Beyond the dense 60-foot trees whose leafy tops smother the fairway of Hole 15 at the Bailey Road Park disc golf course, there’s still a good 30 minutes of daylight left in what is billed as a weekly opportunity for league competition after players’ work days are done.
But light is quickly swallowed at Hole 15’s wooded entrance. As players descend toward the basket target hundreds of feet away, the flicker of lightning bugs make for a spectacular opening act to the light show that will soon follow.
Shortly after dusk, the disc golfers illuminate their discs with glow-in-the-dark methods and continue to launch them in twilight, creating an appearance of a mini-UFO attack at the Cornelius park’s 21-hole course every Monday.
The Bailey Glow Doubles League is known for its convenient schedule and its tightly knit group of players. But playing in the dark also makes it the only league of its kind run by the popular and wide-reaching Charlotte Disc Golf Club.
“It’s mostly the atmosphere,” said league director Marc Haren. “A lot of the other leagues are really serious. We don’t keep scorecards. We have an honor system. We come out here and people just have a good time. We get to come out and throw in the dark.”
As the name of the league indicates, golfers play in pairs. It is one of the five leagues Charlotte Disc Golf Club coordinates and the links at Bailey Road Park is one of 17 courses the Charlotte Disc Golf Club maintains in the greater-Charlotte area.
Other courses located in the Lake Norman area include those at Bradford Park in Huntersville, Stumpy Creek Park in Mooresville, and Robbins Park at Cornelius’ Westmoreland Athletic Complex.
Organized efforts at Bailey Road Park and Gastonia’s Rankin Lake Park, coordinated by the Gaston Disc Golf Club, are believed to be the only glow-in-the-dark leagues in the Charlotte area.
The Bailey Road Park league has a weekly turnout of 20-35 players. The entry fee is $5 and cash payouts are made to the top finishers. Registration starts at 7 p.m. and play begins around 7:45.
Pairs are selected randomly unless two people show up wishing to partner up. Play is dictated by captain’s choice. Newcomers are welcome, a credo among the disc golf community.
“A lot of us are used to the course,” says Kyle Neff, 54, of Huntersville. “It’s not so bad because we know where things are. (In the dark), your depth perception is a little different, that’s for sure. You don’t see if you’re in the woods which can be good because you’re not afraid of them. But you’re also more likely to hit them.”
The course opened in 2010 and league play was initiated by Mark Huether of Matthews, a key Charlotte Disc Golf Club leader and player. Because of the driving distance, a couple years ago Huether turned league direction over to Haren, a relative newcomer to the sport.
Haren, a 37-year-old Cornelius resident, was introduced to the sport by his future wife, Casey, on their second date about three years ago. When they were married May 20, about 20 Bailey Glow Doubles players were among the 120 or so guests.
Casey plays the Bailey Glow League periodically, but only because she is often preoccupied with the Charlotte Disc Golf Club’s Women’s League at Renaissance Park in Charlotte, which also plays on Mondays.
Disc golfers know how to have a good time, and so do those fireflies on Bailey Road Park’s Hole 15 and its wooded, hilly neighbor, Hole 16.
A tee shot into darkness will cause any creature to duck. The discs may be lit, but the woods are not. The most pleasant sound to a glow disc golfer’s ears is the silence of the path his disc weaves through a band of invisible trees.
Garrett Kirkpatrick, an east Charlotte resident, should have been so lucky when he threw off the tee pad at Hole 16 on a recent evening. Seconds after his toss, his disc could be heard smacking into a tree.
“That is not the sound a disc golfer likes to hear,” said Kirkpatrick. “The best thing about Glow League is the unknown. You never know if you’re going to walk into a spider web.”