What do you do when you’re a billionaire golf nut who spends $300K on equipment per year and still “sucks”? If you’re Bob Parsons, you don’t just commission custom golf clubs, you commission your own golf company.
Parsons took up golf as an adult after making his mint as a tech entrepreneur and founder of the GoDaddy suite of companies. He founded PXG — Parsons Xtreme Golf — in 2014 with the plan to make ultra-high-tech clubs with no cost restraints. The line presently consists of three different irons — from pro version to the most forgiving — plus driver, woods and hybrids.
This mid-handicapper saw a significant improvement in all Trackman data — from ball speed to landing angle — at a PXG clubfitting demo session hosted by True Spec Golf — especially when fitted with the right shaft.
Is there finally a high-end golf club that lives up to the hype? The Gentleman’s Journal spoke to Parsons about his vision, the result, and how it’s affected his golf game.
GJ: Were you really unable to find clubs you liked, or did you just want to found your own golf company?
BP: It was a little of both. I would buy everything that became available, and the last couple of years I spent $300,000 a year on golf equipment. And what I found was that most of the stuff was just hype. So I had a chance meeting with Mike Nicolette, senior engineer at Ping, and said “Suppose you had no restraints, what could you do?” He said it’d be wonderful but that he could never leave Ping. I heard from him a month later and we founded PXG.
It was a little of both. I would buy everything that became available, and the last couple of years I spent $300,000 a year on golf equipment
GJ: That must have been exciting for him to have carte blanche.
BP: He had carte blanche — as long as he did what I told him.
GJ: And what did you want from the clubs, since you weren’t happy with any others?
BP: The first thing is that if you’re going to sell an expensive golf club it has to look good, so it had to be a very sexy club with a look all its own. I thought it should look like a blade but play like a cavity back, be more forgiving than anything in the marketplace, launch higher, go farther, be more accurate, and feel wonderful. Mike walked out of my office spinning. There was a series of steps, and then one day there was a breakthrough.
GJ: What was the team able to do?
BP: They were able to take a milled blade with a small cavity and use a really high tensil strength thin face, and fill the cavity with an elastimer. The elastimer did a number of things: it kept the thin face from caving in, gave it a huge sweet spot — some miss-hits can result in a loss of only three yards. And it feels wonderful because the elastimer sucks up a lot of the vibration. It was a long process and we put a lot of money into it.
GJ: How much did you invest? Do you expect PXG to become profitable, and when?
BP: It’ll be profitable when it starts making money. I’m not being flip; I just don’t know. I think our loss is rather small. We should be doing business at the rate of about $50-$100 million a year. I don’t have an answer on how much I put into it; it’s over $12 million.
I don't have an answer on how much I put into it; it's over $12 million
GJ: For a niche golf brand the projections sound impressive, especially given that companies such as Nike and Cleveland have gotten out of the club business.
BP: They were at end of the market that is absolutely the most difficult. They had to compete on price and got their brains beat out. Now I don’t compete with any golf company. Our iron club heads are $350 each, $500 for our dark finish.
GJ: What has the response been, from high-handicapper to scratch golfer to professional?
BP: For the pro it’s consistency, which on tour is king. We have seven guys on the PGA tour, and we’ve won twice this year, plus twice on the LPGA and once on the Champions. Given our small size, not too shabby.
We have seven guys on the PGA tour, and we've won twice this year, plus twice on the LPGA and once on the Champions. Given our small size, not too shabby
GJ: When you first unveiled the clubs, what was the reaction?
BP: Most people told me I was an idiot. But guys who have money, or who have a good job and are serious about their golf — all they have to do is hit them once and they’re chasing me down for them.
GJ: How’s your game?
BP: My handicap is 10ish. I suck, so give me an iron that isn’t designed right and it ain’t going nowhere.
Culture ― 12 months ago