Bob Parsons, the man who made Nascar driver Danica Patrick synonymous with racy Super Bowl ads, likes to do things differently and leave a lasting impression.
He’s now taking the same approach in golf.
Parsons, the founder of Internet domain registrar GoDaddy.com, started Parsons Xtreme Golf in April with what veteran club designer Mike Nicolette called an “intimidating” goal: make the best clubs in golf regardless of price.
“He doesn’t really do much of anything halfway,” said Nicolette, a former PGA Tour player who spent 23 years at Karsten Manufacturing Co.’s Ping before being lured away by Parsons. “He might be the most passionate person about the game of golf that I’ve ever met, and I’ve been around golf for a long time.”
That passion is evident in the clubs’ price -- $300 an iron and $700 for a driver, about $200 more per club than other irons and drivers on the market. A 14-club set would cost about $5,000, compared with $2,700 for a set of Callaway Golf Co.’s highest-priced clubs.
“The people that we are targeting can stroke a $5,000 check and not blink an eye if it will help their game,” Parsons said. “I’m serving a segment of golf that isn’t being served by the other companies.”
Parsons directed Nicolette and co-designer Brad Schweigert, another former Ping designer, to make clubs “based solely on performance” and not to worry about cost.
“It’s a different mindset,” Nicolette said. “It was a little intimidating. A lot of companies are trying to design to a certain price point. Bob told us ‘I want the best performance and whatever the finished product ends up costing, we will find the target audience at that point.’”
Sales so Far
Since starting the Scottsdale, Arizona-based company two months ago, Parsons said he has sold about 120 sets of irons, 105 drivers and 53 prototype putters, for a total of about $500,000 in revenue. PXG was started as golf has been fighting against a loss of players and declining participation numbers. Parsons isn’t concerned.
“These clubs are not for them,” he said.
Currently, PXG clubs are being sold at Scottsdale National, a private club Parsons bought in Arizona in 2013 for $600,000 and Cool Clubs, a high-end custom club-fitting studio with 16 locations worldwide. Parsons said he will soon open a 40,000-square foot facility for custom fitting, club testing and office space in Scottsdale.
PGA Tour player Ryan Moore, a Washington native who is playing this week’s U.S. Open about 15 minutes from his Lakewood, Washington, home, is one of two players under contract with the company.
Moore, 32, was introduced to the clubs by Nicolette after playing Ping clubs during his first four years as a pro. He already knew the designer, and that made switching easier, he said.
“There was a lot of comfort for me,” Moore said. “I knew if he had designed it. I was probably going to like it.”
Initially, Nicolette sent Moore a set of prototype clubs in December to get some feedback. Moore told him what he thought, then refused to return the clubs.
“When they sent them to me I told them ‘Yeah, you can’t have these back,’” Moore said. “I liked them so much.”
Moore played the clubs without a contract for the first 2 1/2 months of the season before signing a three-year agreement prior to the Houston Open in April. He’s now on his third set of prototypes. In 12 events since switching to PXG, Moore has 7 Top-25 finishes, including a 12th place at the Masters Tournament. He’s 17th on the Tour’s money list.
Rocco Mediate has also signed on to play the clubs on the Champions Tour.
The clubs, designed to look like classic forged “muscleback” irons, are hollow and filled with an elastomer rubber compound to provide forgiveness on miss-hit shots. The design also features 11 small tungsten screws in the perimeter of the club’s body, making them recognizable from the other side of a fairway.
“It looks so cool,” Parsons said. “The downside of that is, it’s a pretty expensive process.”
The high-density screws help to move the club’s center of gravity away from the clubface while maintaining a thin top-line club profile. Typical game-improvement clubs with perimeter weighting have a bulkier appearance, making them less desirable for high-skilled players or those who prefer a traditional blade-like design.
“It looks like a better, high-performance iron, but it’s actually like a game-improvement iron,” Moore said.
The high cost of tungsten and the club’s manufacturing process are what increases the price, Nicolette said. The result is golf balls launched higher with less spin at about 3 miles per hour faster, producing about 10 yards of increased distance compared to traditional forged or cavity-back irons, Parsons and Nicolette said.
After spending time with Parsons recently, Moore said he got a clear picture of what motivates GoDaddy’s founder.
“He’s an awesome guy,” Moore said. “The money doesn’t matter. He’s not going to do it just to do it. He’s going to do it to have an impact and do something different than everybody else is doing.”