This is a story about golf clubs. It’s also a story about a man who started from nothing and built something truly amazing. The man is Bob Parsons and the company is PXG.
I went all-in and bought the first generation of PXG clubs. I didn’t know anyone at the company and didn’t get a deal. I was curious about this upstart clubmaker and went to a fitting just to see what it would be like to hit them. I figured I would pay the $100 fitting fee to see what the hype was all about. My buddy already had a few of the irons in a mixed set and he really liked them. When he first showed them to me we were out in Las Vegas and the caddies at Cascata were raving about PXG too. (Side note: Cascata is completely over the top. They have a massive river running through the clubhouse and a huge waterfall that can be turned off when guests aren’t in eyesight.) I was curious to see what the PXG hype was about. I was honestly also very skeptical. Not because of the price (a full set of clubs from PXG costs roughly 2X the price of good irons from other mainstream equipment makers), but because I’ve hit a lot of different Irons from all sorts of brands and I just couldn’t see how they could be that much better. So off to the fitting I went.
I have a slightly different take on golf equipment than most of my friends. I want to get the best possible clubs so I have one less thing to blame when things go wrong. If I know my clubs are good, then I know that they aren’t the problem. I know the problem is me. This philosophy also helps me with the mental aspect of the game — making me feel truly confident in the club I have in my hand. Confidence in golf goes a long way, and it’s definitely something I am willing to try and buy.
The day of the fitting comes and I show up for my time with the local Los Angeles PXG rep. He’s got the full Trackman set-up running and has arranged several tables full of the entire PXG collection of clubs. We start by hitting my current non-PXG irons and getting a sense of my current distances, flight and ball speed. Then the fitter hands me a PXG 7 iron to try. On the first strike, I feel the difference instantly. I’m hitting the ball a club further and the sound is magic. It’s like the perfect exhaust note on a downshift. It’s glorious. I hit five more balls and I turn around to tell the fitter that I’m in.
All golfers are looking for the soothing reverberation of pure contact. Anyone who knows what I am talking about has this sensation memorized, immortalized. When I hit the PXG 0311 irons I was surprised just how good they felt to hit. I was excited to see how far the ball flew and just how much my game improved. Whatever they cost me it was 100% worth it.
I went on to write about PXG in GQ Style last summer. Doing research for that article I read a lot about PXG founder Bob Parsons and what led him to make a big bet and get into the golf hard-goods business. The more I read and learned about Parsons, the more I was drawn to the guy. By the time I interviewed him for the piece I was pretty well enamored. He’s self-made (most notably as the founder of GoDaddy), brash and not afraid to make big bets. He’s also funny, charming and has a booming voice with a Baltimore accent. I can imagine everyone said to him that starting a golf brand is crazy and that he’ll never make it. Especially when you see a company like Nike getting out of hard-goods. But Bob put his money where his mouth is and he doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Somewhere along the way he bought the Scottsdale National Golf Club and has added an entirely new course (called “The Other Course”) and a par three course called “The Bad Little 9” which live up to its name of being extremely challenging.
I kept in touch with the PXG marketing folks and they recently invited me to Scottsdale to experience the new generation of PXG irons that they launched yesterday. The new irons called PXG 0311 Gen2 are the evolution of the original irons that PXG first released. The design and concept is similar to the technology and design in the first 0311 irons, but with improvements across a few different areas. The most significant changes include the material that is injection molded into the clubhead — now called COR2 —has been reformulated and has performance enhancements that improve ball speed and shot dispersement. There are also changes in the face of the club making the face larger, the materials more durable and changes in the sole to improve turf interaction. There are now four distinct head shape collections from T (Tour), P (Player), XF (Xtreme Forgiveness) and SGI (Super Game Improvement. Jonathan Wall over at PGA Tour has a lot of the nitty gritty if you want to really nerd out and dig into the details.
We sat with the engineers and club designers as they talked us through all of this technology. I understand what they were saying to some degree, but ultimately we would hit the 0311 Gen2s and it will be obvious if they are truly better. As someone who has been playing the first generation 0311s for a few years, I assumed I would be in a good position to judge if the new irons really raise the bar. I’m obviously not a professional golf writer or player for that matter. But I know if the clubs feel better, if my ball flight is better and if data on the Trackman doesn’t lie.
After the engineering and club technology session, we headed out to Scottsdale National Golf Club to get to hit the new clubs on the range. There were Trackmans everywhere and we got a lot of time to play around and dig in. I didn’t really think there was going to be a chance that these new clubs were better. But as I hit balls on the range it was clear that I was getting at least 10 or more yards of distance per club and my mishits seemed tighter. That’s the key for me, getting a better miss and it’s something the Gen2s excel at. The next day we got to play a round of golf to try out the new irons in real life conditions. They paired our group with PXG sponsored pro James Hahn. I haven’t played with a pro before and I knew I was in for a treat. Little did I know what a great guy James is and what an interesting day it would be. In the middle of everything James stopped to give me a little wedge lesson and was extremely personable. Later in the day I hit a 4 iron 227 yards and started to wonder if this was actually real life? Though some do say you get more distance in Arizona. But I like to think it was just me and those new Gen2 irons.
When I’m out playing I get a lot of comments about the PXGs and a lot of interest from random people I have never met. People are always curious about them and when they see my bag they often strike up a conversation. This happened a few days after the Scottsdale National outing when I was up at Troon North. A man from Kentucky saw my clubs and told me he plays PXG too. The conversation was more like one you would have with a close friend rather than a total stranger. After a brief chat we wished each other well and I got to thinking about the bond that PXG can form between total strangers. I guess those of us who know, know.