For the average golfer, nearly every conversation about PXG golf equipment begins with price. That’s the consequence – intended or otherwise – of selling drivers for $850 a pop and irons for $400 each. Fairways and Hybrids, well, they haven’t exactly been bargain-priced either, and let’s not forget about those $650 milled wedges. How weird is it that to buy a Sugar Daddy, you kinda need a sugar daddy?
The point is that PXG equipment is expensive, and everyone knows it’s expensive, so, let’s not bury the lede:
The street price for the new PXG GEN2 Driver is $575.
And no, I’d didn’t mistakenly drop a preceding “1”: Five-Hundred and seventy-five dollars. That’s all. I’ve been speculating on driver prices for nearly a decade, but I’m reasonably certain this is the first time I’ve whiffed to the tune of 425 dollars. Seriously, I was wrong by more than the cost of a Tour Edge EXS. It’s still a good chunk of change, but it’s enough of a break that if you really want PXG, you can probably find the extra $25-$75.
“The people who buy our product, most of them don’t even ask the price,” said PXG Founder and CEO, Bob Parsons. “They’ll give me a credit card and fly away on their private jet. From their standpoint, it’s not going to matter one way or the other what the price is. Whether it’s $850 or $575, they’re buying it. For the people who do care about the price, this will make a difference for them.”
I suspect that’s true.
So why the price break? There are a multitude of factors.
Ask Bob Parsons why PXG is dropping the asking price for GEN2 metalwoods, and he’ll cite business costs. It’s been plus or minus three and a half years since the original PXG line launched. The expenses associated with entering the golf equipment business have been amortized. Increased production volume has reduced manufacturing costs, and so why not pass the savings on to the consumer?
“Our prices weren’t that high because we wanted them that high,” Parsons told me. “It cost me that much. I wasn’t making that many units, and we weren’t cutting any corners. We priced to deliver the return we needed to get.”
Under the new pricing model, Parsons says PXG is still making what it needs to make, though I’m reasonably sure I caught a smile when he reminded me, “Our prices are still the highest. Let’s not lose sight of that.”
Price will remain part of the PXG conversation, and that plays into Parsons’ assertion that PXG will continue to honor the brand and culture the enthusiasm around the brand.
“The number one concern for me,” says Parsons, “is doing the job right.”
PXG Engineers Brad Schweigert and Mike Nicolette believe the price reduction makes a bold statement. With retail costs much more in-line with the mainstream wing of the equipment industry, PXG has positioned itself to compete with Callaway, TaylorMade, and PING. PXG hopes the comparisons won’t end with the price. Schweigert and Nicolette believe that when it comes to performance, their products, especially their GEN2 products, can go head to head with the industry leaders and not only hold its own, but come out on top.
PXG wants to take the emphasis off the price and make the GEN 2 driver’s a performance-driven storyline.
The third angle is mostly just my opinion. With every release, PXG has systematically raised prices, and while few mainstream offerings dared soar to all the way into PXG territory, there’s no denying that, industry-wide, retail prices have increased since PXG entered the market. The adage is that correlation is not causation, but there’s plenty of evidence to suggest The PXG Effect is real. Did Bob Parsons rope-a-dope an entire industry? With leading brand driver prices ready to hit the $550 mark, the competition may have climbed high enough that PXG can drop prices and metaphorically anyway, land some big punches in the market. Was this the plan from the beginning?
Maybe, maybe not.
Either way, I’m not predicting a knockout. PXG isn’t compromising its sales model. There is still no big box distribution – no Dicks, Golf Galaxy or Superstore. With the exception of GEN1 product and anything falls under the PXG for Heroes program, there’s nothing remotely resembling an off-the-rack option. Everything will still be 100% custom fit and sold through PXG’s dealer network.
The way PXG does business will limit its ability to grow share significantly – though I suppose significantly is a relative term.
All of that is the effect part of the story. If indeed it comes to fruition, here’s your cause; two new drivers that launch PXG into uncharted territory. With respect to our annual CG and MOI charts, I mean that entirely literally.
