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Titanium-Headed Golf Clubs Create Brush Fire Hazard In California 169

Posted by timothy
from the match-point dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Things to pack in your golf bag: clubs, balls, tees, beverages and a fire extinguisher. The NYT reports that scientists have determined that striking a rock while swinging a titanium club can create a shower of sparks that are hot enough, and last long enough, to start a brush fire. The finding, by researchers at the University of California, Irvine, clears up what fire officials in Southern California have seen as a mystery: the origin of two recent golf course fires in Irvine and Mission Viejo including one that burned 25 acres and injured a firefighter in 2010. "That was hard for anybody to believe," says Steve Concialdi, a captain with the Orange County Fire Authority. "We were thinking they were started by cigars or cigarettes." Most clubs come with stainless steel heads, but a significant number have recently been produced with a titanium alloy, which makes them lighter and easier to swing. The only problem is that, when struck against hard surfaces — like rocks or concrete — the impact with the rock abrades the titanium surface, producing small particles — up to about one-fiftieth of an inch in diameter — that burned for up to a second, at temperatures high enough to cause dry vegetation to ignite. Given the drought in California and the extreme fire danger, Concialdi says 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 says while golfers may complain it's making the game easier, it's too risky to do otherwise this season. "Talk about a hazard," says 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.""
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Titanium-Headed Golf Clubs Create Brush Fire Hazard In California

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  • ... that golf courses have finally stopped wasting water by watering grass every day? Thats always some good news I suppose for the state.

    • No.

      The summary says that the fairways are still irrigated. It is when the ball lands off the irrigated fairway that the problem is being reported. According to the summary, golfers are being asked to bring the ball back to the fairway to avoid starting fires if they hit the ball into the rough.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The solution is simple: let's ditch the titanium clubs and start making magnesium ones!

        • by gnupun (752725)
          Or coat the titanium clubs with steel or some other alloy that is less sparky...
          • by oscrivellodds (1124383) on Monday March 24, 2014 @09:04AM (#46562809)

            Only the poor would cover their titanium clubs with steel.

            Real 1%ers will demand gold or platinum.

          • Steel is sparky.

            Non sparking sools made for use in environments with potentually explosive gasses present tend to use brass or another copper alloy, typically known as bronze, but that's not terribly specific as almost any copper alloy except brass is called bronze. Mostly this works because iron (and titanium) are actually moderately reactive and if you can light them, they burn exceptionally hot.

            Copper does not as it is substantially less reactive.

        • The solution is simple: let's ditch the titanium clubs and start making magnesium ones!

          They will be even lighter...lighterer? As in cigarette-lighterer?

  • by vakond1 (986568) on Monday March 24, 2014 @08:22AM (#46562519)
    Can't really be more first world, can it?
    • by oodaloop (1229816)
      Forest fires are hardly first world problems. Now if someone complained their golf club was scratched after striking a rock and starting a fire, that's another story.
      • by vakond1 (986568) on Monday March 24, 2014 @08:36AM (#46562597)
        Yes, I agree that forest fires are a significant issue.. however, why can't they just stop playing golf when the state is hit by severe droughts? Not just the fire hazard, but a waste of irrigation water... I believe this is excess luxury which harms the environment.
        • +1

        • by pspahn (1175617)

          Honestly, everything in moderation.

          I've played some public golf courses that are adjacent to airports and rail lines and would otherwise be used for more sprawl or more industry. I like that there are places that provide refuge for birds and small mammals and one can go pay $12 and play a game for a few hours.

          I don't play golf that much, in fact I haven't played at all in several years, but it's still a decent game and use of space ... in moderation.

          I've only flown over Phoenix, but seriously, that is ex

    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      I don't play golf, but titanium clubs sounds like the pinnacle of solutions to a problem that doesn't exist. Does using titanium really make the club that much lighter that one would get a significant head speed increase? Are the properties of the metal such that it makes the ball "bounce" off the club that much better? Most people who play golf have very little problem with hitting the ball far, but have a much bigger problem with accuracy. Titanium most likely won't fix the problem. I've one ever playe
      • by tsqr (808554)

        I don't play golf, but titanium clubs sounds like the pinnacle of solutions to a problem that doesn't exist. Does using titanium really make the club that much lighter that one would get a significant head speed increase?

        No, that isn't the point. All driver clubheads are pretty much the same weight (per golf rules). Since titanium is lighter in weight than steel, an equivalent weight of titanium gives you a larger clubhead, which is the goal.

        • by CastrTroy (595695)
          Shouldn't the size of the club head also be accounted for in the rules? I know it's not, but isn't that something that should be addressed? I guess you couldn't make it too big, or air resistance on the club head would start to become a noticeable factor, but there should be very specific limits on what the size and shape of the club head should be. To me it seems like tennis and golf forgot to update their rule books with changes in technology, and hence, the sports have completely changed from what they
          • by tsqr (808554)

            Shouldn't the size of the club head also be accounted for in the rules? I know it's not, but isn't that something that should be addressed?

