Golf has got to be one of the stupidest game on the planet. Otherwise normal adults whacking a little plastic ball around a big open field while declaring it to be high art just seems inane. Perhaps I harbor such unvarnished animosity because I suck at it so badly. Or maybe it is indeed a stupid little game. Regardless, I have finally found a way to transform golf into the manly pursuit it was always meant to be. This involves a Civil War-era artillery piece, your favorite black gun and some really broad-minded groundskeepers.
Most professional golf historians (likely not a real job) theorize that the modern game of golf arose from an Ancient Roman sport called paganica. Romans playing paganica used a bent stick to smack around a stuffed leather ball. The Romans subsequently conquered the known world (because of their indefatigable legions, not paganica) and brought their pastimes along with them.
The ancient Chinese played a game called chuiwan between the 8th and 14th centuries that involved swinging a small bat to sink a wooden ball into a hole. Kolven was the Dutch variant first recorded in 1297. Kolven initially began as a community-wide commemoration of the capture of the assassin of the Dutch count, Floris V. Chambot was a similar pursuit pioneered in France, though it apparently lacked any nexus to political assassination.
The modern game of golf arose in Scotland, likely as an amalgam of some or all of the previous influences. The first historical reference to the modern game of golf arose when King James II banned the pursuit as an unwelcome distraction from the national sport of archery. English kings needed an inexhaustible supply of bowmen, not golfers, with which to prosecute their countless wars against the French, Spanish, Russians, Portuguese, sundry pirates, the Amish and their many relatives on the continent.
But that’s not completely true. To my knowledge, the English never actually fought the Amish. The other wars were real enough, however. The English have battled at one time or another in 171 of the world’s 193 recognized countries. Theirs is indeed a belligerent little island.
Of course, the English could’ve taken the field at Agincourt in 1415 to face the French with regiments of golfers rather than bowmen. I suppose the French might’ve been bored to death or perhaps blinded by their adversaries’ tasteless pantaloons. In the end, however, bowmen were indeed preferable to golfers in combat.
Where I Started
Interestingly, when I was a young Army officer, we were all expected to play golf.
In one particular unit, we actually listed a terrain walk as our officers-only physical training event every Thursday morning. We reported the grid coordinates of the golf course as the location on our training schedule, and apparently nobody in our higher headquarters ever bothered to look it up.
I bought myself a set of used golf clubs from a disreputable local pawnshop called Speedee Pawn. The clubs had been through a fire, so I resolved that when my game improved to the point wherein I might justify a better set of clubs, I would invest in some. I eventually just abandoned my Speedee Pawn specials at the side of the street for the rubbish collectors. I trust our long-suffering garbage men have gotten more utility out of them than I did.
My primary mission on the golf course was comic relief. I adorned myself in garish clothing and seldom did more than make everyone else look good by comparison. Then one day I was surfing the Internet and came across a couple of products that granted me a previously denied clarity on this storied sport. It turns out that golf as an entity is not actually an innately silly and worthless pursuit. It was simply that I’d been doing it wrong all along.
Before you read any further, be forewarned. It really doesn’t matter how vigorously your gun box is stocked or how many triggers you have squeezed. Chances are you have never done anything quite like this. Homebuilt mortars cost a fraction of what conventional firearms might, and they will reliably put a grin on your face no matter your station, gender, political proclivities or comportment. I cannot accept responsibility for the new directions your gun fetishes might take or the subsequent spousal vexation that should inevitably result.
I bought the barrel for my golf ball mortar several years ago from blackpowder-cannons.com, but it seems that exact model is no longer available. Comparable tubes are available elsewhere online; Google is your buddy. The current offerings from blackpowder-cannons.com are now even cooler. Just researching this article drove me to invest in yet another blackpowder cannon I didn’t really need. As previously mentioned, this addiction is indeed powerful.
A Dutchman named Menno van Coehoorn developed the first high-trajectory Coehorn mortar in 1674. Evolutionary examples of the design firing explosive shot were used liberally by both sides during the American Civil War. Coehorn mortars were designed to serve as tactical artillery and were portable by as few as four men. They offered a high trajectory and fairly short range and could therefore drop rounds onto entrenched troops from above. Adjusting the powder charge behind the shell determined the distance fired.