0811 GEN2 TECHNOLOGY
The GEN2 driver family will offer two models. As you would expect, while each fills a distinct role in the lineup, there’s plenty of overlapping technology between the two.
While the mass properties story differs between models, both offer PXG’s signature screw weights.
Like most everybody else in the industry, PXG spent a reasonable amount of time trying to enhance the aerodynamics of its driver. And like most everybody else, PXG provided the requisite CFD (computational fluid dynamics) charts to illustrate the point. While the driver lacks turbulators or other forms of aerodynamic trips found on some competitor’s drivers, the takeaway is that the 0811 GEN2 drivers are aerodynamic-enough.
“The bigger story with this technology is not necessarily the aerodynamics,” said PXG’s Brad Schweigert, “it’s actually the structure piece and the fact that we stiffened that crown and return more speed and energy to the ball.”
I’ll decide what the story is. Don’t tell me what to write, Brad.
Fine. The bigger story is, in fact, the structure, or in some areas, the lack thereof.
In one of those odd coincidences that sometimes happens in the golf equipment industry, 2019 may go down as the year of the raised crown feature. Not entirely dissimilar from Cobra’s F9 SPEEDBACK (and another we’ll discuss later this month), 0811 GEN2 drivers feature what PXG calls Hot Rod Technology, which manifests visually as a raised, multi-level, variable thickness crown. The design itself was inspired by the performance and styling of American muscle cars – and given Bob Parsons’ predilections, I’d wager on Dodge muscle cars specifically.
Hot Rod Technology is GEN2’s signature feature at address, and while it’s designed to look cool, it actually serves a performance purpose. The rib structures help to stiffen the crown and reduce energy loss due to deformation at impact which in turn provides more consistent ball speed. An unintended consequence of the design is that the raised portion of the crown also serves as an alignment aid, which can help to frame the ball at address. Billy Horschel swears by it, but your actual mileage may vary.
Followers of PXG will notice a reduction in the number of movable sole weights. The X model features 9 weights, while the XF features only 5. The weights themselves are heavier than they were in past models. The heavier tungsten weights are 4.1-grams each, while the black titanium weights are just under .8-grams each. While reducing weights does eliminate some of the in-between settings, the GEN2 designs retain the most commonly used settings while simplifying things a bit for both PXG fitters and consumers.
The reduction in the number of weights brings with it a reduction in the structure necessary to support them. That, along with some aggressive thinning of the titanium body structures (sole and skirt) is what, driven by improved mass properties, allowed PXG to make a significant jump in performance.
More on that in a bit.
Thinner structures and walls can create unwanted vibrations and ultimately undesirable sound and feel. To mitigate that and create a more pleasing experience at impact, PXG continues to leverage a honeycomb TPE structure anchored to the interior of the soleplate. The feel of the new drivers is unique, but not unpleasant.
Unlike Callaway and TaylorMade, PXG won’t be telling a face technology story this year. Since the last PXG driver release, the USGA has made some procedural changes to how it tests CT. Specifically, it now checks CT across the entire face, not just the center region. In the past, the narrow framework of the test allowed OEMs to push off-center areas of the face above the CT limit.
Those days are over.
You can bet some manufacturers will put a spin on it, but the reality is the changes have forced most everyone to slow portions of their faces to remain compliant. That’s not to say there aren’t other ways to gain ball speed. Schweigert says PXG has some proprietary stuff going on under the hood of the GEN2 drivers, but like everyone else, PXG has taken measures to ensure that the entire face is as fast as it can be, while still complying with the new guidelines.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that the target weight for both heads is 206g. That’s a bit heavier than average (for reference, Callaway plays closer to 195g). The extra mass helps boost MOI, but according to PXG, 206g (a slight reduction from the previous model) was chosen because it allows fitters to hit a comfortable swing weight across a wide variety of shafts.
With the big picture stuff out of the way, let’s take a closer look at the individual models in the 0811 GEN2 family.
Visually, while both models are in the 460cc ballpark, the X features the more compact, I guess you might say, player’s profile. It’s taller, and shorter front to back.
