Tempe’s Grass Clippings Rolling Hills shines new light on golf with nighttime play

A diverse group of players, from beginners to seasoned golfers, enjoy the inclusive atmosphere at Grass Clippings Rolling Hills. (Photo by Grace Hand/Cronkite News)

Golfers can navigate the illuminated fairways and greens at Grass Clippings Rolling Hills, enjoying the unique experience of night golf. (Photo by Grace Hand/Cronkite News)

The newly renovated pro shop at Grass Clippings offers a unique selection of golf apparel and accessories. (Photo by Grace Hand/Cronkite News)

The distinctive Grass Clippings logo reinforces the brand’s presence throughout the course. (Photo by Grace Hand/Cronkite News)

The pro shop at Grass Clippings Rolling Hills offers a unique blend of golf items, reflective of their inclusive approach to the game. (Photo by Grace Hand/Cronkite News)

TEMPE – Darkness had always limited play on Arizona’s golf courses until Grass Clippings took on the challenge.

Tired of halting rounds early due to course rules, the founders of the clothing brand united to enable play into the night for all interested golfers.

For the past six months in Tempe, golfers have enjoyed playing under the lights until 1 a.m. at Grass Clippings Rolling Hills, the state’s first fully lit 18-hole golf course. Pete Wilson, Jake Hoselton, Jimmy Hoselton and Connor Riley saw the new venture was a natural next step after leading a successful business selling polos and hats at their retail location in Arcadia.

“One thing that frustrates someone that lives here is that you’re playing in the winter when it’s the best time to play golf, and someone comes out on the 17th hole and says you’ve got to bring the carts in,” Wilson said. “As the sun is going down, the most beautiful part of the day, and you’re like, why can’t we just finish real quick?”

Grass Clippings Rolling Hills is one of 20 lighted golf courses in the United States. (Photo by Grace Hand/Cronkite News)

Grass Clippings Rolling Hills is one of 20 lighted golf courses in the United States. (Photo by Grace Hand/Cronkite News)

In March 2023, Grass Clippings partnered with the city of Tempe in a 30-year deal to operate Rolling Hills Golf Course, now the 20th course in the country to offer 18-hole lighted golf. South Korea boasts 117 lighted golf courses.

While night golf has yet to take off in America, the course aims to lead in growing the game and ensuring everyone feel welcome, offering the best experience.

“We want everyone to feel welcome, we’ve been preaching this come as you are style of play,” said Mike Uribe, the course’s director of guest services. “Whether you’ve heard about golf the last 10 years, 20 years, or you just heard about it yesterday. The goal is everyone should just come and feel welcomed, whether you are good, bad, or just getting into it. Our goal is to continue to grow the game of golf.”

Since taking over, Grass Clippings has installed 78 light poles and par-3 tee boxes on every par 4, transforming the daytime par-59 layout into a par-54 by night. The owners enlisted top golf course designer Jackson Kahn Design for the upgrades.

The changes at Grass Clippings Rolling Hills extend beyond the course, starting with the pro shop. Unlike traditional golf shops, it features a sneaker wall with Jordan-brand shoes and Nike dunks, streetwear, plants, hats and a poker table.

Wilson and his team also incorporated their Grass Clippings brand – which was inspired by their love and appreciation for greenskeepers – on apparel with slogans like, “Stay Grassy,” “Thank Your Local Greenskeeper,” and “Anywhere There’s Grass” on different items.

“We all appreciate it, there is a traditional kind of style to golf,” pro shop attendant Pablo Leyva said. “Folks who get newer into golf that might not necessarily be their style. Just having that welcoming culture, being able to wear your sneakers, or just a T-shirt to the golf course without any judgment – that’s gone a long way for a lot of people.”

A golfer tees off under the lights at Arizona's first fully lit 18-hole golf course, operated by Grass Clippings Rolling Hills. (Photo by Grace Hand/Cronkite News)

A golfer tees off under the lights at Arizona’s first fully lit 18-hole golf course, operated by Grass Clippings Rolling Hills. (Photo by Grace Hand/Cronkite News)

Construction continues on multiple parts of the project. The lighted driving range will include new hitting bays with top tracer technology, music and a bar. The event lawn will feature a beach bar, with plans to open a nearby restaurant by 2025.

“It’s going to be a great place to come regardless of if you are playing golf or not,” Wilson said. “That was the whole thing, how can we create something that is growing the game and at the same time people can come here, not have to golf and still have a great time.”

In April, the course gained exposure by partnering with Bleacher Report to broadcast the inaugural Grass Clippings Open, a high-stakes par-3 tournament.

“The Grass Clippings Open was a two-man scramble and we saw huge success,” Uribe said. “We had a really cool concert, we had LANCO here to perform, we had good food trucks, a lot of good fans and it was a lot of fun. So we are continuing to grow that.”

Teams came from Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Tampa Bay, Los Angeles, Dallas and Canada to compete for a $100,000 purse. The tournament comes from a new league called the Grass League, the first of its kind under the lights.

“We believe par-3 golf is a standalone sport,” Wilson said. “The added element is light, “If you can play under the lights at night and broadcast that on primetime television, you have something there.”

Grass Clippings Rolling Hills is changing the way golf is played in the Valley, sparking interest in night golf venues, par-3 tournaments under the lights and increasing the game’s popularity nationwide.

“The long game is to grow the company and grow the game of golf,” Uribe said. “Whether that’s here in Tempe, Ireland or Scotland. Just grow it all around the world.”

(Video by Iman Abraham/Cronkite News)
Sports Digital Reporter, Phoenix

Jack Reeves expects to graduate in August 2024 with a master’s degree in sports journalism. He previously graduated in May 2023 from the University of Northern Iowa with a bachelor’s degree in sports public relations.

Iman Abraham(she/her)
Sports Broadcast Reporter, Phoenix

Iman Abraham expects to graduate in December 2024 with a master’s degree in sports journalism. She has a bachelor’s degree in communications and a minor in marketing from Prairie View A&M University. Abraham has interned at KPVU TV as a reporter, anchor, host and producer in Prairie View, Texas.

Grace Hand(she/her/hers)
Sports Visual Journalist, Phoenix

Grace Hand expects to graduate in August 2024 with a master’s degree in sports journalism. Hand attended Sacred Heart University for her bachelor’s degree in sports communication and media with a minor in digital marketing. Hand is pursuing a career in the NHL.