Most purveyors of these scale mortar tubes sell the naked tube with the intent that you build your own carriage. The carriage can be a complicated affair with a flexible trunnion and elevation wedge. If carpentry isn’t your bag, you could just bolt the thing to a big board and go. Cannonfuse.com sells a splendid version for a paltry $89.
I looked up some diagrams of Civil-War-era Coehorn carriages and whipped up a facsimile in my workshop using a discarded oak tabletop as raw material. With the proper tools, it takes maybe an hour and makes the end product look cool. I sank dowels crosswise to the grain through all the load-bearing portions just to make sure the carriage would stand up to the recoil of the gun firing.
Shoot, Don’t Swing
A typical golf ball mortar sports a bore diameter of 1.75 inches and runs off of a propellant charge of anything less than 125 grains of FFg black powder. I found that black powder substitutes like Pyrodex did not offer nearly the same ballistic vigor, even when loaded underneath wadding. Firing these guns requires waterproof cannon fuse, but that stuff is cheap online. Amazon sells used golf balls to the tune of 96 for $21. Our local golf course sells me practice golf balls for 25 cents apiece on the false assumption that I might expend them on the practice range. The reality is that you won’t retrieve these things unless you reside on the International Space Station.
But black powder is messy and a bit tough to come by. So, if you own an AR-15 rifle of any sort, and all of you do or you wouldn’t currently be clutching this hallowed tome, then $30 on Amazon will get you a golf ball adapter that threads onto your favorite black rifle. This thing will throw a golf ball farther than Tiger Woods with his favorite driver. Standard GI-surplus 5.56mm blanks provide the power.
The AR golf ball attachment quite literally couldn’t be simpler. It’s a steel tube 1.75 inches in diameter that threads onto your muzzle via standard 1/2×28 threads. Drop the ball down the muzzle, chamber a blank round, point the contraption in the general direction of something you dislike and touch it off. Recoil is more impressive than you might imagine, and it makes a fair amount of noise. You will want eye and ear protection.
I laughed until I cried. The Coehorn mortar spouts clouds of foul white smoke and throws a golf ball literally out of sight. I doubt the balls I fired have yet re-entered the atmosphere. Don’t take this thing to the range unless you want to make a lot of new friends.
Just how far will it shoot? I have no idea. I never found any of my golf balls. They likely exited the earth’s gravitational field and ultimately impacted the sun.
But hypothetically speaking, varying the powder charge will indeed determine the range. There’s a powder compartment milled into the base of the mortar tube. Use a long funnel to ensure that your powder charge ends up in the right spot. Recoil is more striking than I expected, so place the mortar in some soft grass and it won’t move.
Black powder is utterly filthy and quite corrosive. Run a wet mop through the barrel and a moist pipe cleaner through the flash hole between each round, lest the thing go off during the reloading procedure and burn off your eyebrows. The cannon requires cleaning after firing. Otherwise rust will build up. Hot water from the tap followed by a thorough drying and a liberal coating of gun oil will do the trick.
AR-15 Golf Ball Launcher
The manufacturers of the AR-15 golf ball attachment claim a 500-yard range when running full-power military blanks. I cannot attest to that either, as this device also threw my golf balls reliably out of sight, never again to be found. At close range, it will easily shoot through light plywood.
Treat this device like the live weapon it is. “Fired a Golf Ball Through His Head” would look pretty stupid on a headstone. Nobody wants that.
The mortar is too stubby for any proper accuracy assessment, and the AR launcher inevitably causes the ball to curve as it leaves the tube. Both guns are area weapon systems at best, but accuracy is not your primary goal here. The mission both of these devices accomplish with aplomb is to transform the game of golf into the awesome sport it should always have been.
Now, I cannot in clear conscience claim that your golf game will improve through the use of these two devices. We’ve established that accuracy is spotty, and both are more cumbersome than is your typical 9-iron. However, I can attest that you will instantly become the coolest kid on the links when you show up with one of these puppies the next time your foursome wants to play through.
There is a very real possibility that the golf-ball-shooting Coehorn mortar could precipitate intergalactic war. If Znarton the Eviscerator happens to be transiting peacefully through our solar system only to find his starship brought down by an errant golf ball orbiting Uranus (that’s really funny if you read it out loud), then I disavow all knowledge of how it got there. I was just an epically crappy golfer trying to have a little fun with the game.