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Night golfers seek escape at Westchester


"Super Twilight" lights | High school teacher Matt Schaeffer is one of many golfers who enjoy playing night golf at Westchester Golf Course.

Goofballs | Loyola Marymount grads Brian, Jay and Matt goof off during a round of "Super Twilight" golf at Westchester Golf Course.

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Twilight golfers flock to one of Los Angeles' most popular getaways

By Patrick Crawley

It's 8:00 p.m., time for most Americans to settle onto their couches to watch prime time television, but at 6900 W. Manchester Ave. Angelenos are partaking in a different kind of escape: one that involves tees and wedges rather the initials "T.V."

Night golf, or "Super Twilight" as it's called at the Westchester Golf Course, takes on a variety of different meanings, depending on the person. Some come to Westchester to unwind after a hectic day at work. Others see golf as a religion and choose to worship at its church as late into the night as possible -- 10 p.m. in this case. Still others are simply in search of a good time, substituting cheap greens fees and even cheaper beer for a night on the town.

Whatever the case, Westchester is a rare find: a golf course on the west side that stays open past sundown, Monday through Sunday.

"There's no other lit course that stays open until 10 o'clock, unless you go down to Dominguez or the Torrance/Carson area," said Tay Rose, who works the closing shift at Westchester on Monday and Friday nights. "So it's one of the better ranges in this area."

Driving range mainstay Mike Webb agrees.

"I like Westchester because if you're working during the day like [me and my girlfriend] do, you can come out here in the evenings," he said. "You have the lights, which very few golf courses have, and it's close. It's convenient."

Frequent customers like Webb, who makes a point to visit the driving range at least once a week, are the reason business is booming at Westchester.

"Our cash crop here is our [driving] range," Rose said. "We have a full range. It's lit. It's open late. It does well for us."

Westchester's 23-acre grounds includes an 18-hole golf course, a two-tier driving range and enough lighting to ensure that no ball goes unfound -- as long as you aren't slicing it into the rough, that is. And even if you are, Westchester has just the solution: glow-in-the-dark balls.

"We do have a tracker ball," Rose said. "It just kind of lights up when you hit it for those people who are by themselves and don't hit the ball straight."

The course is open year-round, but the summer months are more popular than the wintertime when it comes to night golf. Situated just north of Los Angeles International Airport, Westchester is very much in the open, and is therefore more suspectible to inclement weather.

"In the winter, it's totally different than daytime golf in that you have fog and rain and cold," said Chris Sauer, Westchester's "closer" on Saturdays. "But some people want to come out and play golf and get some fresh air anyway, and that's what we're here for."

Westchester is much busier during the summer, according to Rose.

"Summer hours it gets nice and warm and we have to push people and fight them off the course at 10 o'clock because they still want to stay out here and work on their game," he said.

The clientele at Westchester is incredibly diverse. Everyone from golf pros to couples to reality TV cameramen can be found hitting balls at the range on any given night. There is one common thread among those who visit the course, though, according to Rose.

"[The clients] are all pretty laid-back and mellow," he said.

Lowered rates -- the charge for "Super Twilight" golf, which starts at 7:30 p.m., is $10 on a week day -- tend to attract a more boisterous crowd (see "Goofballs," top right) which is why Westchester has an "ambassador" on staff each night to make sure nobody gets hurt.

"What [the ambassador] does is make sure people are following the rules," Rose said. "If you're too drunk out there and become a hazard to yourself and/or someone else, we're going to say something."

"Saying something" ranges from a warning to a ban to a call to the cops, but ultimately "we want you to come and have a good time," Rose said, which is why the clubhouse continues to sell beer all the way until closing time.

Judging by the perpetual swell of first-timers and regulars cycling through the course each night, it seems Westchester has accomplished exactly what it set out to achieve.

In a city filled with distractions, it's an ideal nighttime getaway.

 


Night watchman
Tay Rose is the "closer" for Westchester on Monday and Friday nights.

Forever young
Young Lee practices his chip shot next to the upper tier driving range.

Escape from reality
Dan (left) and Max (right) take a break from filming a reality show to hit balls on the range.

The couple that plays together...
Mike Webb is a golf enthusiast who has been hitting the links for 15 years. His girlfriend, Penny Pearl, is just learning how to play. They enjoy spending time with one another at the Westchester driving range.

Brian's vanishing ball trick
Tiger Woods doesn't have a thing on Brian Barclay (see "Goofballs" above). The super golfer gives us a behind-the-scenes account of his vanishing tee trick.


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Background photo by MikeFinkelstein