Let’s dispatch the tired bits first.
Yes, the new PXG 0311 GEN3 irons are expensive, but they’re only $425 per iron. That’s not meant to be pejorative. When I initially discussed GEN3 with PXG Founder, Bob Parsons in November, the price hadn’t been finalized, but $500 per club was on the table. So as far as I’m concerned, we’ve already saved 15%, and we’re barely two paragraphs deep.
But yeah, PXG clubs are expensive. They’ve always been expensive. They’re always going to be expensive. It is what it is.
“The grumbling doesn’t matter,” says Bob Parsons, PXG’s Founder and CEO. “The grumblers, as best as I can tell, for the most part, aren’t our customers.” If you’re still grumbling, PXG isn’t for you.
Secondly, it’s time to come to terms with the idea that PXG isn’t going anywhere. The clock has run out on arguments that the company wouldn’t last 2, 3, 4, or even 5 years. Last year, PXG made Inc. Magazine’s list of the 500 fastest-growing companies (the 3rd time a Parsons-founded company has made the list), it’s opening new retail stores, and on closer inspection, loosely sourced reports of layoffs at the company turned out to be a net gain in headcount.
PXG is here, and it’s going to continue to sell golf clubs at price points that piss some people off. We can continue to belabor those points, but do you really want to be the last guy standing over a horse corpse waiving a stick?
It’s time to get over it, move on, and take a serious look at the tech behind PXG’s latest offering.
Before we take the deeper dive into PXG’s GEN3 technology, we should probably start by explaining that the GEN3 family of irons consists of three distinct models. As with many modern iron sets, they’re designed to be mixed and matched to create your ideal set. Lofts do vary between models, so if you choose the combo route, your fitter can help you to determine the proper loft progression.
0311 GEN3 T
The T (Tour) model is the most compact of the three offerings. It features the thinnest topline, the narrowest sole, and the least amount of offset. Its shorter blade length also contributes to the T being the least forgiving of the three models. By the category standard, it’s not an unforgiving iron, but in my experience with the clubs, the drop-off to T from P and XP is appreciable.
As the name suggests, it is intended for better, though not necessarily tour-caliber players. That means it offers higher spin rates and increased workability.
0311 GEN3 P
The P (Players) sits in the middle of the range, and I suspect, for a good portion of our readership, the P’s balance of distance, forgiveness, and workability will hit the Goldilocks sweet spot. It’s just right.
Topline thickness is moderate, though PXG uses a chamfered design to remove any visual suggestions of bulk. The sole is a bit wider and the blade is a bit longer when compared to the T. That extra bit of size yields 13% higher MOI (relative to the T).
The P is a bit smaller than the XP but isn’t what most would consider a small iron, and there’s plenty of forgiveness baked into the design.
0311 GEN3 XP
The XP (EXtreme Performance) replaces the XF (EXtreme Forgiveness) in the new lineup. The name change is mostly semantic as the XP occupies the same position (game-improvement) in the lineup as the XF. According to PXG, the XP is optimized for both distance and forgiveness.
Relative to the 0311 GEN3 P, the topline is thicker still (though again, the chamfered design helps hide a bit of the bulk). Sole widths are wide to prevent digging while making the irons easier to hit. Blade lengths are longer. Once again, PXG does a reasonably good job of disguising the size, and given the 10% MOI bump over the P, opting to look down at something just a bit bigger has its benefits.
Forgiveness (extreme or otherwise) remains a significant component of PXG’s technology. “When you move off-center, our products maintain more consistent ball speeds across a much wider portion of the face,” says Brad Schweigert, PXG’s Chief Product Officer. “It’s inherent to how that structure works, the elements of MOI, and all those things that people have always talked about that improve off-center performance, but there is a way our technology behaves that still delivers a lot more energy when you miss-hit it.“
On the most-extreme edge of forgiveness, the oversized 0311 GEN2 SGI does not have a direct replacement in the GEN3 line. It will carry on as is.