            Well, actually it is accounted for in the rules [randa.org]. Keep in mind, drivers originally had heads made from wood, which is why they're sometimes referred to as "woods" regardless of the material they're made of.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 24, 2014 @08:31AM (#46562567)

    If you think this is bad, you should see what happened to the last guy who waded into the watar hazard with my cesium club heads.

  • Magnesium club?

  • by xianzombie (123633) on Monday March 24, 2014 @08:37AM (#46562603)

    Play it as it lays! Water Trap, Sand Trap, Raging Inferno Trap. If you can reach it, play it!

  • by PPH (736903)

    Man's discovery of fire and golf date back equally far.

  • by rossdee (243626)

    If you are hitting a rock with your club, you're doing it wrong.

  • 1) Golfer wacks ball + rocks with club.
    2) Club produces sparks that burn for up to one second igniting surrounding brush.
    3) Golfer ignores smoking brush and walks off after his ball.

    Makes sense to me!

    • by geekmux (1040042)

      I think it goes more something like this:

      1) Shitty golfer with far too much money whacks ball + rocks with titanium club.

      2) Shitty golfer gets pissed and curses because he just put a scratch in his new $500 driver.

      3) Shitty golfer storms off in a rage, ignoring the environment around him in search of the beer cart.

      Sorry, but if you're going to invest the money into titanium hardware, learn to play the game well enough that you're not hitting rocks.

    • by Sockatume (732728) on Monday March 24, 2014 @09:21AM (#46562947)

      You can "ignite" the bush without immediately creating obvious smoke and fire. People cause brush fires by stubbing out cigarettes for the same reason, they think "the ground I stubbed this out on is not currently obviously aflame, therefore I'm good".

    • 1) Golfer wacks ball + rocks with club.
      2) Club produces sparks that burn for up to one second igniting surrounding brush.
      3) Golfer ignores smoking brush and walks off after his ball.

      Makes sense to me!

      The brush tends to smolder for a good long while before it becomes an inferno. Just light a corner of a leaf with a spark or red hot iron, and toss it on a pile of leaves (in a controlled environment, fire pit, etc.). It may burn itself out, but the spark that causes an inferno may come from many leaves or grasses that burn nearly completely out, before touching off the next one. It could be hours before any smoke or flame is noticeable from just a few meters away.

      They claim not to have found a cigarette

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Could even be aliens, or time travelers who's appearance altered history and so they're preserving their time-line best they can by starting the fires that should have happened. Hard to tell.

        Could it have been caused by a black hole?

    • by H0p313ss (811249)

      1) Golfer wacks ball + rocks with club.
      2) Club produces sparks that burn for up to one second igniting surrounding brush.
      3) Golfer ignores smoking brush and walks off after his ball.

      Makes sense to me!

      According the the article:

      Steve Concialdi, a captain with the Orange County Fire Authority, in Irvine, said that in both incidents, golfers using 3-irons with titanium-alloy heads had said they hit the ground and created sparks that started the fires.

      So you're 2 out of 3.

  • by oscrivellodds (1124383) on Monday March 24, 2014 @08:46AM (#46562665)

    These weren't 1%ers. These were poor people playing on public courses. They SHOULD be banned!

  • easier? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pahles (701275) on Monday March 24, 2014 @08:46AM (#46562673)
    'He says while golfers may complain it's making the game easier' So they are using lighter clubs to make it easier, then complain they have to move the ball to the fairway?
    • "Lighter club"... seems appropriate!
    • 'He says while golfers may complain it's making the game easier' So they are using lighter clubs to make it easier, then complain they have to move the ball to the fairway?

      If you're not a sportsman or familiar with their mindset, the difference between the two forms of 'easier' may not be immediately obvious.

      A titanium club makes it 'easier' in the sense that it allows a given golfer to get more out of a given swing regardless of skill level. (And being a piece of equipment, it's at least theoretically ava

  • They are certainly only using Titanium for its name. Its particular attributes are not going to add anything to a golf game. Titanium is used for its unmagnetic nature, and its stability even under high temperatures. If you want light, then use Aluminum, or some hollow system.

    • by Gibgezr (2025238)

      No, the metal and composite heads are already made hollow. Titanium has a better strength vs. weight ratio than most other materials they could use. Its alloys also have useful "hardness" and "ductility" (elongation) properties when making heads for golf clubs.

      So no, it's not used for its name, it's used for its performance.

      • Re:Aluminum (Score:5, Informative)

        by wisnoskij (1206448) on Monday March 24, 2014 @10:12AM (#46563349) Homepage

        Titanium does not have any special strength vs weight. It is slightly below Steel and slightly above aluminium. But at the end of the day they are all basically the same. We make aircraft out of aluminium, because the same weight of steel would be too thin and we make steel girders out of steel because the same thing with aluminium would be too big; And we use Titanium when heat might be a problem, in general. Using reasonable alloys, their strength/weight is similar.

        And 99% of metal hardness is in the heat treating. You can make steel into elastic, or rigid as diamonds.

        • by Cederic (9623)

          Titanium does not have any special strength vs weight. It is slightly below Steel and slightly above aluminium. But at the end of the day they are all basically the same

          No, they are not.

