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The Loop

Jack Kinzler's club hit 'the most famous golf shot in the universe'

March 21, 2014

One day in the run-up to the Apollo 14 manned mission to the moon, Commander Alan Shepard approached Jack Kinzler, a NASA engineer and chief of its Technical Service Center, with an odd request.

"He approached us about making, not the whole [golf] club, but just the clubhead for something he could use," Kinzler said in a NASA oral history interview. "He said, 'you know we have all these handles that have shovels on the ends and they have quick disconnects on them and so on. Suppose you could make a clubhead that would snap right on the same fitting that is at the end of one of the shovel handle things,' which made him a complete golf club.


"So we built that little device for him, and he took it in his PPK kit [Pilot's Preference Kit]. He didn't have to have anything except that little clubhead piece. And it was made to a perfect fit, so it was like a set of snap-on tools that have ratchets and you can plug them in. It was very simple."

Kinzler said it was "bootlegged" through the shop, as a hedge against upper management getting wind of it.

The club that Kinzler helped build, featuring a Wilson Dynapower 6-iron clubhead, became the club that Shepard famously used on the moon, hitting two golf balls, one of them, he said, sailing "miles and miles."

Kinzler died earlier this month. He was 94.

Obituaries noted that he was called NASA's Mr. Fix-It, though his contribution to what was dubbed lunar golf generally warranted only brief mentions.

The New York Times, however, concluded its story on Kinzler with this:

"On the moon, Mr. Kinzler's flags still fly. His plaques endure. And, thanks partly to him, two small white spheres now grace the lunar surface, one of them hit some 200 yards in what will forever remain the most famous golf shot in the universe."

The club is on display at the United States Golf Association Museum.