throw in these conditions, plan to disc up to get to your normal distances.

Putting in the dark can be a real challenge. Your depth perception changes when you can’t clearly see objects around and behind the basket, and this can make speed control difficult. If you are a spin putter who tends to focus on a particular chain link, that is going to be much harder in the dark. Beyond this, the way baskets are lit in the dark can be a trap. If flashlights are threaded into the tops of the baskets, the length of cord on the flashlights can be inconsistent. Often, this means aiming at the light results in hitting the top chain assembly.

This is where focusing on form and letting go of results is crucial. Make a good move, hope for the best, but recognize that making putts is going to be challenge. Just as with your long swing, letting yourself “feel” your putt instead of aiming it or guiding it, is a great way to putt your best. This is one of the lessons that can help every round you play.

Play Smart

You need to play smart in the dark. Scrambling is more difficult since it is often impossible to see branches in your line or find gaps among the trees when you miss the fairway. It is often hard to get out of trouble when you find it on a dark moonless night. Playing away from trouble and making sure you have an open shot, even if that means longer putts or upshots, can prevent costly blowup holes.

For all the possible frustrations, there is a real opportunity when you play in the dark. You can’t use visual cues to help you, so you have to focus on how your mechanics feel. This can really help your swing if you allow yourself to stay balanced and throw at a controlled tempo. Finding a smooth speed you can repeat and then just letting the shot go can really help your form. Once you get used to it, the sense of trusting your mechanics and accepting the outcome can reduce anxiety and let you separate making a good throw from getting a good result. Often, you will have no idea where the disc is going once it leaves your hand and then get to see it drop next to the basket. There can be an advantage in not being able to see all the places you don’t want to go.

Every year in our club, people are surprised at how hard it is to play in the dark. However, others are even more surprised to find themselves playing better. On the first night of our glow league, I warmed up with Travis Abernathy, one of the newer players in our club who has only been playing for a year and a glow golf first-timer. He said his personal best on the course we were playing was several shots over par, then proceeded to go out and shoot 1-under in the dark. “It was about trusting my skills I have developed over the year and playing smart,” Abernathy said. “Par golf is what I kept saying to myself. I didn’t try to force anything, I couldn’t force it because it was dark. Playing in the dark was sensory overload for me, all my aim points were invisible. It was disorienting but I think it helped me a lot.” Since then, Travis has been on a hot streak, tying his personal best the next week and then following it up the next weekend with his first PDGA win.

More than anything, in glow golf, attitude is key. You have to stay in the moment and keep having fun. Remember, this is inherently absurd. Embrace the madness. We are throwing frisbees, at night, often in the chill of late autumn or the dead cold of winter. However, if you can carry that sensation of controlling what you can control – your throw – and letting go of what you can’t – sniper branches, weird kicks, bad skips, or chain outs – into your regular rounds, you may level up your game. Glow golf can make you a wiser player.

  1. Steve Andrews
    Steve Andrews

    Steve Andrews is a college professor and disc golfer in Bloomington, Indiana. He came to disc golf from traditional golf and, even though he is 50 and playing on bad knees, managed to reach 950 rated through course management and playing smart. He is sponsored by Skybreed Discs.


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