Listen: Adam Beach and Tony Covey Discuss the PXG Business and the 0311 GEN 2 Irons
It’s been 3 years since I first drove past a small, indistinct sign and through the front gate at Scottsdale National for the first time, 3 years since PXG launched its first iron, and 3 years since I came to believe that Bob Parsons’ little passion project of a golf company might just work. You know, in spite of its slightly above average price structure.
Of course, that means it’s also been 3 years since readers started throwing around adjectives like arrogant, greedy, and even stupid, 3 years since many of you called BS on all things PXG, and 3 years since speculation began that the company would go belly up within 6 months, a year... three tops.
3-years and 170 patents later, the most generous of those hourglasses have run out of sand and yet here we are… and here still, is PXG. While it mostly caters to a different demographic, its growth and success is perhaps more remarkable than Callaway’s over its recent run. Shocking as it may be to some, not only is PXG still in business, it’s thriving.
The company which, 3-years ago, operated out of a couple of trailers on the Scottsdale National grounds now employs 172. It opened a new building to serve as company headquarters and then promptly outgrew it. In 3 years its professional staff has expanded from one to seventeen (across major U.S. Tours). PXG clubs have been in winners’ bags on both the PGA and LPGA Tours, and while not on the winning side, the company also picked up its first Ryder cup credit.
It has rapidly expanded its footprint at the collegiate level as well. When Nike exited the hardgoods market, it created a void in the college game, which PXG has stepped-up to fill, and heavily so. What’s perhaps more noteworthy is that it has done so while providing equally for men’s and women’s teams. That fact alone makes PXG’s approach to college sponsorships more unusual than most, but for Bob Parsons, doing right by female golfers – even if it never occurred to him to do it any other way – is a part of the PXG success story that’s immensely gratifying.
While the size and reach of the company has grown faster than even Parson’s imagined, 3 years in the golf industry has done nothing to change Bob Parsons’ approach to the golf business. Bob is still Bob, so hate it, love it, or greet it with complete indifference, the next generation of PXG clubs is hitting the market backed with the same… shall we say... unbridled enthusiasm as the original.
“NOBODY MAKES GOLF CLUBS THE WAY WE DO. PERIOD.” is the tagline, and that’s not going to change with the 0311 GEN 2 Iron.
Says Parsons about his latest offering, “Our GEN 2 irons are better than our GEN 1 irons in every respect. We believe it’s the best iron ever made.”
Believe it. Don’t. Either way, I can’t imagine you came here expecting any ambiguity from Mr. Parsons. That’s not how he, and by extension PXG, rolls.
0311 GEN 2 - Better in Every Respect
When Bob says better in every respect, he means it. Here’s the breakdown of what PXG says makes its GEN 2 better than the original:
- Longer Distance (faster ball speed)
- Higher Launch
- Lower Spin
- Higher Peak Height
- Steeper Landing Angle
- Improved Dispersion
Nope, it’s not. The new irons also offer better turf interaction too, which is an area where the MyGolfSpy staff felt some improvements were needed.
That lower spin thing might throw up some red flags – as well it should. Reduced spin with an iron should always be a concern, but in this case, the combination of higher launch and steeper descent more than makes up for the spin drop and actually provides better stopping power on the greens (or wherever else your ball happens to land).
While it’s not by any definition a performance benefit, I’ll add that it’s my opinion that the new model is also better looking. I’d describe the overall aesthetics as less vintage PING, and more, perhaps even distinctively so, PXG.
None of this should surprise you. This is the golf equipment industry where damn near everybody makes claims. Some are louder than others, and some do it with greater frequency than PXG. By any modern standard, 3 years is a long time between iron releases.
Of course, it’s one thing to make claims, but any R&D guy worth his salt had better be able to explain how they did it. PXG’s engineering team had no trouble walking us through it.
“This is the best way to make irons... If everybody could do it, this is the way all irons would be made.” – Brad Schweigert, Chief Product Officer, PXG
FASTER COR2 Polymer
At the heart of the GEN2 story, both metaphorically and almost literally, is a new polymer material that PXG calls COR2. PXG won’t say exactly what COR2 is, but it’s definitely not foam… and I don’t know how to put this, but it’s kind of a big deal. In fact, it wasn’t until PXG’s engineers started looking beyond GEN1s TPE material that they found any significant opportunities for improvement.
“We have some imitators out there, but it’s not the same. It doesn’t work the way that our material works.” – Brad Schweigert, Chief Product Officer, PXG
To put hard numbers on it, the new material is 20% faster than TPE, which is one of the reasons why, loft for loft and length for length, GEN 2 irons produce 1-2 MPH more ball speed than the original. That gets you more distance while contributing to a higher trajectory. COR2’s increased resiliency, along with other design enhancements we’ll discuss in a bit, preserve more ball speed on mis-hits, ultimately yielding an eye-opening 40% tighter dispersion.
