Of all the things to think about on the golf course, starting a fire probably isn’t at the top of players’ minds. But according to a new study, it’s actually possible with titanium golf clubs.
The research by scientists at the University of California, Irvine found that titanium alloy, a popular coating for lightweight clubs, can create sparks when it hits a rock or other hard surface. This could lead to wildfires if dry materials are nearby.
The study was prompted by fire investigators who asked researchers to see if clubs could have started blazes on area golf courses in recent years.
“This unintended hazard could potentially lead to someone’s death,” chemical engineering and materials science professor James Earthman with the university said. “A very real danger exists, particularly in the southwest, as long as certain golf clubs remain in use.”
The hazard is less when golfers are teeing off or putting on well-irrigated greens, but more so when they need to chip themselves out of rough patches off the fairway. Watch this slow-motion footage showing the sparks:
The sparks that scientists simulated in a lab environment with titanium alloy-coated clubs reached up to 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit and lasted long enough to possibly ignite nearby materials.
“Rocks are often embedded in the ground in these rough areas of dry foliage,” said Earthman, the lead author on the study. “When the club strikes a ball, nearby rocks can tear particles of titanium from the sole of the head. Bits of the particle surfaces will react violently with oxygen or nitrogen in the air, and a tremendous amount of heat is produced. The foliage ignites in flames.”
The researchers conducted similar experiments with stainless steel clubs, which they found did not produce any sparks.
With these findings, Fire Authority Capt. Steve Concialdi told the Orange County Register that he gives golfers using titanium alloy clubs permission to “improve their lie,” or move their ball back onto the green instead of hitting it from the rough.
“We encourage golfers to move their ball away from the rocks and dry vegetation,” Concialdi said, according to the newspaper.
The study was published in the journal Fire and Materials.
Featured image via Shutterstock.
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