Titanium-coated golf clubs can produce 3,000-degree, fire-producing sparks when they graze rocks, according to a new study.

148 15 4 LINKEDIN 1 COMMENTMORE

Titanium-coated golf clubs can create fire-producing sparks when they graze rocks, according to a new study.

After fires broke out at two Orange County, Calif., golf courses — one, at the Shady Canyon Golf Club in Irvine, burned 25 acres and came close to houses — county fire investigators could only find one common factor.

"Each golfer had used titanium-plated three irons at the course before the fire," said Orange County Fire Authority Captain Steve Concialdi." The ground was rocky on the courses, and while everyone was wary of that conclusion it was the only solution we had."

The fire investigators enlisted the help of scientists at the University of California, Irvine, to study whether titanium alloy clubs could have caused the fires. Researchers recreated in the lab the conditions of the courses where the fires started, and embedded rocks from one of the sites into the ground. They used high–speed video cameras and powerful microscopes to capture the effects of striking or grazing the ground with the titanium club versus a steel club. While the steel club did not produce any sparks, the titanium club was a different story.

"After striking the rocks with the titanium club, we saw sparks that were 3,000 degrees and lasted one second," said James Earthman, a chemical engineering and materials science professor at UC Irvine and the lead researcher on the study. "If that spark reached dry foliage, it would ignite almost instantly."

While most golf clubs have steel heads, Earthman said the titanium alloys are used in some clubs because they make them lighter and easier to swing, especially when chipping balls out of tough spots off of the fairway. While those titanium-coated clubs are fine away from dry areas, when they graze small rocks they can cause fire. He said while some companies have noticed the issue with titanium alloys, and discontinued use, the clubs are still in circulation.

"I've seen small sparks fly off my own titanium driver," Earthman said.

The study is published in the journal Fire & Materials.

Marty Maciaszek, director of communications at the National Sporting Goods Association, said the group has rarely heard about the titanium-coated clubs causing sparks. He said while organization officials are still gathering information, they obviously urge golfers to be as cautious as possible.

Concialdi said the fire department is asking golfers using titanium-coated clubs to move their balls away from rocks and dry vegetation and onto the irrigated fairways. He said while golfers may complain it's making the game easier, it's too risky to do otherwise this season.

"Talk about a hazard," said Concialdi. "We are looking at a severe fire season because of the drought, and no one should take chances with titanium clubs on dry ground."

148 15 4 LINKEDIN 1 COMMENTMORE
Read or Share this story: http://usat.ly/1gDkinw