          Which is why we make aircraft out of aluminium or titanium, and use steel where strength is more important than weight.

          How the fuck you got an 'informative' for that spiel of bullshit is astounding.

          • No, they are not.

            Which is why we make aircraft out of aluminium or titanium, and use steel where strength is more important than weight.

            No, he's actually correct. They're roughly the same in terms of strength per weight [wikipedia.org], which is what he said.

            However, they're not nearly as similar when it comes to density, with titanium being about half of steel, and aluminium being about half of titanium.

            That's not to say that there aren't any differences at all, even when considering strength/weight, esp. when we take the many different alloys into account, which in certain application (fighter jets) can make a difference.

            • by Cederic (9623)

              Since when the fuck was a 30% difference "roughly the same"?

              • Since the difference per volume is quite a bit larger. With steel being stronger both per weight and obviously volume, we should be making fighter aircraft out of steel, then?

                Hint, there are other qualities that are more important than a couple of percent in difference in tensile strength.

                If you take your chill pills and climb down off the walls, you might learn something you know...

          • Yes they are. Steel has a higher strength/weight than Aluminum, even Stainless has a higher strength/weight than aluminium. But these are relativity small differences. The significant difference is the density, which is why we use Aluminum.

    • by careysub (976506)

      It would be interesting to see a real engineering analysis of the effect of different metals on golf performance (a driving machine would provide real data). But in the case of titanium actually providing some sort of advantage to the golfer this could be mostly preserved by simply putting a thin stainless steel facing on the striking surface. And this would preserve what is no doubt the real advantage of these clubs - generating sales for the manufacturer and retail chain.

    • by tsqr (808554)

      Aluminum is not a great choice for a golf club head due to its poor fatigue properties -- it would tend to get very brittle after repeatedly pounding at golf balls. Plus, though Ti is about 70% heavier than Al, it has twice the tensile strength. Aluminum does make a pretty good golf club shaft, though.

      • Well it is all thickness, As long as the metal is heat treated right, and not too thin I do not think you would encounter any problems. They make aircraft out of both.

        • Fatigue properties have nothing to do with thickness.
          Aluminium breaks far more readily than titanium. The higher stressed parts are preferably made of titanium, not aluminium.
          For example, aluminium screws are never ever used for parts that will be stressed, but titanium screws are strong enough to replace steel screws in many cases.

    • by Z00L00K (682162)

      I'd rather use brass, that's what used for many applications where sparks can be a problem. Bronze may also be good. If it's too light then fill the head with lead.

      If you still want "sexy" materials it's worth to look into composite plastics.

    • Titanium is used for its unmagnetic nature

      You wouldn't want some poor golfer to have his swing deflected by the Earth's magnetic field would you?

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      They are certainly only using Titanium for its name. Its particular attributes are not going to add anything to a golf game.

      Uh no. I share Saint Carlin's opinion on golf, but even I know better. Titanium is harder and stronger than aluminum. If you want light, you use an aluminum-magnesium alloy, since magnesium alone would have the same problem as Titanium only moreso. But the titanium is hard, and unlike aluminum it's stronger than steel for the same size part. Like Aluminum, it's lighter than steel for the same size part. Titanium is used for its attributes, and not for its name.

  • Fore (Score:2, Funny)

    by puddingebola (2036796)
    Fore! FIRE!
  • So the severe drought only applies to the 99%, right?
    • by Z00L00K (682162)

      Probably - because if you can afford to play golf then you can afford to have the water imported from Canada.

      But you are right - cut the water to the golf courses - if someone insists on playing golf, then do that where it isn't a water shortage.

  • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Monday March 24, 2014 @10:36AM (#46563513)

    Titanium would be the one for this. It's the most reactive metal, the only thing known to burn in pure nitrogen.

    Under normal conditions it doesn't burn because it forms a tough oxide layer by rapidly reacting with water vapor in the air. But do something to expose a lot of bare metal and yes it will get interesting.

  • I am a golfer, and one constant amongst us is that we'd sooner cheat and use the old foot-wedge from the rough than risk dinging up our new shiny $500 stick. We also pee in the rough. And smoke cigars. I don't see the need to bring in statisticians and physicists for this conundrum.

    • by iggymanz (596061)

      and also smoke cigars

      I'm pretty sure you just nailed what really is causing the fires. cigarettes and/or cigars.

  • by slapout (93640) on Monday March 24, 2014 @11:36AM (#46564131)

    Scientist got caught on golf course when they were suppose to be working and had to make up a story

  • This has got to be one of the silliest concerns I have ever read, in the NYT no less. I've had a great laugh over this, thank you for making my day.
  • I'll get busy developing magnesium and flint club heads.

    -jcr

  • He says while golfers may complain it's making the game easier, it's too risky to do otherwise this season.

    If they are worried about "making the game easier," they should be using the old wooden drivers and steel "irons" that I learned to play with.

C makes it easy for you to shoot yourself in the foot. C++ makes that harder, but when you do, it blows away your whole leg. -- Bjarne Stroustrup

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