Where Did Alan Shepard's Golf Balls Land After Hitting Them On The Moon?

During the Apollo 14 Moon mission, astronaut and commander Alan Shepard took the opportunity to have a little fun with the low gravity on the Moon's surface. According to Astronomy Magazine, Shepard had a custom-made head designed to be attached to the end of a lunar sampling tool before the trip. He used the  sampling tool as a makeshift golf club on the Moon, allowing him to swing at two balls and become the first ever person to play golf on the lunar surface.

Shepard hit two golf balls on the Moon with his homemade golf club. The shots were difficult to make in his spacesuit and on the sand-like surface of the Moon, causing the first to fly into a nearby crater. The second shot went a bit further, going out of view of the camera Shepard stood in front of. As it disappeared, Shepard remarked that it went "miles and miles and miles," (via Smithsonian Magazine). While this was an exaggeration by the astronaut, the whereabouts of the second ball remained unknown until later measurements and photos confirmed its location.

Shepard estimated that his golf ball traveled around 200 yards

After returning to Earth, Alan Shepard was asked about his famous Moon golf shot numerous times. During one interview, Shepard estimated that his second golf ball had flown fairly far, stating, "Here it would have gone 30 yards, but because there's no atmosphere there, it went about 200 yards" (via The New York Times). This estimate came from the knowledge that the Moon, in addition to being airless, has only one-sixth the gravity of Earth, which should have caused the ball to fly further than it normally would (via NASA).

Unfortunately for Shepard, his second ball didn't fly quite as far as he had assumed. According to the United States Golf Association, Shepard's two golf balls travelled 24 and 40 yards respectively. While the Moon's decreased gravity may have given Shepard an advantage, the bulkiness of the spacesuit made golfing on the Moon much more difficult than on Earth. During a press conference at the 1974 U.S. Open, Shepard discussed practicing swinging the club in his suit before the mission. "I tried to take a practice swing while I was in quarantine before the mission," he said, "but you can't grip the club with two hands when you're wearing that suit" (via Smithsonian Magazine). 

Alan Shepard is the only person to play golf on the Moon

While he may have been the first to play golf on the Moon, Alan Shepard is also the only person to have ever done so. When asked why he did it during a post-flight Congressional hearing, Shepard joked, "I did this since I am patriotic and concerned about the security of the nation." In reality, Shepard was aware of the seriousness of the mission, even waiting to take his famous swings until the end of the mission, planning to skip them if something had gone wrong (via Smithsonian Magazine).

While the two golf balls remain on the Moon, Alan Shepard's "golf club" and the sock he used to carry the two golf balls in are currently on display at the U.S. Golf Association Headquarters in New Jersey, remaining one of the most popular exhibits since its addition. The Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum currently houses a replica of the makeshift golf club that was donated by Shepard himself in 1975.