The end of the cold war signaled the beginning of hard times for U.S. defense contractors. One successful conversion from swords to plowshares occurred in the titanium industry, where manufacturers that had once provided the lightweight but extremely strong metal for use in military aircraft began selling it to Callaway Golf in 1995 for use in drivers and fairway woods. Since then, titanium has become a buzzword for high-tech hipness in sports equipment of all types.
Callaway's Biggest Big Bertha driver ($500) is the granddaddy of space-age sporting goods. Because titanium is so light, the club face can be larger and has a bigger sweet spot. Recently Callaway introduced the Great Big Bertha Hawk Eye driver ($500), which includes a tungsten screw that lowers the club's center of gravity, if not your handicap.
Head's Ti.S2 tennis racket ($190) is the follow-up model to the company's Ti.S6, the top-selling racket worldwide since its introduction in October 1997. Manufactured with a titanium-graphite weave, the S2 weighs only 8.6 ounces before stringing.
Easton's Ti-Core Softball bat ($329) also combines titanium, in ultrathin sheets that are bonded to the inside surface of the shaft wall, with graphite. The result is an extremely thin-walled bat with a generous sweet spot.
The Mongoose Pro RX 10.7 bicycle ($2,399) has a titanium frame that weighs only three pounds. The frame's flexibility allows it to absorb a rough ride better than a standard steel or aluminum frame.
From K2, the Merlin VI SL skis ($795) are the ultimate in high performance schuss-wear. Their light weight makes them more maneuverable, and the resiliency and durability of the titanium helps to reduce the chatter at high speeds that's common in fiberglass and wooden skis.
Wilson's Staff Titanium Straight Distance golf ball ($35 a dozen) is the latest in a line that has increased Wilson's ball sales by 50%. According to Wilson, the ball's titanium core not only produces longer distance but also provides a larger sweet spot. The company claims that the balls can reduce hooks and slices by three to four yards.
Finally, Wilson's Titanium tennis balls ($4.79 a can) use titanate powder in the rubber to increase their durability. No word yet on how high the balls will fly.