Fifty Years On, Alan Shepard’s Golf Ball Has Been Found On The Moon

Last month we brought you the news that dinosaurs probably landed on our moon. This month, golf balls have found there, which are not quite exciting but endure with us. Fifty years ago, on February 5, 1971, Apollo 14 landed on the moon. As well as trying to determine the internal structure of our satellite and measuring the composition of the lunar atmosphere, the astronauts took with them the heads of six-iron golf clubs and some golf balls.

The head attached to the handle of a sample-collecting tool, which you will notice is not in favor of any kind of club professionals. The next day, astronaut Alan Shepard was able to do something he had never done before and practiced his swing on the moon. His first shots did not go well, skimming the top of the ball and passing just a few feet. The third swing, clearly inspired by this calculation as opposed to his score, he connected and the ball bounced off the shot at quite a low trajectory. Shepard was able to hit the second ball on the first try, believing it had gone “miles and miles and miles”.

One ball found comrade Edgar Mitchell in a nearby hole, but the second not found until half a century later when digitally enhanced scans of the image taken during Apollo 14 found by imaging expert Andy Sanders. In addition, Miles and Miles “Sheppard thought he could hit and Saunders’ analysis showed that, despite the low gravity on the moon, the ball didn’t move at all.

“We can now determine fairly accurately that the number one ball traveled 24 yards [22 m],” Sanders wrote on behalf of the US Golfers’ Association (USGA), “and the number two ball traveled 40 yards [36 m].”

However, as Sanders countered, “Shepard even made contact and found the ball airborne. It was very impressive.” “I would challenge any club golfer to go to their local course and try to hit the outside of a moving bunker with a quarter of a six-iron without a hand,” he told BBC Sport. “Then imagine wearing perfectly fitted, helmeted and thick gloves. Also remember that there was very little gravity to pull the club’s head towards the ball.”

Kudos to Shepard to be the first person to find golf on the moon, but it was truly a horrible shot, even if he wore a heavy spacesuit.  Pro professional golfer Gary Felton told IFLScience, “As a professional I’ve heard a lot of excuses for poor golf performances, ‘clubs are too old’, ‘I never get to play’, ‘I’m injured’,” he told IFLScience. “The truth is some golfers are bad golfers and they lie. They lie about why they play badly. They are a fiber. You’ve decorated your novelty on the moon so wonderfully.”

Sanders calculates that if a professional golfer runs a golf ball on the moon at 298 kilometers per hour (185 miles per hour) – at 2016 PGA champion Jimmy Walker’s earthbound speed – they can overtake the Shepard at a clear 45 degree angle because the ball is in the air for a whole minute impressive 2.62 miles (4.22 kilometers) away. “My advice for golfers who like to play the great game in lunar space suits would be a wider position and a shorter backswing,” Felton commented. “And make sure no one is watching.”