On Friday, we'll find out who among the golfers truly enjoys a challenge when the Rancocas Country Club in Willingboro operates its first night tournament, a nine-hole event.
Because it will still be light when the field tees off at 8:30 p.m., that should give the entrants a chance to get accustomed to the flight and performance characteristics of the special golf balls they'll be using.
These glow balls, called Nitelite balls, were invented three years ago by a New Hampshire entrepreneur. A small stick, filled with two chemical components, is bent or squeezed to start a chemical reaction. The glowing stick is then inserted in a three-sixteenths inch sleeve in the translucent ball and, presto, for the next four to six hours, you have an unloseable golf ball.
"You can see it from 200 yards away," said Nelson Newcomb of Mirror Lake, N.H., who with his son, Corky, came up with the idea. "You can spot it when you're within 10 yards even if it's in deep rough or under the leaves."
Actually, you could know where it is and still not be able to play it. If you hit it into the water, it will just sit there, glowing at you aggravatingly.
The Nitelite is official size and weight, according to the elder Newcomb, and "reacts like a regular golf ball." He said some pros tested it for his firm and made just as many putts from 3, 6 and 10 feet as they did with conventional balls, proving, he said, the glow ball "is perfectly balanced."
But off the green, golfers may have to reach for a weapon with more oomph.
"You have to use one or two clubs heavier," Newcomb said, because the ball carries to about 10 percent less distance than a golfer would achieve with a standard ball. "Anybody who hits a ball 270 yards will hit this one 250."
Also, Newcomb said, "it's best to use a No. 3 wood when driving" because the design of the ball results in a lower flight path.
"The original thought behind it," Newcomb said in a telephone conversation from his office in Hew Hampshire, "was the player who goes out at 5 p.m. and finishes in the dark. He can play the last couple of holes with our ball."
But the original concept is now all but forgotten, he said, "because people just love nighttime golf."
One player even found a useful application for the ball at the other end of the day, Newcomb said.
No matter how early he arrived at the course, this frustrated golfer found a a long line at the first tee.
Finally, he arrived 15 minutes before sunrise. There were perhaps 50 golfers ahead of him, but he asked the group that was first in line if they were about to tee off. Since the darkness was still stygian, naturally they said no, so he asked and received permission to tee off ahead of them.
He plopped down his glowing ball, played through the first green, then sat down on the second tee and simply waited for daylight.
Leo Newbert, the manager at Rancocas, trying to be equally inventive, consulted the calendar before scheduling this tournament.
"The reason I picked July 29 is there will be a full moon," he said. ''People who have played in these tournaments said it helps the visibility. It does get mighty dark out there."
Glowing streamers will be attached to the flagsticks and glowing markers in the fairway will substitute for the usual markers designating the remaining yardage to the green.
Packing some mosquito repellent might be a good idea for the player who
plans to golf in the gloaming, as would taking a free drop and moving the ball to less dangerous turf in the event that the course's nocturnal regular waddles into view.
"The only problem we might run into," Newbert said, "is we have a skunk who comes to visit us as soon as the sun sets. We call him Pepe Le Pew."
The $20 entry fee for the tournament, which will be conducted on the usual handicap basis, will include greens fees, prizes and refreshments afterward, plus one Nitelite golf ball.
And in the interest of better play, those who may like to quaff a few before teeing off should consider whether they might score better if only the ball is glowing.