Before golf-obsessed billionaire founder of GoDaddy.com, Bob Parsons, started Parsons Xtreme Golf (PXG), he was burning more than $250,000 searching for the perfect club — an iron that plays like a blade, offers more forgiveness than a cavity back, and flies farther than anything on the market — to no avail.
One year later, he may have created it. No, really. Just try to show us a more forgiving iron than the PXG 0311. It seems with Parsons's deep pockets and obsessive demands, PXG has broken the mold and come with a club that is unlike anything out there.
During research and development, the PXG design team stumbled upon an almost magical solution to their set of problems. Experimentation with different substances as filler inside the cavity to provide better feel led chief product officer Brad Schweigert and company to discover that using Thermoplastic Elastomer (a kind of synthetic rubber) inside the club head allowed for the use of a much thinner club face. "It was hard to fathom," Schweigert said. Not only did the TPE solve the problem of providing blade-like feel, it also allowed for the use of a club face that's only .058 inches thick. That's half as thin as any other iron on the market. That hyperthin face allows for higher ball speeds, which, in turn, delivers more distance.
According to Schweigert, a PXG iron without the TPE injected into the cavity would be permanently deformed after one strike with a 90 mph club-head speed (a slow amateur speed). One that has been filled with TPE can endure numerous hits with a 165 mph swing speed with no permanent deformation (that's faster than World Long-Drive Champion Tim Burke can swing his driver).
"Some of the best inventions are accidental," Schweigert said. And for PXG, Thermoplastic Elastomer was the gift that kept on giving. Removing that additional weight from the club face allowed the PXG team to redistribute the savings to the perimeter of the iron, using the distinctive, exposed tungsten weights (they look like screws). The shift makes the final result, PXG's 0311 iron, more forgiving, ticking off the last of Parsons' requirements.
While the irons were the catalyst for PXG's inception and the first focus, Parsons's grand strategy was to build a complete brand. So, when it was time to turn to metal woods, the mission was to "make a product better than any other in the marketplace, or we won't release it," Schweigert said. The driver they came up with, the 0811, features 16 moveable weights as well as an adjustable hosel to optimize launch conditions and performance. PXG's fairway woods (0341) and hybrids (0317) feature the same adjustability, but with fewer weights (11 for the fairway woods and 7 for the hybrid).
Custom fitting is integral for PXG. Consumers can't buy PXG clubs from big-box retailers; they are only available through a network of custom club-fitters. "Fitting is the only way to optimize performance," Schweigert said, and performance is what PXG is selling. "You wouldn't buy a good suit without getting it tailored." Of course with that bespoke level of customization comes with a much higher price tag. A set of irons from PXG costs about $2,400, while a driver runs about $700. That's about twice the price of the competition. But Parsons and company are banking on serious golfers who are willing to part with a little more cash for gear that yields results.
We torture-tested the PXG line over some cold and soggy rounds at Connecticut's Golf Club at Oxford Greens, the Pete Dye-designed Pound Ridge Golf Club in Westchester, New York, as well as a couple of laps around Brooklyn's Marine Park and the results were just insane. Each iron flew around 10 plus yards farther than our current gamers. The feel and response from well-struck shots was remarkably good for an improvement iron, as was the sound. Because of the weighting and the wide sole, the ball tends to fly straighter, so shaping shots with the 0311 takes a bit of adjustment but becomes easier with time. Unlike the irons, the driver, fairway woods, and hybrids don't yield monster yardage gains, but they are comparable with most competitors, and thanks to customization, they are fairway-finding machines. Playing second shots from the short grass and hitting greens in regulation are the kind of results every golfer wants. Lower scores may make it worth the price.