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Moonwalker’s Golf Club Now Hanging Out In New Jersey Museum

Apollo 14 astronaut Al Shepard holding a golf club he used during the moon mission in 1971. Here he is visiting the United States Golf Association Museum in Far Hills, NJ in 1995. Credit: Robert Walker/USGA

Apollo 14 astronaut Al Shepard holding a golf club he used during the moon mission in 1971. Here he is visiting the United States Golf Association Museum in Far Hills, NJ in 1995. Credit: Robert Walker/USGA

During that heady time when NASA was sending people to the moon, Apollo astronaut Al Shepard — so the story goes — was showing comedian Bob Hope around a NASA center. Hope went into a simulator for the lighter lunar gravity and swung a golf club around (a habit of his) as he bounced around.

“That was the inspiration, I guess,” said Michael Trostel, the curator and historian at the United States Golf Association Museum in Far Hills, New Jersey. In other words, the inspiration for Al Shepard to bring a golf club to the moon and hit a couple of balls. The golf club, in fact, is at the USGA Museum today.

Of course, it wasn’t so easy just to bring a six-iron on board — there were science experiments and other payloads for the Apollo 14 crew. According to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, the golf club was actually “a contingency sample extension handle with a No. 6 iron golf club head attached.”

Unusually, as space artifacts tend to head over to the Smithsonian after missions, this particular one ended up at the USGA Museum itself. In 1972, when singer Bing Crosby (also a friend of Hope’s and Shepard’s) was a member of the board, he wrote to Shepard on behalf of the museum and asked for the club. Shepard agreed and handed it over during a special ceremony in 1974.

“The reason that it’s not in this museum was that it was personal property of Alan Shepherd. In other words, he took it to space, he brought it back, it was still his personal property he donated it and it was his. That’s the reason,” said Claire Brown, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s communications director.

“Things were a little different back then. You could take a certain amount of personal property. There are different rules now, but at the time that he did it, he was able to bring his own personal club.”

A close-up of the golf club used by Apollo 14 astronaut Al Shepard on the moon. Credit: USGA/USGA Museum

A close-up of the golf club used by Apollo 14 astronaut Al Shepard on the moon. Credit: USGA/USGA Museum

About 

Elizabeth Howell is the senior writer at Universe Today. She also works for Space.com, Space Exploration Network, the NASA Lunar Science Institute, NASA Astrobiology Magazine and LiveScience, among others. Career highlights include watching three shuttle launches, and going on a two-week simulated Mars expedition in rural Utah. You can follow her on Twitter @howellspace or contact her at her website.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Aqua4U November 19, 2013, 12:56 PM

    Utterly frivolous…. this ‘bonehead’ stunt probably thrilled golfers, but also went a LONG way in helping end the Apollo program early. Dzzzzz….

  • Michael S. Doran November 19, 2013, 1:26 PM

    I still love the old Saturn V rockets and the Apollo missions. They seemed magical to me as a child.

  • Mike Petersen November 19, 2013, 1:40 PM

    aqua4u – You have no idea what you’re talking about. The golf ball “stunt” as you called thrilled everyone who watched it. Not only did it give us all a laugh, it was used by lots of educators to talk about physics in lower gravity…how far the ball could be hit, etc.
    It definitely did NOT in any contribute to the end of the Apollo program. Give us a break.

  • Victory_Sabre November 19, 2013, 3:47 PM

    It would be interesting to see how those golf balls look after 40 years on the moon. What damage has 40 years of sunlight done to them?

  • Aqua4U November 19, 2013, 4:26 PM

    No, what I said is quite true. Opponents of the Apollo program pounced on this incident as one reason to end the experiment and pumped media outlets of the day with negative commentary as a result. MANY NASA managers were also extremely displeased…

  • John Sheff November 19, 2013, 6:50 PM

    Short of a plane doing parabolic climbs and descents or an underwater tank, there is no such thing as a “simulator for lighter gravity” that anyone can bounce around in.

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