As business plans go, this was not one that reckoned to be catnip to potential investors. Start with no experience and enter the already crowded marketplace of golf club manufacturers. And, oh yes, plan to charge $5,000 a set for your clubs – more than twice the price of currently available top-line equipment.
Bob Parsons, however, doesn’t need investors. He sold his first company, Parsons Technologies, in 1994 for $64 million and then went from millionaire to billionaire with the founding of the internet company GoDaddy.
Golf Addiction Personified
Parsons came to golf late – he was in his thirties before he played his first rounds – and like many late converts to the game, he fell hard. Parsons is an equipment junkie and estimates that he has personally spent between $250,000 and $300,000 on clubs alone, hitting every new thing that came onto the market through the years.
Naturally, he eventually decided to build his own golf clubs. The result is PXG – Parsons Xtreme Golf. To launch his new venture, Parsons poached two of the best engineers from PING, Brad Schweigert and Mike Nicolette, a PGA Tour graduate who won the Bay Hill classic back in 1983. Parsons unleashed his new club creators with only a single mandate – develop the best clubs possible that conform to the standards of the United States Golf Association. “We have no constraints on our engineers, no cost constraints, no time constraints,” he boasted. To date, PXG has registered over 90 design patents including a special steel that produces the thinnest club face in golf for increased ball speed.
And for the marketplace, apparently no price constraints as well. PXG drivers started at $700 when they reached the market last year. As Parsons concluded, looking at the existing equipment marketplace, there was no sense in replicating what brands such as TaylorMade and Callaway of the golf world were doing. He aimed directly at the super-affluent segment of the golf market, which industry research indicates includes over four million golfers with household incomes north of $125,000 a year.
PXG On Tour
PXG made its Tour debut in 2015 in the golf bag of Ryan Moore, who captured the Hyundai Tournament of Champions with a set of Parsons’ irons. Before the year was out, Champions Tour veteran Rocco Mediate and LPGA players Sadena Parks and Beatriz Recari were also in the fold.
For 2016, PXG has fired a shot across the bow of traditional golf manufacturers by adding eight new players to its professional stable, including defending Open Champion Zach Johnson. Billy Horschel, James Hahn, Chris Kirk, and Charles Howell III will also be swinging PXG woods and irons this year. All have won PGA titles in the past. On the LPGA Tour, Sondheim Cuppers Cristie Kerr, Gerina Piller and Alison Lee have all signed with PXG as well.
It is not unusual for deep-pocketed businessmen to try to buy instant credibility in golf, but convincing Tour players to abandon the familiar weapons of their livelihood for new equipment is not an easy path. As Johnson said in a statement, “The decision to put PXG clubs in play was not one I took lightly. My entire team, from caddie to coach, was part of the process. We all agree that PXG is undeniably the best equipment to help me achieve my goals on the course.”
Those are the types of words Bob Parsons wants to hear. Now he will be hoping that confidence in his new equipment is rewarded with results on the course. If it happens, the well-heeled golfers he is appealing to will be more than happy to shell out $5,000 for a new set of PXG clubs.