How Many Golf Balls Are on the Moon?

Brad Carey11 May 2022

It is well known that several astronauts have walked on the moon, but what some people don't know is that some of them have left behind their mementos. A family photo, a golden olive branch, five U.S. flags, and even a javelin have been reported by various sources to have been left on the moon. It's also believed that a certain astronaut left behind golf balls.

Are There Golf Balls on the Moon?

No one can say for certain how many golf balls have been played on Earth, but if there are golf balls on the moon, that question can be answered. Apollo 14 was NASA's third trip to the moon, to determine the moon's structure and determine its atmosphere's composition. Apollo 14 wasn't the first time a human stepped foot on the moon, but it was the first time that an astronaut took his moon shot and left golf balls on the moon.

Which Astronaut Left Golf Balls on the Moon?

As commander of Apollo 14, the first American in space, saw an idea to create what can be deemed as the 1971 version of a viral moment. The 6-iron head was custom-made for his voyage to the moon, and he attached it to the end of lunar sampling equipment instead of using a standard golf club.

He then stood in front of a television camera with his homemade club and two golf balls as his stay on the lunar surface drew to an end. He shanked his first ball into a crater after a few one-armed swings that shifted regolith. However, he was able to get a better grip on the second ball. And he said, "Miles and miles and miles," as it flew through the lens of the camera.

This man was Alan Shepard. He was the commander of Nasa's Apollo 14 mission on February 6, 1971, and with the help of an experimental six-iron made out of an aluminum tool used to gather lunar rock samples that had been hidden in a sock, he played golf on the moon and left two golf balls.

Are There Two Golf Balls on the Moon?

Have you ever been curious about what may be lurking under the moon's surface? Take, for example, golf balls.

When Alan Shepard was in command of the Apollo 14 mission, he decided to have a little fun. This was accomplished by modifying an 8-iron clubhead and affixing it to a tool that collects samples of lunar dust. After that, he smacked a few golf balls that were left on the moon. Shepard contended that his swing was flawless and that the balls flew "miles and miles." One of the most heated debates among moon gazers is whether there are two or three golf balls on the surface of the moon. The correct answer, however, is two golf balls.

According to NASA, these are the only golf balls that have ever been found on the moon. However, there are countless other items. Shepard was one of several astronauts who wanted to leave a memento behind, and his choice was a "little white pellet" known to millions of Americans.

How Far Did the Golf Balls on the Moon Go?

Shepard claimed to have hit the balls miles away. The famously cheeky Alan Shepard, of course, is known for his jovial, tongue-in-cheek antics. But just how far did his shots go?

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 14 mission, imaging expert Andy Saunders teamed together with the USGA to discover the answer to this particular puzzlement. Saunders was able to enhance six old photos from the mission and merge them to create a single, stunning panorama.

With this image, Saunders was able to calculate how far the two balls had traveled. In the end, he calculated that the first ball had traveled 24 yards and the second had traveled 40 yards. Not bad, considering that playing from the moon's surface is similar to playing from a bunker. After all, the moon is practically one huge, unraked, rock-strewn bunker.

Thus, Sanders would have generated significantly less clubhead speed than he normally would have. In addition, he was doing it all while wearing a helmet and gloves and using a makeshift club with only one hand. Supposedly, a good golfer could drive a golf ball "miles and miles and miles" on the moon because there is no air resistance and the moon is only a sixth of the Earth's gravity. However, as long as humans have to don spacesuits, that is unlikely to happen.

Where Are the Two Moon Golf Balls Now?

The two golf balls left behind on the moon have remained there to this day. The 6-iron head and two-ball sock, on the other hand, were brought back by Shepard. The  Golf Association Museum in America received the club as a donation by Alan Shepard after he returned to Earth in 1974, which remains to be on display to this day. The Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. has a replica of such a golf club on their museum.

The Mystery Behind How Far the Golf Balls Went

The four-minute mile run by Roger Bannister, Michael Jordan's "The Shot," and the Miracle on Ice are just a few of the legendary sporting moments that will live on in our collective memory for all time. But there is one "out of this world" incident that beats them all — that moment astronaut Alan B. Shepard Jr. golfed on the moon. While the club he used on February 6, 1971, is now housed in the USGA Golf Museum, one curiosity about those cosmic swings has remained: how far did Shepard's moon shots go?

The estimated distances of each shot have been determined. The first golf ball traveled  24 yards and the second one traveled 40 yards.  However, even the outstanding second shot could hardly be called "miles and miles and miles," yet despite the lack of distance, it's still a very remarkable achievement. Any astronaut donning a full suit would struggle to tee the ball up on the moon's surface. The pressurized suits significantly limited mobility and the visors on his helmet made it difficult to see his feet. There was also minimal gravity to draw the clubhead down toward the ball. It's incredible that Shepard ever made contact and got the ball in the air. Since the moon has just one-sixth of the Earth's gravity plus the absence of atmosphere, the ball went farther than it would have on Earth.

Golf can be quite challenging as it is. But to golf on the moon and leave golf balls behind is an entirely different ballgame than only an outstanding man such as Alan Shepard can ever accomplish.

Brad Carey

Brad Carey

An avid golfer, brad loves a round of 18 on a Sunday. After getting involved in the technical side of golf, he thought he'd share his insights with others.

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