Golf is an intimidating sport, especially if you’re a beginner, or don’t fall in the stereotypes of businessman or retiree. Feeling embraced by the game is something that PXG founder Bob Parsons hopes his company and golf products promote to players of all skill levels.
You might know Bob Parsons as the creator of GoDaddy, the web hosting company that commoditized domain names. But these days, the Vietnam War veteran-turned-billionaire has geared business efforts towards PXG — Parsons Xtreme Golf — a golf brand launched in 2013 that’s built its reputation on custom-fit clubs, industry-first tech innovations and equipment that offers the ultimate playability.
From providing equal sponsor opportunities for collegiate women's teams to building a set of beginner’s clubs that don’t cut corners, Parsons has demonstrated commitment to an inclusive player experience. I sat down with Parsons to discuss such efforts while visiting the Scottsdale National Golf Club for a demonstration of the new PXG Gen6 clubs.
The following interview has been edited clarity and length.
Kate Kozuch: Something that I’ve gathered from trying out the PXG Gen6 and speaking with product engineers is that PXG is not an off-the-shelf experience. It’s a very personalized one. Has this been in the company’s DNA from the start?
Bob Parsons: It has been since day one. We’ve always sold high-end clubs, and with our high-end clubs, they played so much better if you were custom-fit. Buying a set of clubs off-the-rack that aren’t custom fit is like buying a pair of shoes before seeing if they fit. I’ve bought so much golf equipment over the years and I’d always work to custom fit myself. I would spend $200,000 a year on golf equipment. I’d buy a set of irons that I liked the look of, I’d hit them, and if they seemed OK, maybe I’d re-shaft them. And then maybe re-shaft them again. Or maybe buy another set and re-shaft those. You spend a lot of money in a hurry.
Why is there such a strong emphasis on the proprietary tech built into PXG clubs?
When you buy a car, you want to like driving it. It’s the same thing for golf clubs, when someone buys a set of golf clubs, particularly our clubs, we have developed a reputation that our name on a product means top-quality. And it’s top-quality because we don’t bring anything to market unless it’s significantly better than the prior model. Now in our 6th generation, we’ve honored that every time. Now, for the first time, we’ve got the best driver in the industry. We’ll have a third-party go ahead and test it, and publish it on our website. Nobody does that but us. You know why? Because we know it’s true.
What do you think competitors can learn from what PXG?
I don’t really worry about what they learn. I worry about what I have to know. And what they have to learn, I’m not here to show them. I’m here to take care of my customers and deliver an experience that is pretty unique. Even though there are things we do very right, our goal is never sales. Our goal is always to execute better; to do a better job of servicing our customers; to do a better job of research and development; and to do manufacturing in the right way to maintain quality and performance so our customers have the best possible experience.
How is PXG making golf more inclusive? What efforts are you proud of?
Our efforts in line with gender, that is something we’re really proud of. We’ve pioneered some stuff. It’s always been and still is now when a company sponsors a college men’s team, the men’s team gets custom fit for clubs, whatever they want at no charge. They have a rep helping them every step of the way. You know what the women’s team gets? They might get a discount. From day one we said whatever we do for the men’s team, we do for the women's team. I’ve received letters from coaches who say they’ve been in the business for 15 years, and they’ve been waiting for this to happen for their girls. Someone asked me why I do this, and it’s kind of a corny answer, but it’s because it’s the right thing to do.
Do you think PXG is making the sport less intimidating for women?
The thing is, we don’t sell "women’s" clubs. We sell golfer’s clubs. If a woman wants to have a set of clubs, then we need to determine what her skill level is rather than selling her the cheapest sh-t we could make at the lowest price. How can [other golf manufacturers] do that? They do the same thing with beginners' clubs. We also make beginners' clubs, but the difference is, we’ve engineered them to be really easy to hit, easy to get up in the air, and really fun to play. We sell them for about $1,000 a set. Do we set the world on fire with them? No. But we’re proud to sell them.
In my fitting process for the PXG Gen6 clubs, I found that the clubs were ready to work with me and my swing. I didn’t need to be a different person to learn how to use the clubs.
The clubs should complement your swing, no matter your skill level. It shouldn’t have to work the other way.
Let's relate to the beginning golfers out there. If someone was looking to get into the sport and start taking it seriously, why should they consider getting fitted for PXG clubs?
If they want something that’s going to get them into the game quickly and feel good about it; if they want to be able to swing a driver and hit it down the middle, you’re not going to do it with any of the other sets out there. You’ll do it ours, that’s why.