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

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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  • by ArsenneLupin ( 766289 ) on Monday March 24, 2014 @08:46AM (#46562667)

    I think you mean sodium.

    Cesium is correct [] and actually works much better than sodium.

  • 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.

  • Re:I call BS. (Score:5, Informative)

    by careysub ( 976506 ) on Monday March 24, 2014 @09:04AM (#46562813)

    May cause sparks when they hit a rock. I haven't noticed many rocks on the greens of golf courses, but I'm not a golfer. Also, if a shower of sparks came off your club and started a conflagration wouldn't you notice?

    And of course, greens - being watered and cut regularly - don't burn. But roughs sure do. And that is where the two fires started - in the dry rough where there were most definitely rocks. The CBS news last night showed one of the actual locations where the brush fire started and, yes, it was full of rocks.

  • Re:I call BS. (Score:5, Informative)

    by careysub ( 976506 ) on Monday March 24, 2014 @09:45AM (#46563145)

    It's a big leap to say 'titanium clubs may cause sparks' to 'they caused these 2 fires'.

    If you read TFA, and not just the TFS, you will discover that in both of the cases the golfers knew that their clubs had started the fires and said so!

    They just weren't believed.

    So this is no "theory" - it is simply confirmation of the cause already stated by the (unsuspecting and no doubt quite surprised) perpetrators.

  • Re:I call BS. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Nidi62 ( 1525137 ) on Monday March 24, 2014 @09:53AM (#46563213)
    You can find rocks in the rough, or even off the hole completely, where grass is going to be much higher and much more likely to be dead and dry, particularly in a drought situation (and many golf courses out west go for a "deserty" look). And having read an article about this a few days ago, they found out that sparks from a titanium club hitting a rock burn at over 3000 degrees for over a second. Easily enough to ignite dry grass. It's not a shower of sparks either, all it takes is 2 or 3.
  • Re:I call BS. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Monday March 24, 2014 @09:55AM (#46563227)

    The people noticed. Explained what happened and weren't believed. The authorities thought they'd dropped a cigar or something. Now they realize these people may have been telling the truth. I've done some metal working with Titanium alloy in the past. It throws VERY hot sparks. Aluminum hardly sparks at all, and when it does they aren't very hot and do not last long at all.

    Also, most brush fires start UNDER the grass. There's a dry bed of grass beneeth the green gras above. The fire spreads under the grass and you very well may not notice it. It will kreep along until it hits a big fuel source. I could see someone hitting a ball out of the rough... then walking up to the cart or whatever and notice smoke back where you just walked away from and thinking "WTF?"

  • 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.

Marvelous! The super-user's going to boot me! What a finely tuned response to the situation!