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From St. Andrews to the Moon

One of our foursome put his hand on the archaeologist's shoulder. "No way, Mark," said he, "is the Mena House going to let you dig up their golf course just to find some old temple."

Lehner maintains that he was joking, that the valley temple is known to be under a modern town east of the Giza Plateau. Me, I have my doubts. And the temple has yet to be found.

The exploratory spirit at the heart of golf, however, cannot be suppressed. Ponder the deed, for instance, of Alan Shepard, the Apollo 14 astronaut, who on February 6, 1971, hit a pair of golf balls on the moon with a jury-rigged six-iron. With lunar gravity only one-sixth as strong as that on earth, Shepard was confident he would smash the longest drive in history, but he failed to reckon on the impediment of a space suit so bulky he had to swing one-handed. He caught his first ball fat, then watched it dribble pitifully a few yards and stop.

All the same, you would think that for such a historic moment, Shepard would have prepared a lapidary utterance akin to Neil Armstrong's "one giant leap for mankind." Instead, Shepard muttered, like any municipal hacker, "Got more dirt than ball. Here we go again."

The astronaut connected on his second try. In the excitement of the moment, watching his ball bound into the distance, he chortled, "Miles and miles and miles!" Later Shepard soberly remeasured his shot as a mere 200 to 400 yards; and still later, he characterized it for a golf magazine: "It was kind of a one-handed chili dip"—albeit one that hung in the air for thirty seconds.

What compelled the spaceman to his pointless exercise?What compelled me to mine?Obviously, a love of golf . . . but clearly something more, too. Part of it, surely, is the desire to do something first, a trait all explorers have to a fault. More than that, though, I think there's an irresistible primal need evident in both acts. Are there two more basic human desires than to know what lies beyond the horizon and to see how far you can hit a rock with a stick?

Thus, and always, will the challenges of adventure golf tempt humankind. Just last week I received a press release concerning one Andre Tolme, who is seeking donations to fund his effort to hit a golf ball 1,320 miles across Mongolia. A purist, apparently, he is walking, not riding. And one other shining deed, which would reestablish the link between the domesticated pastime golf has become and its lawless roots in the Scottish heather, has finally been attempted.

In May, a visionary linksman packed a graphite driver and a golf ball to Mount Everest. His name is Jay White, and—you can't make this stuff up—he works as an engineer for TaylorMade. Carrying a highly modified R510 driver (with a two-piece screw-together ultralight shaft) and a MaxFli A-10 ball, he planned to assemble the club and set up the camera, then photograph himself as he launched the world's highest tee shot. Sadly, his bid failed 1,000 feet shy of the summit, and so this ultimate folly remains: Aim off the Kangshung Face. Swing—connect—and burst with pride as (pace Alan Shepard, Heinrich Harrer and my friend on the Gamshag) the mightiest drive in human history vanishes into the abyss.


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