Golf in a vacuum

Almost exactly 40 years ago, on 06.02.1971, Alan B. Shepard succeeded the furthest one-handed golf swing in history to date, as commander of the Apollo 14 mission. He did not accomplish this due to any extraordinary abilities as a golf player, but because he struck the golf ball on the moon.  And because of the prevailing, scarce amount of gravity and the absent braking effect in the atmosphere, the ball flew extremely far.

Shepard had to strike the ball one-handedly, as the rigid space suit did not allow two-handed play. He undertook four attempts and struck two balls altogether. How far exactly they flew has not been documented, however, one  can assume a couple of hundred metres. In the original audio material of NASA, you can hear Shepard saying jokingly, after his last tee off »Miles and miles and miles …«.


Later, in an interview, Shepard told that this golf initiative had been arranged with his superiors and was only to be allowed and carried through, if the space mission was to be successful. They should not be exposed to criticism of being too frivolous by displaying trivia.

The golf balls are not cited in the list of man-made objects on the Moon. Scientifically speaking, they are probably not significant enough, even though they have certainly made history. Anyhow, they are eligible to raise a smile in us. Therefore, Alan B. Shepard can claim the title of the first and only »lunar golf player« to date.

Around 35 years later, in November of 2006, the Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin set the record with the furthest golf strike in the universe. The ball he struck – one-handedly again, by the way – from the international space station ISS during expedition 14 (number 14 again!), flew around the earth’s orbit more than one million miles, according to NASA’s calculations, until it burned up in the atmosphere. I’d like to see anyone else do that.

Column: Worth hearing, Worth smiling | 1 comment | Leave a comment
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  • Ah, golf! A good walk ruined! Have they decided to remove it from the Olympics yet?

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