May 9, 2009

The Longest Bunker Shot Ever?

This weekend at the Player's Championship may have been stuck in bunkers here and there, but try hitting out of one a quarter of a million miles away from the nearest fairway. Getting out in two or three shots would be pretty impressive, don't you think?

That's what astronaut (and first American in space) Alan Shepard did: on February 6, 1971, Alan B. Shepard Jr. grabbed a 6-iron and launched one of the most famous golf shots in history. Actually it was two shots--the first misfired and traveled only 100 feet. The second connected solidly and flew above the lunar surface for over 30 seconds. Shepard then took a third shot that was even more solid -- and he laughingly remarked that it went "miles and miles."

That's probably a major exaggeration - but the projectile may well have flown hundreds of yards before touching down. There isn't any atmosphere on the moon, of course, so there's no air to support aerodynamic flight, but moon's gravity is roughly 15% of Earth's, meaning that an object with equal mass will travel further before gravity pulls it back down. All considered, about 300-400 yards is a good guess, and within Shepard's own estimate.
You can watch a video of the short on Youtube by clicking here.

The World Golf Hall of Fame has an awesome display of a replica of the club Shepard used -- a forged six-iron head fastened to part of another experiment apparatus.

That's not the only shot taken by an American astronaut in space: prior to a 1996 mission of the Space Shuttle Endeavour a putter and golf ball was smuggled on board tfor astronaut and weekend golfer Brian Duffy. He was presented the putter on the flight deck as the shuttle was orbiting Earth, and Duffy played around with it in his spare time. One can only wonder what the break was in the three dimensions of microgravity (the ball would float, not stay on the deck) but we can be sure that Duffy had a good time. At the end of any round, where it is on your home track or on the surface of the moon, that's all that's important.

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