Remembering Alan Shepard's lunar golf shots, 44 years later

Alan Shepard
NASA courtesy photo
Apollo 14 commander Alan Shepard completes experiments on the moon before his famous golf shots.
By Mark Aumann
PGA.com

Series: Golf Buzz

Published: Friday, February 06, 2015 | 9:56 a.m.

Talk about an out-of-this-world golf experience.

On Feb. 6, 1971 -- 44 years ago today -- Alan Shepard pulled out a makeshift six-iron he smuggled on board Apollo 14 and hit two golf balls on the lunar surface, becoming the first -- and only -- person to play golf anywhere other than Earth.

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The first American astronaut in space was named commander of Apollo 14 and wanted to do something special while on the moon. So he contacted a local club pro in Houston, who connected the head of a six-iron to the shaft of a piece of rock collecting equipment. Shepard then covered the club with a sock so it wouldn't be discovered before launch.

Only a handful of people in NASA knew of Shepard's plan when, after an extended excursion on the lunar surface, he pulled out the club, dropped two balls on the moon and proceeded to do this:

 

 

Shepard shanked the first ball, but estimated his second shot traveled more than 200 yards. Even though it seemed like a stunt at the time, Shepard admitted there was some science involved. With little atmosphere and much lower gravity, golf balls on the moon should travel much farther than on the earth.

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Shepard eventually donated the club to the USGA Museum in 1974. A replica is in the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. He eventually retired from the space program and lived in a home overlooking Cypress Point in Pebble Beach, Calif. He died in 1998.