IRVINE, Calif. — Scientists at UC Irvine have found that golf clubs coated in titanium can cause vegetation to burst into flames.
Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Steve Concialdi said the findings would back up investigators’ suspicions that titanium alloy clubs caused at least two fires on golf courses in Southern California.
“The common denominator was each golfer used a titanium club, and hit the ball just out of bounds next to dry vegetation where the ground was extremely rocky,” Concialdi told radio station KPCC. “These clubs produce enough heat — over 3,000 degrees — and enough sparks to start vegetation on fire, and that fire can rapidly grow.”
Investigators asked the UC Irvine research lab to recreate conditions on the days of the fires. They found the clubs containing titanium can produce sparks that will burn for more than a second.
“And that gives the spark plenty of time,” said James Earthman, a chemical engineering and materials science professor who authored the study. “Titanium reacts violently with both oxygen and nitrogen in the air.”
Concialdi said players should move their balls away from rocks and dry vegetation.
“If they need to take a penalty, take a penalty,” he said.