The Masters Tournament in Augusta, Georgia, has always been a marker for spring for me. The beautifully manicured greens and fairways, the gorgeous azaleas in full flower, and the pageantry of the donning of the famous Green Jacket by the winner represent the popularity of the sport of golf in the United States and around the world. In 1971, a man named Charles Coody recorded his only career major tournament win by besting Jack Nicklaus and Johnny Miller for the victory by two strokes.
In an ordinary year, that would have been the major golf news of the year, but a golfing amateur upstaged Coody in February that year. This amateur’s name was Alan, and his impact on golf is still celebrated today. We may not remember much about that 1971 Masters Tournament, but we certainly remember what Alan did that year. In fact, it is said that Alan hit the most famous golf shot ever made.
The shot Alan made was with a 6-iron, a club that was made by the sporting goods company Wilson and the style of club was called a Dynapower. And that’s part of the story. You see, it wasn’t that Alan made a golf shot that was accurate or that defied the laws of physics or bounced around and settled in the hole or even that he made a hole-in-one. No, Alan’s 6-iron golf shot is significant because of the distance he hit the golf ball with that 6-iron.
Now, most amateurs would hit a 6-iron about 150 yards on a good day. Not Alan. After a couple of practice swings, Alan addressed the ball and took a rather unorthodox swing at the ball; he hit it one-handed. Please know that the average golf shot with a driver (the larger clubs) stays in the air for about 6 or 7 seconds. Alan’s ball took off…and was airborne for over 30 seconds. In fact, the shot Alan took was measured by one scientist as having traveled one mile.
Yes. One mile.
Alan passed away in 1998, but, before he died, he donated the 6-iron with which he hit his famous shot to the United States Golf Association Museum in Liberty Corner, N.J. The club can be seen there today, and it is one of the most popular exhibits at the museum. People want to see the club that made the most famous shot in history.
After all, it’s not everyday you see a golf club that astronaut Alan Shepard used to hit a ball on the moon.