With the basics of the lineup covered, let’s take a deeper look into the design and technology that powers the 0311 GEN3 family.
5X Forging Process
While the size of the heads differs, the basic geometry of each of the three models is the same. To hammer out the final shape is a complex process that requires a 5-step forging process to form the 8620 steel head into its final shape.
If you’re looking for some justification for PXG’s costs, start here.
When PXG says it uses a 5X forging process, it means that it uses five molds per iron. To be clear, that’s not 5 per model, it’s not 5 per iron set, either. It means five molds are required for a 4-iron, five more for a 5-iron, and on and on we go. It’s excessively expensive, and I’d ask anyone who wishes to belabor that point to remember that the reason why small brands invariably have limited left-handed forged options can be summed up in two words: Mold Costs.
“I hope people realize we’re not here to price gouge or to be arrogant,” says Schweigert. “We’re just trying to make really, really good product, and what we do is expensive sometimes.”
Costs for a single mold can run upwards of $10,000. PXG is manufacturing 3 sets of 9 clubs, with 5 molds each, and it’s doing it for both left and right-handed heads.
The signature design element of the GEN3 family is the trapezoidal pop-out on the back of the club. In the 0311ST Blade as well as other muscleback designs, it creates an opportunity to concentrate mass behind the sweet spot for true muscleback performance. With GEN 3’s hollow-body construction, however, the pop-out forms a pocket, which creates more room for PXG’s new DualCOR Material.
Impact Reactor, Xtreme DualCOR Technology
At the literal core of PXG’s new iron technology is what the company calls Impact Reactor Technology Powered by a DualCOR Technology. Guys, I don’t name this stuff. Here’s hoping it doesn’t meltdown, explode, and go Kaboom, Baby!
Sorry…couldn’t help myself.
As golfers, when we hear dual-core, we think golf ball, and that’s not the worst comparison here. In dual-core ball designs, two different materials with different compression properties work in conjunction to optimize performance. A similar principle is at work with PXG’s new material.
PXG’s first 0311 iron featured a TPE (thermoplastic elastomer). It served primarily to support the face and improve feel. The faster ball speeds resulted from the thin face.
The COR2 material used in the GEN2 irons was a bit firmer. It returned a bit more energy to the ball, boosting speeds over the original, but didn’t feel as soft. It’s entirely subjective, and while I personally prefer the feel of the GEN2s, many would say they didn’t feel as good as the original.
The proprietary material in the GEN3 seeks to provide golfers with the proverbial best of both worlds. The DualCOR design features a high strength outer layer which PXG says provides the structural stability necessary to support the face, while a softer inner material dampens vibrations (better feel), and still allows the face to load and unload. My 2 cents; GEN3 feels better than GEN2, or GEN1, for that matter.
The Impact Reactor is the reason why Mike Nicolette, Director and Senior Designer at PXG, says the new irons should be called GEN4. “We skipped an entire generation of performance. It’s leaps and bounds better.” Nicolette credits the new irons for giving him upwards of 7-yards more distance. “I’m 62, it’s not coming back,” he said. “The only way I can keep up is with something better, and this is better.”
So, where is the performance boost coming from?
According to PXG, the new material yields more than twice the face deflection of COR2, which creates an additional 2-3 MPH of ball speeds. In an apples to apples comparison (same loft, same shaft), the result is 5-8 more yards. During my fitting, I saw more ball speed and just a bit over 4-yards more distance. As with so much of what we discuss, your actual mileage may vary.
If you’re wondering what exactly this new DualCOR material is, prepare to leave here unfulfilled. I can tell you that the inner material feels (and bounces) a bit like a superball. Unfortunately, beyond stating that the material can’t be injected and is difficult to get inside the clubhead, PXG isn’t saying what the material is or how they get it inside.
As it has in the past, PXG is leveraging HT1770 maraging steel as its face material. I know this metallurgy stuff is boring, so I’ll be quick about it. All you need to understand is that the material is extremely durable, and with the help of PXG’s latest iteration of goo filling, can be formed into a face that’s only 1.5mm thick – the thinnest in golf.
