As GolfDigest.com highlighted this week with an item on Night-Golf Systems, golfers-by-night aren't in the dark as much as they used to be. Improved lighting and special effects make playing at night a vibrant light show. But such was not the case when the first nighttime golf event was televised.
Golfing by the stars has been around so long that the 60th anniversary of the first telecast came and went last year. Golfers today are familiar with the series of Monday night televised golf matches headlined by Tiger Woods (The "Battle at Bighorn" with David Duval, for example), but those were not the first televised night-golf events. During the summer of 1954, Chicago NBC-affiliate WNBQ (now WMAQ-Channel 5) televised matches on 14 Tuesday nights. The format was limited, however, by the restrictions of the day's equipment. Golfers played just seven-hole matches, with the 18th green at Tam O'Shanter Country Club in Niles being the focal point. Seven par-3 holes ranging from 20 to 104 yards were set up, with each playing to the 18th green. The green was well lit with lights similar to a baseball park; smaller mobile light units on pick-up trucks were used for the teeing areas.
The first night event had tour pros Johnny Revolta versus Dutch Harrison, and an amateur match between legendary 64-year-old Chick Evans and Chicagoland standout Art Hoff. Harrison shot a four-under 17 to beat Revolta by two shots; Evans beat Hoff, 20 to 21.
A couple other night-golf firsts: Colonial Country Club in Lynnfield, Mass., installed a system by Sylvania in 1964 and held what it said was the first nighttime professional golf tournament, and in 1968, the course at Sunol, Calif., proclaimed it the first championship-length course that was fully lit.
Nocturnal golf has its advantages to improving your swing. If you have a chance, play in a night-golf event, but give it a try with just flashlights and special glow balls, with at least a half moon on a clear night, starting around 10. Barely seeing the ball will improve your feel and clear your mind from mechanical thoughts. After you hit the ball you'll be able to tell where you hit it on the clubface and the direction it's going. As Gary McCord and Peter Kostis wrote in Golf Digest about golf in the dark: "You must feel your swing and what kind of shot it produced if you're going to find the ball. Hit it, feel it and listen to it is the call of night golf."