The sky has always fascinated the human race. Throughout history, there have been countless myths and legends to explain all the things we see in the sky until science came along and gave us more in-depth knowledge about it, fascinating us even more.
The moon, being so close and constant in our sky, has always been one of the biggest focuses of human wonder.
Some look up to it and see a face and give the moon names. Some look up and wonder why there are craters, and how they were formed. Some look up to the moon and wonder how it came to be, and how it affects us here on Earth.
And some…well, some look up to the moon and ask themselves “how many golf balls are up there?”
And you know what? That is a completely valid question because as stupid as it sounds at first, and as weird as it may be, there are actually golf balls up on the moon.
So there. Surprise. Golf has traveled away from this planet and has reached the moon.
So yeah, we’re going to answer exactly how many golf balls there are on the moon, and we’ll also give you all the details on how they got there and why, because we’re sure you’re wondering about it right now!
How many golf balls are there on the moon and how did they get there?
As we’ve said, there are indeed golf balls on the moon (it sounds crazy, we know). Specifically, there are two golf balls on the moon.
These two golf balls were taken to the moon by Alan Shepard in 1971, during the Apollo 14 mission. Alan Shepard was the first American to make it to space, and he was the fifth person to walk on the moon.
But the impressive bit, and the reason why he takes center stage in this article, is that he is the first and only person to have ever played golf outside of the Earth.
So basically, Alan Shepard managed to smuggle the head of a 6-iron along with two golf balls, onto the spaceship that took them to the moon. (Pretty sneaky of him, but also super impressive and cool).
Then, when he was out and about on the moon collecting rock samples and doing all that stuff that astronauts do on the moon, he pulled out the 6-iron head, attached it to the handle of a sample collector, and proceeded to play golf with the two balls.
The best part? We know exactly how this went down, and exactly what he said, because there is a full transcript of the mission. So this is how it went down:
Alan Shepard said:
“Houston, while you’re looking that up, you might recognize what I have in my hand is the handle for the contingency sample return; it just so happens to have a genuine six iron on the bottom of it. In my left hand, I have a little white pellet that’s familiar to millions of Americans.”
(What an intro right?)
He then explained that he would have to swing it single-handed because the spacesuit was very stiff and it doesn’t exactly lend itself to being ideal golf attire. But he took the shot.
Then, Edgar Mitchell (one of the other astronauts there), said: “You got more dirt than a ball that time.”
What a burn! Although let’s give Shepard some credit, he’s playing golf on the moon!
On the third swing, Shepard finally managed to hit the ball, and it flew forward on a low trajectory. So Shepard then placed the second golf ball down and proceeded to hit that one. Pretty epic.
When they left, the two golf balls were left behind, and they’re still there now! So yeah, there are officially two golf balls on the moon, thanks to a golf lover that decided to sneak them on board the mission, and have a little fun.
The 6-iron club head they brought back, and is now on display at the US Golf Association Hall of Fame, in New Jersey. Not surprising, that club-head deserves the fame, it’s been used in space!
But here is the best bit about it all. The entire thing was televised, in color, and aired. So golf fans from all around the world were able to witness Alan Shepard playing golf on the moon, as a moment that went down in history.
How far did the golf balls on the moon go?
For actual golfers that are interested in the effectiveness of golf on the moon, you might be wondering how far the golf balls actually went when hit. It’s interesting because obviously, the conditions are very different from those on Earth.
Well, according to Alan Shepard, the astronaut that took a swing at the golf balls, they went miles and miles. But remember, Shepard is cheeky and full of fun, so this is 100% a light-hearted exaggeration to up his golf skills.
The real answer was discovered on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 14 mission, as Andy Saunders teamed up with the USGA to find out exactly how far the golf balls had gone. He digitally enhanced six of the archived images from the mission and stitched them together into a high-quality panorama.
With this image, he could then work out the exact distance that the two balls traveled.
One golf ball traveled 24 yards, and the second ball traveled 40 yards. Not bad at all considering he was in a spacesuit and on the moon!
It’s important to take into account that as there is less gravity on the moon, there is less speed generated with the swing of the clubhead (plus he was swinging it with one hand only).
However, a professional golfer, without the obstacle of the bulky spacesuit and the makeshift golf club, would probably indeed be able to hit a ball so that it goes miles and miles. Especially because there is no air resistance to slow the ball down!
We hope that helped clear things up, or at least provides you with an answer for your next pub quiz!