That’s a big number.
“The number sounds crazy,” says Brad Schweigert, “but it’s real. It comes from robot testing multiple hit locations. We’re seeing a 40% improvement in dispersion.”
It’s notable that relative to GEN 1’s TPE, PXG is using more of the COR2 material in the upper, middle, and lower regions of the cavity. In addition to the distance and dispersion benefits, it’s that extra bit of goo that PXG says creates an appreciable improvement in sound and feel.
INTERNAL FACE PERIMETER CUT-OUT DESIGN
It’s a bit of a mouthful, but the 2nd major evolution from GEN1 to GEN2 is a new face design that leverages a deeper undercut cavity and moves the welds binding face to body from the face itself to the perimeter (body) of the iron. While PXG doesn’t comment on competitors’ products, functionally the design is similar – at least in function – to what some call a cup face. The updated construction creates a face structure that performs as if it were larger. Schweigert says the functional area of the GEN 2 face is 15% larger than GEN 1’s. That gets you a larger sweet area as well as increased ball speed across the entirety of the face.
A BODY OF CHANGE
The GEN 2 iron body is forged from 8620. The updated material (GEN 1 was forged from S25C) retains the soft feel, but the new material is stronger which should help reduce dings, dents, and scratches. It’s a nod to the reality that PXG clubs are expensive, and as such, they should be Xtreme(ly) durable.
The face material (high strength HT1770 margining steel) is unchanged, and at only .058” thick, it remains the thinnest face in golf by plenty.
It wouldn’t be a PXG club without the signature screws weights, so to that end, each iron in the GEN 2 family offers 9 weight ports which can be used to fine tune head and swing weights.
Among the changes to the exterior of the irons is a topline that’s both chamfered and angled. The chamfer makes the top rail look a bit thinner while helping to obscure a gradual taper design that allows more mass to be positioned towards the toe for higher MOI. The width of the subtle taper progresses from minimal in the T to a more significant amount in the SGI.
Finally, it’s a small cosmetic thing, but PXG repositioned the sole number such that it’s a bit farther out on the toe. The idea is to make the paintfill last a bit longer by placing the number in an area where ground contact should be minimal.
The three models in the GEN 2 lineup mostly track with the previous generation counterparts, while the 4th, the SGI, is an entirely new offering for the company, and for my money is unlike most anything else on the market.
As you’d expect, head sizes and geometry differ from one model to the next, but the core technologies discussed above are common across the entire lineup.
While PXG is claiming more distance across the board, it’s noteworthy that GEN 2 lofts are identical to those of GEN 1.
0311 T GEN 2
The closest to a true blade in the GEN 2 lineup, the T (Tour) model is a bit more Tour-centric than the original. MOI is 2% higher and the center of gravity has been pushed a bit deeper, but offset has been reduced which appeals to better players and traditionalists. The 8, 9, and pitching wedge have more rounded profiles to smooth the transition from irons to wedges. Improved turf interaction comes by way of a straighter leading edge, reduced sole camber, and increased trailing edge relief.
0311 P GEN 2
The P (Players) is the direct replacement for the original 0311. While it’s used by some of PXG’s Tour staff (particularly on the LPGA), the P is positioned as a viable option for a variety of players from Tour level to double-digit handicaps. Like the T model, the P has been bumped slightly towards the better player end of the fitting spectrum. Compared to the 0311 GEN 1, the GEN 2 offers a thinner topline, a bit less offset, a deeper center of gravity, and 3% higher MOI. As with the T, the P offers a comparatively straighter leading edge and reduced sole camber.
0311 XF GEN 2
While still very much the true game-improvement iron of the bunch, the 0311 XF GEN 2 has also been pushed slightly towards the players end of the spectrum. Compared to the GEN 1, the topline is thinner. Offset has actually been increased slightly, though it’s blended a bit better so you’re unlikely to notice. Sole camber has been reduced for better turf interaction. As with the P, MOI is 3% higher than the GEN 1 equivalent.
0311 SGI GEN 2
The new addition to the PXG family, in case it isn’t obvious, the SGI stands for Super Game Improvement, and oh boy, is it ever. The SGI is a large, arguably massive iron, with an extremely wide sole, plenty of offset, thick topline, and a long blade length.
It was born from a directive by Bob Parson to create a club that anybody can pick up and play better with. While the SGI doesn’t promise perfection, it’s designed to be mostly miss-proof. “If you can send this club down there somewhere behind the ball,” says PXG’s Senior Product Designer, Mike Nicolette, “the face finds its way into the golf ball, and you hit an adequate golf shot.”
