February 6, 1971: Allan Shepard Golfs on the Moon
Apollo 14 astronaut Alan Shepard hits the first golf ball on the Moon. He used a six-iron attached to a sample collection tool. He hit 2 balls, in which the second would have made Happy Gillmore look bad. Of course, the moon has 1/6 the gravity as the Earth does. Alan B. Shepard Jr. was also the second person to travel in space and the fifth person to walk on the moon. His Apollo 14 piloting of the lander was deemed the most accurate. Shepard died in 1998.
Forty-two years have passed since our most famous amateur golfer astronaut, Alan Shepard, described the exaggerated distance of his moon shot as “miles and miles and miles.” Those famous words followed a one-handed golf swing with a rigged up six iron on the moon. The first swing was reported to be a duff, but the next connected.
Although Shepard fired off those two golf balls in moon gravity which is about one-sixth of the earth’s, they did not go miles and miles and miles. Shepard later appended his estimate to drive distances in the 200 to 400 yard range. Still not bad, with one hand and encumbered by a suit that prevented a good pivot on the swing.
Following the Apollo 14 mission, Shepard returned to his position as chief of the astronaut office. He was promoted to rear admiral before retiring from both NASA and the Navy in August 1974.
The club was much sought after upon Shepard’s return. Interestingly, while Bob Hope provided the inspiration for the moon shots, his longtime friend and movie co-star Bing Crosby helped to procure the club for the USGA.
Crosby became a member of the USGA Museum Committee in 1972, and Shepard played for several years in Crosby’s annual pro-am at Pebble Beach. In 1973, Crosby wrote to Shepard on behalf of the USGA: “It seems to me that Golf House would be an ideal repository for the celebrated implement.” Shepard agreed, and the USGA officially received it from him in June 1974, in a ceremony during the U.S. Open at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, N.Y.
During the 1996 speech at the USGA, he recalled receiving a call about the Moon Club. “The Smithsonian said they were building a new exhibit in the Air and Space Museum and wanted to use my golf club. I said I was sorry, but I don’t have it. I gave it away. There was silence at the other end of the line before they asked where. I said it went to the USGA where it ought to be. They said, ‘Don’t you know that it flew in a government spacecraft and it automatically becomes the property of the Smithsonian?’” Shepard asked the crowd, “Can you imagine talking to an admiral that way?”
The Smithsonian later received a replica of the Moon Club.