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New study finds titanium golf clubs can cause wildfires. Wait . . . what?

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

Here's the scenario: it's your second shot on a short par 5. You're feeling frisky -- you've been hitting it well all day -- and there's no trouble short of the green. You decide to go for it, and reach for your 3-wood.

That situation, or one similar to it, isn't just potentially jeopardizing your score, but could be setting the scene for a deadly and wide-ranging wildfire, according to a new study from the University of California at Irvine.

The study describes how the makeup of titanium clubs, when struck against a small, embedded rock or other hard services, produces "intensely hot sparks" that could potentially start a fire. The study added that sparks like this could have been the cause of recent golf course fires, notably the 2010 fire at Shady Canyon Golf Course in Irvine.

Related: America's courses are curbing their addiction to water

A selection from the study's release:

Titanium alloy golf clubs can cause dangerous wildfires, according to UC Irvine scientists. When a club coated with the lightweight metal is swung and strikes a rock, it creates sparks that can heat to more than 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit for long enough to ignite dry foliage, according to findings published recently in the peer-reviewed journal Fire and Materials

It continued:

One fire almost reached homes before they stopped it. This unintended hazard could potentially lead to someone's death, said chemical engineering & materials science professor James Earthman, lead author on the paper. A very real danger exists, particularly in the Southwest, as long as certain golf clubs remain in use.


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