It’s the sort of thing that’s easily overlooked or discounted as not particularly meaningful. Still, it’s worth pointing out that, as a whole, the industry is continuously looking to produce the thinnest faces it possibly can. Here we are 4.5 years or so after the original 0311 irons launched, and while everybody’s faces have gotten thinner, nobody has managed to produce one as thin as PXG’s.
The internal side of the face features a CNC Milled perimeter channel. The channel reduces thickness in the milled area to 1.2mm. The idea is to increase the loading and loading of the face at impact while helping to preserve as much ball speed as possible when you don’t hit the center of the face. “It’s hot when you miss,” says Brad Schweigert. I’d agree with that.
During my fitting, I was working the toe side of center quite a bit. Ball speed and distance held up exceptionally well (particularly with the XP), and it wasn’t until I moved to the T that I started to notice a drop-off.
CNC Milled Grooves
CNC groove milling is often reserved for wedges where optimizing spin is central to nearly every conversation. It should also go without saying that maintaining proper spin characteristics is an integral part of iron performance as well, and that becomes especially true with the stronger lofts of modern clubs. There is also a precision element in play here as well. The real benefit of milling is that it narrows manufacturing variances, which allows engineers to set design targets that are closer to the USGA limit.
Satin Nickel/Chrome Plating
The 0311 GEN3 irons are finished with a low glare nickel/chrome plating. It looks like most any other quality finish you’d find on the iron rack. I only bring it up because it’s your only option. The new design won’t be offered in Xtreme Dark.
If you read our Cobra Speedzone driver story, some of this is going to sound familiar. In traditional multi-piece constructions, factory workers hand polish the welds. As we’ve discussed previously, polishing is a fun little euphemism for grinding, and when you’re dealing in any kind of real volume, grinding isn’t particularly precise.
To yield a more consistent product with tighter tolerances, all PXG 0311 GEN3 heads are robotically polished.
CNC Milled Back
The back surface of PXG’s GEN3 irons is CNC milled. Milling bodies is all the rage right now, and it does add a bit of detail that suggests an evolution in a way that the DualCOR tech hidden on the inside can’t, but it’s also has a performance benefit. By milling away material from the back of the club, PXG can thin the body beyond what is attainable through forging alone. As with most golf tech stories, it boils down to saving weight from parts of the club where it isn’t needed, so it can be used elsewhere to improve performance.
Finally, it wouldn’t be an 0311 without PXG’s signature weights. In addition to providing the signature PXG aesthetic, Tungsten weights offer a robust means to alter swing weights without resorting to tip weights that invariably shift the center of gravity (and with it, the sweet spot) towards the heel.
Performance…For the Right Demographic
While performance improvements are almost invariably incremental, unburdened from the need to land on an arbitrary retail price point, PXG’s engineers have greater freedom to design the best club they possibly can without constraint. “We’re not trying to engineer cost out,” says Schweigert, “because that would mean engineering performance out.”
AT $425 a club, PXG hasn’t engineered so much as a penny out of the cost, and that likely puts the GEN3 irons beyond what many golfers are willing to pay. No doubt Bob Parsons is comfortable with that. PXG says the higher prices are the consequence of a business model that eschews mass distribution in favor of a more personalized approach. “There are costs associated with how we fit and deliver the product,” says Brad Schweigert. “But we’re trying to provide the golfer with an experience they don’t get when they walk into Dick’s or Superstore.”
The experience has always been, and will always be, part of the PXG story. Some understand that and are willing to pay a premium for it. Others find it ridiculous. Either way, PXG’s success has left little doubt that there are more than enough conspicuous consumers hungry to fill their bags with something more exotic than middle of the market brands can offer.
Maybe that’s you. Maybe it isn’t. Either way, PXG is what it is.
PXG’s 0311 GEN3 Irons are available now. Retail price is $425 per club. For more information, visit PXG.com.