Moon Mulligan, a Million Dollar Duff

A Starship Narrative Writing Exercise

apollo-14 Patch

Perhaps, the most notable golf shot ever swung was an altogether lousy swing.  It was the attempt by Apollo 14 Astronaut Alan Shepard to hit a 6 iron shot on lunar firmament.  Weekend golfers have a term for an extra non-counted stroke for a “dubbed” tee-shot on the first hole. .  The term for it is “Mulligan.”  It’s origin is the stuff of fables, old-wife’s-tales, and urban legends.  One of which has a certain wealthy businessman by the name “Mulligan” insisting he take a “correction-shot.” Henceforth called the “Mulligan”, it is a replacement for his miserable drive on the first tee.  His foursome consisted of three “underlings” too frightened to object.                                                   

Now, with respect to Alan Shepard, his party could be no more than a “two-some” if he included fellow Moon-walker Ed Mitchell.  Since Ed had no club, he could be, at best, Shepard’s caddy, or score-keeper.  The transcript records Shepard’s first stroke, a topped stroke sending the golf ball toward the Moon’s core. Commander Shepard’s Mulligan shot was little better, a second near miss dribbling two to three feet to the right.  Now, comes that moment in the annals of golf history never to be forgotten, the second Mulligan, a Sam Snead, Ben Hogan blast from Apollo 14’s “sand-trap.” I actually mean “Moon-dust-trap.”  The dimpled-white-ball bounds forth into a short-lived lunar orbit with a apogee of about three feet and perigee of zero. 

Too this day, no one has seen fit to name that second-tee-shot-Mulligan other than an alternative Mulligan.  But all those who read this account should, henceforth, call Al’s second Mulligan, “A Shepard” in honor of that feat four decades past.  Now that’s as good a tale as any of how the golf term for the second Mulligan came to be named “A Shepard.”   So next time your colleagues object to that second Mulligan, simply cite  this tale that “You are entitled to a Shepard!”                                                                        

In that day, Sunday Green’s fees might come to five bucks on a public links.  But Al’s brief round of three shots off the tee makes even today’s fees on a championship course a pittance.  In 1970, the actual cost of an individual Moon mission (simply fuel, services, etc.) not counting development of the spacecraft, all the hardware, etc., was thought to be approximately $30,000,000.  Now from the transcript time, Al’s golf outing  took from the Mission Elapsed Time (MET) of 135:08:17 to the MET of 135:10:30, a total of approximately two minutes.  The time the two-some spent on the Moon amounted to approximately nine and a half hours.  The ratio of two minutes  to 570 minutes is 2 divided by 570, making the cost of that golf outing about one hundred thousand dollars.  Normalizing that number for forty plus years of inflation eclipses more than a half million dollars, quite a sum for two duffs and the longest six iron shot in the annals of golf-dom.   Nevertheless, most would probably say, “It was worth it!”  Thanks Al for the memory. 

The Assignment

In order to author a brief account similar to the narrative above, make-up answers to the following questions then share them in a one page article.

1.      Make up a tale about how the term “Mulligan” came into existence.

2.      Make up a term for the second “Mulligan” along with its origin.

3.      Do you think Astronaut Al Sheperd’s golf shot was justified? 

4.      Do you think, he should have tried two additional shots after the first two failed? 

5.      What legitimate reason might justify taking a Mulligan? 

Transcript from Apollo 14 Mission Audio Tapes

135:08:17 Shepard: (Facing the TV) Houston, while you're looking that up, you might recognize what I have in my hand as the handle for the contingency sample return; it just so happens to have a genuine six iron on the bottom of it. In my left hand, I have a little white pellet that's familiar to millions of Americans. I'll drop it down. Unfortunately, the suit is so stiff, I can't do this with two hands, but I'm going to try a little sand-trap shot here. (Pause)

[Author: "He topped the ball on the first swing, probably embedding it in the lunar regolith . It is thought the six-iron was secretly brought on board."]

[Mitchell - "In his suit pocket."]

135:08:53 Mitchell: You got more dirt than ball that time.

135:08:58 Shepard: Got more dirt than ball. Here we go again.

[The  second swing pushed the ball about 2 or 3 feet,  toward the TV camera, rather than parallel to  the swing.]

135:09:01 Haise: That looked like a slice to me, Al.

135:09:03 Shepard: Here we go. Straight as a die; one more. (Long Pause)

[Al's third swing finally connects and sends the ball off-camera to the right, apparently on a fairly low trajectory. He drops a second ball, which rolls left and toward the TV camera. Al gets himself in position and connects again. The trajectory of this shot appears to be similar to the previous one.]

135:09:20 Shepard: Miles and miles and miles.

135:09:26 Haise: Very good, Al.

135:09:27 Haise: And (to) answer Ed's question earlier there; Kilo-Kilo was used for the window shots, Ed; so, you ought to bring it back.

135:09:43 Shepard: Yeah, that's right. We got some of that to start with, didn't we?

135:09:46 Mitchell: Yeah.

135:09:49 Shepard: (Garbled). (Long Pause)

[Al removes the club head. He brought it home and it is currently on display at the US Golf Association Hall of Fame in New Jersey.]

135:10:14 Mitchell: How many films (means "frames") did we take with this (close-up camera)? Eleven, Huh? 135:10:17 Shepard: Ah. Approximately. 135:10:20 Mitchell: 17. Okay. (Pause)

[Al is putting the club head in his thigh pocket. Ed has removed the close-up camera from the MET and has placed it on the ground.]

135:10:30 Haise: Okay, Ed; Houston.

Click here to watch a video of the Moon Mulligan golf shot.


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