It is the sound every would-be Tiger Woods yearns for – the sweet high-pitched "thunk" as the oversized head of their favourite driver sends the ball soaring up the fairway.
Yet the latest must-have titanium clubs, which can cost hundreds of pounds each on the promise of delivering longed-for extra yardage, could be hurting more than your bank balance.
Ear specialists have found that the hearing of one 55-year-old player could have been damaged by the sound of his new ultra-thin club striking the ball and have suggested golfers should consider wearing ear plugs to minimise the threat to their health. Research published in the British Medical Journal, which pitted six brands of titanium clubs against thicker-faced and older stainless steel models, found that the former produced greater sound levels.
It was carried out by a team of ear, nose and throat specialists based at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital after a golfer attended their clinic suffering from reduced hearing in his right ear along with unexplained tinnitus. He complained he had been using one super-lightweight club three times a week for 18 months which made a sound "like a gun going off".
One of the study's authors, Malcolm Buchanan, said: "Thin-faced titanium drivers may produce sufficient sound to induce temporary or even permanent cochlear damage in susceptible individuals." Golfers should consider ear protection, particularly on an enclosed driving range where they might hit hundreds of balls over a short period, researchers said. Professionals believe they could prevent players hearing cries of "fore".
Dr Buchanan, a keen golfer, conceded that wearing ear plugs could be "a bit too radical" for many players, even though some golfers had likened the sound to a "sonic boom" and others said it made them unpopular on the tee.
Scott Gourlay, head professional at Craigmillar Park Golf Club in Edinburgh, said: "On a range, you might get an effect from these drivers. But it's not as bad on the course because the noise dissipates in the open air and you are only hitting a drive every 15 minutes."Reuse content