August 04, 2015
By Jonathan Wall, PGATOUR.COM
- Parsons Xtreme Golf's 0311 irons and wedges were designed with input from the company's golf-obsessed founder. (Jonathan Wall/PGATOUR.COM)
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Parsons Xtreme Golf may be a newcomer to the equipment industry, but in the span of eight months, the Scottsdale, Arizona-based company has gone from a relative unknown to one of the most talked-about names in golf — thanks in large part to the design behind PXG's 0311 irons and wedges.
To fully understand the design process, you need to start with the company's founder, Bob Parsons. The billionaire founder of web-domain registrar GoDaddy.com — Forbes recently listed his net worth at just over $2 billion — is obsessed with the game of golf and was spending upwards of $250,000 on equipment each year.
It eventually got the point that Parsons realized instead of continually buying equipment from other manufacturers, it made more sense to start his own company and make clubs he would want to play.
Parsons hired former PING engineers Mike Nicolette and Brad Schweigert — the pair helped design, among others, PING's G-Series driver and S-Series iron — and put them to work designing an iron that fit the club's mission. The iron had to look like a blade but be more forgiving than a cavity-back model. It had to go further than any club in the marketplace (without strengthening loft), while also feeling better than any club. And it had to have a distinctive look.
With a seemingly unlimited design budget, Nicolette and Schweigert went about creating an iron that met every requirement on Parsons' checklist.
The eureka moment
Iron technology has changed drastically in the last 5-10 years. With the introduction of materials such as tungsten, sole slots and thinner faces, today's irons are significantly longer and more forgiving than their predecessors.
Creating an iron that would go far was never going to be a problem for Nicolette and Schweigert. The tricky part was trying to create a design that had the distance of a game-improvement iron with the feel of a forged muscleback.
After kicking around different ideas, the duo settled on a hollow-bodied design because it was the only way they could give the iron a blade-like look with game-improvement distance.
The only drawback to the design was that the hollow construction sacrificed feel for distance. In other words, the iron would need a filler material to improve sound and feel.
"We tried all kinds of stuff, from silicone to rat glue and foam," Nicolette said. "And then we started thinking, 'I wonder if we could injection model the cavity with something,' and we started trying a bunch of materials there."
The material PXG chose was a Thermoplastic Elastomer (TPE) that allowed the high-strength HT1770 maraging steel face insert — it's roughly .058 inches thick — to be thinned out to the width of a credit card.
Through testing, the TPE not only provided the correct sound and feel, it also kept the ultra-thin face from deforming at impact, producing an efficient energy transfer that resulted in higher ball speeds with consistent response.
"I still remember doing testing with TPE at 165 mph of ball speed and not seeing the face go past permanent deformation," Schweigert said. "That was the eureka moment for us, knowing that it could withstand those ball speeds and still remain intact.
"We are just at the tip of the iceberg with this technology. Because we're so early with it ... we've hit on something that's incredible. Over the next 20 years, it will be exciting to see where it goes... improve the core, optimizing deflection and can maybe go even thinner [with the face]. But we're just getting started."
PXG 0311 iron
While the injection-molded TPE is the most important story behind the 0311, there's much more that went into the design of PXG's first iron. The body of the iron, which is forged from S25C soft carbon steel, is CNC milled to remove weight from the center of the club head.
The weight is then repositioned around the perimeter with the help of 11 tungsten alloy screws (35 grams total) that boost the club's perimeter weighting and improve forgiveness.
From there, a high-strength HT1770 maraging steel face insert is plasma-welded to the forged body. Maraging steel is extremely durable — Srixon recently added a maraging steel face cup to its Z F45 fairway wood — and can be thinned out to make the face hotter and improve ball speeds.
Once the face has been welded to the body, the TPE is added to the hollow cavity via weight ports in the back of the head.
"A lot goes into the production of each iron," Nicolette said. "The irons come at a cost, but there's a reason for that cost. When you look at the time, effort and materials that went into the iron design, it makes sense."
As you'd expect, Parsons Xtreme Golf's 0311 irons (3-PW) don't come cheap. They currently retail for $300 per club, making them some of the most expensive irons on the market. They are currently available through select custom-fitting centers.
Steel shaft options: KBS Tour 90, KBS Tour, KBS Tour-V, KBS C-Taper, Nippon 95, Nippon Modus 120, Nippon Modus 130.
PXG 0311 wedges
The 0311 wedges, as opposed to the irons, are forged from one piece of S25C soft carbon steel and don't feature injection-molded TPE in the head.
"We wanted it to be a speciality wedge that appeals to the eye of a golfer," said Schweigert. "You need to have a certain amount of mass in [the wedge], and we were afraid going with a similar design as the iron would make it too bulky-looking. Plus, with wedges you're not worried about distance as much as being precise."
With accuracy and forgiveness in mind, tungsten screws were added to the perimeter of the head (the same screws that come in the 0311 iron) to improve the perimeter weight.
The wedge only comes in one bounce option for each available loft, but according to Nicolette, the tapered sole design — weight was moved away from the heel to help with open-faced shots — gives the wedge some additional versatility, reducing the number of bounce options.
"We wanted to create a sole design that was pretty universal and works well with players of a lot of different abilities," said Nicolette. "Because we have one bounce option to begin with, I wanted the sole to be playable from a bunch of different conditions."
Through testing and direct feedback from Bob Parsons, the groove design was optimized for shots inside 50 yards. The wedge groove is shallow and wide, as opposed to narrow and deep, which allows the ball to bite and react more on delicate shots around the green.
"In studies we've done in the past, we always found that a deeper, narrower groove actually created more spin," Schweigert said. "But when you start looking at the short yardage shots, the wider groove actually works better because your ball velocities are at lower speeds because the ball isn't going into the deeper groove. That's why the wider, shallower groove actually provides more effective area for the ball to bite with the club on short chip shots."
The 0311 wedge currently retails for $300 and comes in six loft options (50-12, 52-12, 54-14, 56-14, 58-12 and 60-12 degrees).
Ryan Moore pulling a PXG club out of the bag during THE PLAYERS Championship. (Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Even though PXG has only been around for eight months, the brand already has a presence on TOUR. Ryan Moore started using PXG 0311 irons and wedges at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and became the company's first staffer at the Shell Houston Open.
“I have never felt like I needed an equipment deal,” said Moore. “My preference has always been to play the clubs that deliver the best results, which is why I started the 2015 season without a contract. After having a great few months on the course and achieving notable performance gains with PXG clubs in my bag, the option of extending my relationship with Parsons Xtreme Golf felt like a natural progression.”
Moore was invited to provide feedback on the look, feel and playability of the clubs during the development stage last winter when he wasn't tied to an equipment deal. It wasn't long after the testing phase that Moore officially put the clubs in play.
"That's one of the reasons we wanted to get these irons in the hands of the best players in the world," Schweigert said. "We knew we were doing something a little bit different and wanted to know how it was going to play out on the golf course in the hands of some of the elite players in the world.
"Getting it in the hands of Ryan [Moore] was key for us. What it did was validate the design process for us. He's tested and played the irons in all different kinds of conditions and he's been nothing but excited about the product."
In addition to Moore, PXG has added new staffers in the last few months, including Rocco Mediate, Sadena Parks and Anna Rawson. The company confirmed it plans to increase the size of its TOUR staff going forward.