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Why golf may be California's most dangerous sport

Researchers discovered that golf clubs can spark wildfires in the drought-ridden state

Lindsay Abrams
March 21, 2014 6:07PM (UTC)

Coming off its warmest ever winter and still in the midst of a record-breaking drought, California is bracing itself for what could be a brutal wildfire season. Along with the usual measures to help prevent fires -- clearing brush, cutting back tree branches, stockpiling water, etc. -- the state might need to consider banning titanium golf clubs.

Scientists at the University of  California, Irvine, have determined that two mysterious golf course fires -- one which ended up burning 25 acres and killing a firefighter -- may have been sparked by enthusiastic golfers using 3-irons with titanium-alloy heads. The shower of sparks generated by the clubs hitting rocks, they say, burns hot and long enough to start a brush fire.


To prove it, they tested out a variety of clubs for themselves, the New York Times reports:

The impact with the rock abraded 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.

“The real danger seemed to be when you had titanium on the sole of the club and on the leading edge,” [study author James] Earthman said. That created a lot of sparks, including some that flew as far as four feet.

“The more sparks you have, the further they go and the longer they last, you increase the probability of ignition,” he said.

Orange Country Fire Authority captain Steve Concialdi is asking golfers who use such clubs to just take a penalty instead of hitting the ball in rocky areas, to avoid letting something like this happen:

Lindsay Abrams

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California California Drought Firefighters Golf Video Wildfires

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