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Golf depends on friction, which eventually stops a rolling ball. Air friction seems to not be enough for a golf course that consists of 18 holes with a total length of 1-2 kilometers. This is not the only challenge encountered when attempting to adapt the Royal and Ancient Game to a zero-g environment aboard a large space station.

Specifically, I am asking for your ideas on the following problems:

  • How can friction, like that of grass, be simulated?
  • How should balls be adapted?
  • How should clubs and hit techniques be adapted? How can players be restrained to prevent kickback when hitting a ball and allow for precise shots?
  • How can courses be designed? What type of traps and obstacles can be used?
  • Finally, how should holes work? Should they be magnetic attractors that give an acoustic signal or contact the scoring computer when hit, or do you have a different idea?
  • How can a quick game be guaranteed? How should we prevent having players set restraints and prepare for a single shot for minutes?
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  • $\begingroup$ Just a comment as I only answer one question. You cannuse gravity or magnets to simulate different frictions. $\endgroup$ – Trioxidane Jul 24 '20 at 10:02
  • $\begingroup$ Use that miracle of engineering that came out of the early US space program -- Velco! #paid-for-by-the-friends-of-velco $\endgroup$ – EDL Jul 25 '20 at 14:01
  • $\begingroup$ Any sensible station large enough for golf would rotate for gravity (e.g. O'Neill cylinder), thus your only problem would be learning to compensate for coriolis effects, and the reduction in g as your ball goes higher. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Jul 25 '20 at 17:57
  • $\begingroup$ Alan Shepard hit golf balls on the moon. You could build on that. $\endgroup$ – James McLellan Jul 27 '20 at 19:18
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I'd frankly cheat all the way. A VR simulation, with balls equipped with sensors, a braking parachute and a propulsion system.

The player hits the ball, which transmits thirteen values - three components each for position, speed, acceleration, and two each for angular velocity and acceleration.

From that, the trajectory of the ball in the hypothesis of a 1G field can easily be modeled and displayed using VR glasses. Friction, etc., can all be entered in the simulation.

Meanwhile, the real ball can deploy counterillumination camouflage, brake with a small parachute and scurry away.

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    $\begingroup$ Why have a real ball at all? The player, secured standing in a VR room, swings the club of their choice at a sensor. The VR screens show the flight of the ball, its lie when it lands etc. The floor tilts if the ball is on a slope. $\endgroup$ – Patricia Shanahan Jul 24 '20 at 13:04
  • $\begingroup$ Interesting AR solution. Upvoted! $\endgroup$ – MedwedianPresident Jul 24 '20 at 18:16
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Golf ball dimples are designed to reduce drag and maximize lift, and that is part of the solution here: you want to tune the ball's surface so that the drag through air in microgravity slows the ball to the point air friction override momentum. Something like a wiffle ball:

Rows of wiffle balls

Giving the ball and all surfaces slight magnetic charges, and creative use of air jets, would direct the ball toward a surface to be struck again, with a club given the same charge as the ball. You might also consider replacing the iconic club with a badminton-style racquet and a free-floating smart ball equipped with microjets to bring it to a stop under a certain speed.

Traps would consist of strong air jets and magnetic fields (of either charge) on poles, baffles and fine nets. A ball that fails to return to the play surface for some reason would be the equivalent of a water hazard. A good deal of the game would be navigating currents and bouncing off surfaces with enough speed to overcome magnetic attraction.

Players wear footwear that anchors them to the surface, and tight-fitting aerodynamically surfaced clothes to prevent generating gusts when approaching the ball or swinging.

The hole could be replaced with a free-floating or suspended orb of adhesive or viscous fluid to ensnare the ball on contact.

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Play the game in a spinning cylinder, with the gold course overlaid on the inside such that the 1st hole is adjacent to the 18th hole.

Fabricate the literal astroturf out of material with a latent charge. And make the ball out of something with the opposite charge. The coulombic attraction will permit contact and rolling friction to slow the ball.

The charged balls would let things like magnetic eddy traps to warp the ball's flight.

Hitting would change since the balls would travel in straight lines until encountering the cylinder wall. Mixtures of soft, rubbery, and hard surfaces would promote alternative ball hitting strategies by ricocheting the ball off hard surfaces and targeting soft surfaces to create innovative paths to the hole.

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In zero g there are alot of creative ways to make it difficult to get the ball to the hole with magnets and air jets and hand waving. You would more realistically be looking at what would be akin to extreme mini-golf. But you could take the mini part out here because the course should be huge.

In this scenario the course is littered with barriers, rogue air current "traps", and soft pads to reduce ball velocity. Maybe you could magnetically contain a cloud of shredded "foam" of some sort to act like grass in the air but this feels like it's too far fetched to me.

I can see this being more traditional (taking turns, being quiet) or as a full contact sport with multiple tees. Since it's in zero g you can put those tees anywhere. Having multiple players moving at once creates urgency that will move the game forward and prevent shots from taking too long. Introducing a timer to the scoring can have a similar effect though. Just make it so taking a long time equals a worse chance of winning.

I think there would need to be some clubs with the expressed purpose of hitting balls out of the air. Other necessary equipment would include magnetic boots, some way to get from platform to platform(wingsuit?), and a helmet for collisions that will happen. The helmet doesn't have to be space worthy unless you take your game outside (new set of problems there).

Golf balls are designed to be as aerodynamic as possible while still being roughly round. You'll want to increase drag here, or make the ball lighter. Either way it slows down more. The dimples can be removed or better yet inverted to increase wind resistance. Also consider heavy whiffle balls. They still have weight but the surface area for drag is huge in comparison to golf balls.

If your ball got stuck in the air hitting it at all could be part of the challenge. You would have to aim your jump, lift off without spin and hit precisely while moving.

As for the holes, here I think magnets are best, they can be used in an actual hole with a slight mound around it so the balls don't just funnel in(think hole on a hill rather than hole on an anthill). Magnets can be very powerful over a very short range, meaning that your ball may stick gently to the hill(maybe sheet magnet for this) but still has to be putted over the hole to be dragged inside. You can still get a hole in one this way and you have a reason to keep putters in space golf.

I'm not much into sports, but I can say for certain that I would watch full contact space golf.

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