The obvious change in the X model is a reduction in the number of moveable weights from 10 to 9. That might seem like a downgrade, but the individual weights are larger and heavier which allows for a more significant shift in the center of gravity. It should also be pointed out that back weights are farther back, front weights are farther forward, and you now have the option of putting some extra mass into the heel (draw bias). All of this makes for about 4mm of CG movement when the three heavy weights are shifted from the front to the back (or back to front).
When the Tungsten weights are forwardly placed, you get higher ball speeds, lower launch and spin (swapping a single weight effects a change of about 200 RPM). Move the Tungsten to the back and you get higher MOI, higher launch, and higher spin. Don’t take that to suggest the new X gets spinny. I suspect that when everything shakes out, loft for loft, the PXG 0811X GEN2 will be the lowest spinning driver on the market in 2019.
Why do I think that? It’s time to go into the weeds. If you find this tech/mass properties stuff, hit Ctrl+F, type the word unicorn, and skip ahead.
According to PXG, with the tungsten weights forward, the CGNA of the 0811X GEN2 sits .160” inches below the neutral axis. With our CG charts, we speak in millimeters. A quick conversion works out to about 4mm below neutral. That’s easily the lowest of any driver we’ve seen to date. Now it’s important to mention that those numbers are based on CAD projections and not on measured parts (we’re working on that now), but with allowances for reasonable tolerances, there’s not a scenario in which the GEN2 X is not among the absolute lowest CGNA drivers we’ve ever seen. With that, you wouldn’t expect the X to be super-forgiving, that’s really not what it’s for. PXG pegs the MOI at around 4400. It’s not going to be mistaken for a G400 MAX, but it does fit squarely in the low end of the 2017 average range.
To give you some additional perspective, the Callaway Rogue SZ (weight forward) was the only driver from the 2017 crop with a CG location below the neutral axis. It came in around -.2mm with MOI around 4250. If the projections are right, the 0811X GEN2 stands to push the CG 3.5+ mm lower, while increasing MOI by roughly 150 points.
Bottom line, if X GEN2 is in the ballpark of what PXG says it is, from a mass properties perspective, it’s special. It’s a muscle car inspired unicorn.
For those who need more spin or want higher MOI, the weight back setting is nearly as impressive. In that configuration, the CAD projections put the CGNA around -1.5mm (still easily among the lowest we’ve ever charted), while the MOI climbs to 4800 or so.
My initial impression is that not only is the X the low spin offering that PXG always wanted and never had, I suspect that it may prove to be the rare case where some high spin golfers may need to put the weights back, buy a higher lofted head, or use the shaft to add a bit more spin.
0811 XF GEN2
The perfect complement to the X’s low spin, the XF is your high MOI offering, though much like the X, the reported mass properties justify the X(TREME) in PXG. Compared to the X, the center of gravity in the XF has been pushed ½” (12.7mm) deeper. In the golf club engineering world, that’s a massive difference. I may have been wrong when predicted a $1K driver, but I can salvage a bit of pride in more or less nailing the MOI of the XF GEN2.
As with the X, PXG’s engineers pushed the weights as far back as the design allows for. They expanded the footprint to just barely fit within the confines of the USGA’s maximum allowable dimensions, and perhaps most impressively they did it without resorting to a shape that looks wonky or even bulky at address.
To be sure, there’s a good chance it will look larger than what you’re playing today, but it still very much looks like a driver is supposed to look. Brad Schweigert says that the initial prototypes were a bit more radically shaped, but that PXG had to make it more conventional to get them under the limit. Added Mike Nicolette, “It’s not like we had to create some ugly shape to get it done.”
So, what exactly is it that PXG got done? Back into the weeds we go…
It pushed XF’s heel/toe MOI (i-yy) right at the USGA limit of 5900 g-cm2 and bumped total MOI (which included top/bottom MOI) to over 10,000. Nobody else in golf, not even PING with the G400 MAX, can make either of those claims right now.
Hopefully, by now you’re aware that nearly every design decision brings with it a tradeoff. That extra MOI boosts forgiveness and gets you higher launch, but it brings with it higher spin. What’s compelling here is that spin is not obscene. CAD projections place the CG right on the neutral axis, which – if proven to be the case with retail parts – would make the 0811 XF GEN2 among the 3 or 4 lowest CGNA drivers on the market. This, despite its otherworldly MOI.
