So just how many golf balls are on the moon?

Thanks to astronaut Alan Shepard, two golf balls currently sit on the surface of the moon.

But how and why did the golf balls end up on the lunar surface? That’s a bit of a story. Keep reading to learn more.

How did golf balls end up on the moon?

Let’s start with a quick history lesson.

Since 1969, there have been six crewed landings on the moon. Apollo 11 was the first crewed landing. That’s the one that made American astronaut Neil Armstrong famous.

Reaching the moon was a big deal. Stepping foot on the moon was an even bigger deal.

In 1971, the Apollo 14 Mission took things to another level. That’s when an Apollo 14 astronaut introduced golf balls to the lunar surface.

His name was Alan Shepard.

Who was Alan Shepard? And why the golf balls?

Alan Shepard
Alan Shepard, the first man to hit a golf ball outside of the Earth’s atmosphere. Photo credit: NASA, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Most Americans know the name Neil Armstrong. He was the first Apollo astronaut to walk on the moons surface.

But fewer Americans know about Alan Shepard, and that’s a shame.

Shepard was the first American in space.

In fact, he entered the great unknown back in 1961. If you avoid math and history, here’s what you need to know: Shepard’s visit to space took place eight years before Armstrong ever stepped foot on the moon.

But I digress…back to golf ball question.

Apparently being the first man in space wasn’t enough. Shepard added another notch in his space suit belt when he became the first person to hit a golf ball outside of the Earth’s atmosphere.

Talk about growing the game!

Shepard’s makeshift club consisted of a Wilson 6 iron clubhead that was attached to a tool designed for scooping lunar rock samples. Jack Harden helped him create this makeshift club (which currently resides at the USGA museum, by the way).

With a golf club and two non-Pro V1 golf balls, it was time for a golf swing (or two).

So how far did Shepard hit these moon balls?

Like any good honest golfer, Shepard jokingly claimed to hit the balls “miles and miles” (see the official transcript here), but thanks to high resolution images, we know that achieved the following distances.

  • Shot 1: 24 yards
  • Second Ball: 40 yards

The United States Golf Association has a great breakdown of the moon ball data (including photos) on their website.

These might be the same distances you hit your 6 iron, but NASA Astronaut Alan Shepard had a few legit excuses.

First off, he was wearing a space suit that restricted movement. As far as I’m concerned, that gives him a pass. I can barely swing with a rain jacket on.

It’s also worth noting that he wasn’t playing on a carefully-manicured golf course. He was essentially teeing off in moon dust, which isn’t the ideal lie. Imagine a bunker, but worse. You know you’ve bumped your golf ball to a better lie in much more favorable conditions.

From what I’ve heard, gravity and air resistance are a bit different on the moon. Try factoring those in as well.

Would PGA Tour players like Tiger Woods or Bryson Dechambeau have hit their golf balls further Of course.

But there’s no guarantee that they would’ve arrived at the moon in the first place. Tiger Woods doesn’t have the best history with motor vehicles and Bryson’s personality could be enough to derail an Apollo mission.

Anyhow, here’s the official NASA video for your enjoyment.

Other Random Space Stuff

Since you’re in full-blown learning mode, here’s a few other space tidbits to impress your golf buddies.

How many countries have landed on the moon?

Other countries have successfully landed spacecraft on the moon. That list includes the Soviet Union, Japan, the European Space Agency, China, India, Luxembourg, and Israel. These were all unmanned missions.

What other items are on the moon?

Among the hundreds of items, there is a gold olive branch, several lunar orbiters, a falcon feather, a hammer and plenty of other trash.

NASA has a staggering 22 page list of manmade material on the moon if you’re looking for some extra reading.

Why did we stop going to the moon?

The Apollo missions were NASA’s program to get man to the moon. Mission accomplished.

It’s not cheap to send unmanned spacecraft to the moon, but it does require less specialized equipment than a manned mission. For that reason, it much more cost-effective to send unmanned spacecraft to the moon.

Overall, the six crewed landings were said to have cost $25.4 billion in 1973. Inflated to modern day costs, that figure is closer to $200,000,000,000.

Cha-ching!

So Yes, There are Golf Balls on the Moon.

Two golf balls to be exact.

The next time you hit the links with your friends, throw some of these trivia questions their way to test their lunar (and golf) knowledge.

Also: Try to hit your six iron more than 40 yards.

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