0311 X GEN 2 Driving Iron
The updated driving iron follows the trends of the rest of the 0311 GEN 2 lineup. It too has been bumped a bit towards the better player. Now with a thinner topline and reduced sole camber, it can be used off the tee or as a long iron replacement for better players looking to fight the ball low. For many, it won’t be in the bag full-time, but rather will go in the bag when course or weather conditions necessitate.
Hands-on with PXG 0311 GEN 2
At a recent PXG event at Scottsdale National Golf Club, I had the opportunity to try and be fitted for 0311 GEN 2 Irons.
After getting loose, we started by comparing my GEN 1 0311 irons to the 0311 P with the same shaft in both irons. In this apples to apples comparison, the GEN 2 more than lived up to Bob Parsons’ claims. Ball speeds were higher (~2 MPH), distances were longer (about a half a club on good shots) and standard deviations for both ball speed and carry (solid indicators of forgiveness and dispersion) were tighter. While it’s entirely subjective, I’d also add the GEN 2 product feels a bit softer to me as well.
As part of the process, I was able to try each of the 4 models, and I went into it with my mind open to any of the 4 heads and without any pre-conceived notions of what shaft or flex I needed. Things change, and it’s been more than a little while since my last full iron fitting.
As much as I like the idea (and the look) of the T, there comes a point where every man needs to understand his limitations. At another time in my life, I may have tried to convince myself I could make it work, but the honest assessment is that no good would come of it for me.
While I was impressed with the performance of the 0311 XF GEN 1, it was a little bigger than what I typically play. Given that, I might not have given it much consideration, but you know… open mind. Also, the distance (190+ yard, super-high, 7-irons) and the refined shape isn’t anything to argue with.
Ultimately my fitter, Jason, and I settled on a mixed set of 4-6 in the XF and 7-GW in the P with Nippon Modus 3 120 shafts. In the past, I’ve been fitted into KBS C-Tapers, and I’ve done some experimenting lately with the PX LZ, but to move into something entirely different than what I’ve played before brings its own excitement.
As with many irons on the market today, the PXG 0311 GEN 2 lineup is designed to work seamlessly as a mixed/combo set. It’s something I’ve done in the past (particularly with Mizuno), so I was more than comfortable following the same path with PXG. Truth be told, I thought long and hard about taking the XF through the 7-iron, but ultimately decided against it. I may regret it later, but I’d be saying the same thing about the 0311 P GEN 2 7-iron if I had gone the other way. Time will tell if I made the right choice there.
I also had a chance to try the SGI, and while it’s not for me, within its category (and with the requisite price notwithstanding disclaimer) it should be an absolute standout. It’s next to impossible to hit fat, it launches high (score another victory for dynamic vs. static loft), and the feel is an inarguably best in class for the category. From that perspective, it’s basically indistinguishable from any other iron in the 0311 GEN 2 family, and that’s simply not something you find in the SGI category. It’s an absolutely absurd iron (in the best possible way), and if, in the interest of putting a great iron in more golfers’ hands, I could convince Mr. Parsons to lower prices on any of his clubs, this is the one I’d fight for. I’m reasonably certain I wouldn’t get very far, but it’s the thought that counts, right?
“I think almost all golfers, if they were truthful, would aspire to play PXGs.” – Mike Nicolette, Senior Product Designer, PXG
With each new release, PXG has steadily increased prices, so it shouldn’t come as any great shock that the 0311 GEN 2 irons are now $400/per club. The price hike is partially offset by the fact that there is no longer an upcharge for graphite or any of PXG’s other 105 iron shaft offerings for that matter.
I get that even without upcharges, $400 still a lot of money for a golf club, but it’s at least worth pointing out that not only is there no such thing as a stock set of PXGs, there’s not such a thing as a PXG fitting cart either. In addition to PXG’s Scottsdale-based fitting studio and the other anchored PXG fitters across the country, the company has 46 mobile fitting vans serving the U.S., Canada, and the U.K., each stocked with everything you’d find at PXG HQ. We’re talking about a massive inventory of heads along with 300+ shafts.
Fittings take 1-2 hours, and you’re not going to get kicked out if you run long. The fitting is either free or is rolled into the cost of the clubs, and PXG encourages what it calls Spec Checks; follow-up mini fittings to verify that what you were fitted for still works for you. When changes need to be made, they’re often free, and when replacements are necessary, they’re offered at reasonable prices.
“At the end of the day,” says Bob Parsons, “We’re a very affordable luxury.”
Yes, PXG costs more, but with that, you get a level of service uncommon to the golf equipment business. In a nutshell, that’s the PXG way.
Price and Availability
Retail price for PXG 0311 GEN 2 Irons is $400/club Chrome and $500/club Xtreme Dark. Availability begins April 19, 2018.