March 31 - Titanium alloy golf clubs can cause wildfires, according to scientists in California. The researchers at UC Irvine showed that when a club coated with the lightweight metal strikes a rock, it creates sparks that can ignite dry foliage. Ben Gruber reports.
According to materials expert Professor James Earthman, golf can be a dangerous sport. The sparks, at temperatures off up to 3000 degrees Fahrenheit, are produced by the impact of a titanium head golf club on a rock…the ideal combination says UC Irvine's Earthman for igniting a fire. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PROFESSOR JAMES EARTHMAN, UC IRVINE, SAYING: "Even though the sparks only last up to about a second, they are very hot, much hotter than a cigarette butt would be for example. So at those kinds of temperatures it doesn't take very long for vegetation to ignite and that's the real risk." After two fires near golf courses in California in recent years, police investigators asked Earthman to asses the potential of titanium sparks to start fires, particularly when conditions are dry. Earthman concluded that they can. He says that vegetation can ignite instantly when exposed to a heat source of above 1000 Farhenheit and these sparks reach temperatures three times higher than that. Earthman says that golf course owners should take note…and limit the use of titanium alloy clubs. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PROFESSOR JAMES EARTHMAN, UC IRVINE, SAYING: "I think that at least superintendents at golf courses should ban the use of titanium clubs in rough areas, particularly if they don't irrigate there and they have dry vegetation in those areas. If you happen to have a set of golf clubs that only has titanium on the sole, those are pretty rare but they're out there, well this is an excuse to buy a new set." Very few golfers would use a titanium headed driver to hit their ball out of the rough to begin with, but for those who are tempted, Earthman says the idea of burning up the course should not be taken literally.