In my initial testing, I found that it spins more, though it’s not excessive. As a high spin guy, I find it more than playable, which is saying something.
While it’s not universally accepted truth within the industry, some argue that higher MOI leads to a decrease in swing speed. The premise is that sometimes heavier weights, larger heads, and other factors can cause golfers to swing high MOI clubs slower. The counterargument is that all other factors being equal, if you can do high MOI without compromising aerodynamics, head speed shouldn’t suffer.
The Requisite Performance Comparisons
Nearly every new release brings with it a set of performance comparisons, and so here you go.
Versus the previous 0811 X product, PXG says its tests show 1-2 MPH higher ball speeds, a 300-400 RPM reduction in spin, 7-10 yards more distance, and 26% tighter dispersion.
The XF bests the previous model by 1 MPH, brings with it similar spin rates, 3-6 yards more distance, and 34% tighter dispersion. That last bit is the most telling illustration of the MOI story.
That’s intriguing, but wait, there’s more.
Filed under for whatever its worth, and full disclosure here; the next chart a manufacturer shows me that suggests its product doesn’t best its competitors’ will be the first; in PXG’s player testing…
The 0811 X GEN2 was 2 MPH faster than the closest competitor. It was the lowest spinning, and ranged from 5 to 16 yards longer than the 2018 offerings from the five leading brands (a group that generally includes Callaway, TaylorMade, PING, Titleist, and Cobra).
That’s a seriously bold claim.
Despite, or perhaps in addition to being an at the limit MOI offering, the same testing found the GEN2 XF to be 1 mph faster than the same competitive set.
Your fine print – the test was conducted using the same shaft with lengths normalized to 45” (PXG’s standard). Longer shafts (common to most OEM lineups these days) will give you more ball speed, but also tend to increase spin, and more importantly decrease impact consistency while widening dispersion patterns.
The bottom line is that PXG believes it has the best drivers on the market, and I believe its confidence in that is a good part of the reason why the company is seeking to remove price (on a relative basis anyway) as a reason to exclude PXG from the buying conversation.
Predicting the Future
All of this brings us back to our original question. Why is PXG lowering metalwood prices? While there are a number of factors, the most basic explanation can be summed up in a single word: accessibility. A lower price point makes the product more obtainable.
Brad Schweigert laughed a when he said the goal was to be the number 1 driver in golf, before acknowledging that PXG doesn’t have the distribution model to be #1.
As far as market share goals are concerned, there’s no hard number. After mentioning that five brands control 90% of the market, I asked Schweighert how much of the remaining 10% he thought PXG could carve off. “We’re hoping not to fighter over that last 10%”, he said before Mike Nicolette interjected to add, “we’re hoping to steal some of that 90.”
Bob Parsons and his team believe that, through a lower price point, significant growth and greater market penetration are possible. PXG metalwoods still live in a premium price position, but just barely. The hope is that mainstream accessibility will bring PXG into the larger conversation, and if the products perform as advertised, get golfers talking about PXG as offering a leading class metalwoods product.
Parsons has a vision for his golf brand. It’s not small, and it’s entirely performance driven. For now, I believe he’ll be happy if golfers are excited about playing his new drivers.
“Success is we have the same usage and perception of our woods line and driver line as we have with our irons, Parsons told me. “That’s going to be a big accomplishment for us, and I believe it’s going to happen.”
The PXG 0811 X GEN2 Driver is available in lofts of 9°, 10.5°, and 12°. The 0811 XF GEN2 Driver is available in lofts of 9°, 10.5°, 12°, and 14° degrees.
PXG doesn’t do stock shafts in the traditional sense. Including exotics, the lineup is 25+ models deep and that’s not accounting for different weights. Notable offerings include the entire Project X EvenFlow series (including the new 1100 White), Fujikura Pro 2.0, and Tensei CK Blue and Orange series. CK Pro models are available for a $150 upcharge.
Retail price is $575. Availability begins 1/15/19.
For more information, visit PXG.com.