The Bob Parsons project: Airpark icon buys a country club and creates a line of clubs

The Bob Parsons project: Airpark icon buys a country club and creates a line of clubs

By Mike Butler

If you can casually throw down five grand for a set of PXG golf clubs, you probably wouldn’t bat an eyelash at hopping on a jet to Scottsdale and spending $15,000 or more for a fitting package that includes a two-night stay at the Four Seasons Resort and several rounds of play at Scottsdale National.

For an extra $5,000, Parsons Xtreme Golf will put you up at the W in Old Town. Have $100,000 burning a hole in your pocket? You’ll be treated to all sorts of lavishness, including a private breakfast and 18 holes with none other than the legendary Bob Parsons.

Apparently, the GoDaddy founder and brash billionaire didn’t get that memo about the golf industry being on its deathbed.

Like a Harley pulling away from one of his dealerships, Parsons roared into golf-club manufacturing in a big way in 2014.

Why?

Parsons was getting tired of club-design improvements that over promised and under delivered.

“PXG has developed game-changing club technology with a singular focus: performance,” Parsons says. “We have removed all barriers to innovation, such as cost and time, and targeted the high end of the market.”

Parsons lured longtime Ping designers Mike Nicolette and Brad Schweigert, and gave them a simple mission: Take as much time and money as you need to build the best iron possible, an iron that looks and feels like a pro blade, but plays like a forgiving cavity back.

Along the way, PXG amassed global patents – more than 100 – like Zach Johnson, a PXG player, rolls in birdies.

Parsons and the PXG team have attracted quite the stable of touring pros. James Hahn gave PXG its first PGA victory at the Wells Fargo Championship last May. Billy Horschel, Charles Howell III, Chris Kirk and Charl Schwartzel also have PXG in their bags.

On the ladies side, World No. 1 Lydia Ko recently signed to play PXG clubs in 2017. Parsons also has three-time winner Christina Kim and reigning U.S. Women’s Open champion Brittany Lang on the bandwagon.

“Tour endorsement is an important aspect of our efforts to validate our equipment and grow brand awareness globally,” Parsons says.

A Marine Corps Vietnam veteran and Purple Heart recipient, Parsons named his irons 0311, the code assigned to riflemen. Fairway woods are 0341 (mortarmen); hybrids are 0317 (scout snipers); and drivers are 0811 (field-artillery cannoneers).

“We find that PXG customers fall into one of two buckets: Those who can stroke a check and don’t bother to ask the price, and those who know the lasting value of purchasing quality equipment,” Parsons says.

After his military service, Parsons graduated magna cum laude from the University of Baltimore, and learned to code. Although his father was a scratch golfer and his little brother was an avid player, Parsons didn’t fall for the game until he was in his 30s.

He and associates would sneak away from Parsons Technology in Iowa (where he first met Zach Johnson) to play rounds whenever they could. Like most newly minted golf nuts, Parsons went on a never-ending quest for better equipment.

The year before starting up PXG, Parsons estimates he spent $350,000 on golf gear.

Parsons riled up the golf world – or at least the Scottsdale corner of it – in a different way in 2014 by buying Scottsdale National Golf Club, a move he made after toying with buying an NFL franchise.

In a letter to the 175 members, Parsons said some who used the club the most supported the club the least. He offered to buy out anyone who didn’t agree with his vision for it. That included refurbishing the signature Mineshaft Course, adding another 18 with six holes each of par 3s, par 4s and par 5s, and creating the Bad Little Nine, which he describes as “the toughest, most unsympathetic par 3 in the world.”

But that’s old news to Parsons, who’s laser-focused on growing PXG’s distribution channels this year so golfers can get fitted for his clubs wherever they happen to live.

“The golf business, it’s a conservative group by its nature,” he says. “I’m not a conservative guy.”

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