Researchers at UC Irvine have determined that golfers who can't keep their shots out of the rough might actually be responsible for wildfires in California in recent years. Specifically, certain clubs made from a titanium alloy have been found to produce sparks up to 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit—more than hot enough to ignite dry foliage—when they make contact with rocks and stones in the rough.
The lightweight clubs are actually designed for getting golfers out of the rough, since they're easier to swing for chip shots. But courses in California often have rough areas that aren't irrigated and are littered with rocks and dry brush. And after recreating these conditions in a lab, the UC Irvine researchers found that the sparks created by the titanium alloy clubs were more than capable of flying far enough to reach and ignite dry plant life.
The solution to the problem—besides West Coast golfers improving their game and staying on the fairway—is to stick with stainless steel clubs which don't produce sparks on impact with rocks. Or, in a time of drought when water supplies are low, maybe keeping a golf course open isn't the best idea? [UC Irvine via Slashdot]