On hitting a basketball with a golf club

July, 27, 2010
7/27/10
4:27
PM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Archive
On Monday I linked to this video with a shot of a guy using a golf club to chip a basketball into the hoop from some distance.

Quickly there were people saying it was clearly faked. If the ball were to travel that far, they say, then either it was not a real basketball, or the whole thing was somehow digitally staged. There were suggestions that a golf club would bend or snap in two with that much force on it.

The whole issue, as you'll see, is an excuse for people to use the word "shaft" way more than normal.

TrueHoop reader Cooper e-mails that he has done these tests, as it were. He apparently spent much of his childhood hitting a basketball with a golf club -- repeatedly.

"The shaft," he says, "was just fine. I can't imagine it was still a high-performance golf club, but it worked just fine for my teenage golf games. ... Maybe there's a difference between old-school steel shafts and the newer, graphite shafts when it comes to durability under impact pressure of a basketball."

Then he adds one of the most macho things anyone could possibly say about all this: "I am sure," he says with refreshing confidence, "I was using a steel shaft."

I asked him how far he could get the basketball to fly. (Which was entirely the wrong question. Obviously, what I really should have asked was: What the hell was he doing? Where? Why? Really? Didn't they have bicycles or TV or board games or swimming pools or golf balls there?) But I had my scientist hat on. Cooper remembers the basketball going "at least 15-20 yards with a short iron." To my eyes, 15 yards is farther than the basketball travels in the video.

Case closed?

Not so fast.

There is one more equipment loophole to address. "It must be taken into account," says Cooper, "that I was using a cheap outdoor ball, like the kind that used to be given away by Pizza Hut as a promotion. I can't imagine a good, leather, indoor ball going nearly as far. ... I hope this helps in your scholarly research."

You see that? It took him just three short sentences to get from somebody handing out a cheapo Pizza Hut ball to playing a vital role in academia. The perfect ending to this would be for someone to magically combine the three key ingredients to form the test: A video camera, a real basketball and ... a steel shaft.

UPDATE: TrueHoop reader Chris has insight and e-mails: "The video is handheld, so editing it to make a ball fly like that is unlikely. However, if you look at the slow-motion of the YouTube clip, it looks like there's a springboard of some kind underneath the basketball. The golf club would have triggered the release, and the springboard does the work."

At first I thought that was a crackpot theory, but then I watched the video once more and I'm almost positive he's right. This is the Zapruder moment.

UPDATE: The young man hitting the ball in the picture above is said to be John Jones, who e-mails:
Thank you so much for featuring our newest video on your blog! I must say though, I was a little disappointed when you reached the conclusion that my golf shot is fake. I am a 6 handicap and play for my high school golf team. I'm entering my junior year and played varsity my freshman and sophomore years.

My friends and I made these videos for fun and they are all real. Even the golf shot.

I put a football tee under the ball so that I could really get under it. No springboards or any other device that would manipulate the ball flight were involved. We put the hoop at the bottom of a small slope in my yard so that I didn't need to get much height on the ball. We deflated a regulation sized ball just little bit so that I didn't hurt my wrist. The club I used was a Ping i5 8 iron from my old set of golf clubs. The reason my swing is so short is because I found that the more wrist action I used, the more power I was able to generate. If you play golf, you would know that the release of your wrists is where power comes from. That is why Sergio Garcia, who is 5-9 at the most, can hit the golf ball over 300 yards.

I don't know what else to say, but if you have any more questions as to how I hit the shot please e-mail me back. I would love to answer your questions and help you see the light.

Far be it from me to doubt Mr. Jones. Watch again, and this is certainly plausible.

This is what a football tee looks like, by the way. It has three legs, one or two of which could have been stuck in the grass, causing that strange spring-like action you can see on the video, where part of it pops up, then retracts back to where it started.

I'm a little disturbed that the word "shaft" did not appear even once in Jones e-mail, but I can help. Does the Ping i5 8 iron he tells us he used have a steel shaft? Did you really have to ask? But of course it does.

So, what have we learned here? Certainly, a lot of things that look amazing on Internet video are misleading and even faked. But sometimes, the conviction that they are faked can be the real thing that gives you the shaft.

Henry Abbott | email

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