MY SHOT: BOB PAR­SONS

Tales of the Wild West and crazy golf games from the founder of PXG clubs.

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - Contents - With Guy Yo­com

we play a game called Sweat. It’s the per­fect golf gam­bling game. It’s played one on one or can be played two against two. Here’s how it works: Each hole is worth one point. In our case the point is worth $100, but it can be any amount.At any time dur­ing the play of a hole, a side can of­fer to dou­ble the bet. If the other side de­clines, they lose the hole and the point to­tal. But here’s the kicker: If an op­po­nent ac­cepts the dou­ble, they also re­ceive half a stroke. The half-stroke changes ev­ery­thing. If we’re play­ing a par 3 and I’m on the green, 40 feet from the hole, and you’re plugged in the bunker, I’ll dou­ble you and give you half a stroke. But if, some­how, you hit the sand shot two feet from the hole, and I hit my first putt five feet past the hole, you might want to dou­ble me back, which also can­cels the half-stroke. So now we’re play­ing for four points – $400 – you put­ting from two feet and me put­ting from five feet, the half­strokes back to dead even. Other con­di­tions of Sweat: A birdie in­stantly dou­bles the bet, an ea­gle quads it and a hole-in-one pays 10 times. An­other rule: If you’re up by five points or more, you can’t de­cline the dou­ble.What­ever your ba­sic DNA is as a com­peti­tor, Sweat will ex­pose it. i’m a “new” guy. I’m not drawn to clas­sic cars, old mo­tor­cy­cles or antiques of any kind. That Har­ley I rode in on to­day, it’s new. My cars are new. My PXG (Par­sons Xtreme Golf) clubs are the lat­est and great­est, all 14 of them. If you have a trusty old club you still carry around, I’m happy for you. But I pre­fer new stuff. golf by its na­ture is mas­sively com­pli­cated. It re­quires mov­ing ev­ery mus­cle in your body, mostly in a coun­ter­in­tu­itive way. In no other sport does equip­ment play such a huge role. It’s not half the game, but it’s close. I started PXG in Septem­ber of 2014 be­cause I have faith in peo­ple’s will­ing­ness to buy ex­pen­sive clubs if the clubs make them even a lit­tle bet­ter.There’s no point in be­ing mod­est:They’re mak­ing peo­ple bet­ter. when my en­gi­neers asked what I wanted our clubs to look like, I be­gan with “sexy.” Sexy is sub­jec­tive, and beauty is in the eye of the be­holder, but I wanted the clubs to beckon to you when you looked at them. I wanted you to fall in love. I wanted the irons to look like a blade but be a lit­tle over­sized with a sweet spot the size of Texas. I wanted them to go higher and fur­ther with­out goos­ing the lofts.They sighed.“Is that all? This might take awhile.” After many false starts, they nailed it. when i bought Scotts­dale National Golf Club in 2013, I wanted an ex­clu­sive, truly national club that of­fered as in­cred­i­ble a golf ex­pe­ri­ence as you could find. I wanted hand-picked mem­bers, most of whom don’t live in Ari­zona. I wanted each visit to the club to be spe­cial.At first in­spec­tion, I dis­cov­ered that the mem­bers who used the club the most sup­ported it the least.They spent lit­tle in the golf shop, res­tau­rant and on other ameni­ties. My let­ter to the mem­ber­ship con­tained my oft-quoted words, “This will not con­tinue.” It was a dif­fer­ent model, con­tro­ver­sial to some, not that I minded – I own it. I re­struc­tured how the club would work, fee struc­tures and club poli­cies. I of­fered a 100-per­cent re­fund of ini­ti­a­tion fees to ex­ist­ing mem­bers who chose not to stay, which was far more gen­er­ous than re­quired. There was one catch for mem­bers who took that of­fer – keep in mind, some were re­funded as much as $110 000 – they couldn’t come back. There were lots of tak­ers, but I got the ex­clu­sive mem­ber­ship, club and course that I wanted.We re­designed two of the last four holes and added 27 holes, in­clud­ing a nine-hole par-3 course.We’re ex­pand­ing the club­house. It’s go­ing to be ev­ery­thing I wanted it to be. our mem­ber-guest, I will ven­ture to say, is the most fun in the United States. It’s called the Wild West In­vi­ta­tional, we spend half a mil­lion bucks to put it on, and if some­one knows of a bet­ter three days, I’d like to hear about it. On ev­ery par 3, we have beau­ti­ful women there to serve cock­tails to the men, and hunky guys serv­ing cock­tails to the women.The women, as a tee prize, even get a pair of ex­pen­sive de­signer shoes. It’s all about hav­ing a good time. Ev­ery putt in­side three feet is good – we sta­tion a per­son at each hole with a “gimme stick” to mea­sure. I got that from Clint East­wood. If you hit it in the desert, you get a drop onto grass with a on­e­stroke penalty.The ob­ject of the tour­na­ment is to win your flight and get into The Stam­pede, an elim­i­na­tion shootout where mu­sic is blar­ing over loud­speak­ers, mar­garita carts are rolling, and a guy with a bull­horn taunts the play­ers. Some­times the guy with the bull­horn is me. If you’re tak­ing too much time over a putt you might hear,“Hit the putt, Faldo.”There’s a buy-in, and if the team in your flight wins

The Stam­pede, ev­ery­one in that flight wins the prize. Oh, it’s a blast. au­gusta national is the best model for run­ning a golf club. Call it a benev­o­lent dic­ta­tor­ship if you like, but the times I’ve been priv­i­leged to play there, it strikes me as noth­ing short of phe­nom­e­nal. The chances of a guy like me ever be­com­ing a mem­ber might be small, but I have noth­ing but ab­so­lute ad­mi­ra­tion for the place. com­mit­tees make the best de­ci­sions when three peo­ple are on the com­mit­tee and two are out of town.At golf clubs or in busi­ness, that’s the rule. Com­mit­tees rarely take risks. Peo­ple think­ing in groups can’t think eclec­ti­cally. One clear vi­sion beats a di­luted vi­sion, ev­ery time. ev­ery great golf club has its se­cret sauce, a way or two of do­ing things that make it dis­tinct. Not to give away ev­ery­thing about Scotts­dale National, but I’m a firm be­liever in serv­ing food that isn’t too heavy.When mem­bers are headed out to play or have just come in, they don’t want to eat some­thing that makes them feel like they just swal­lowed a bowl­ing ball. there are those who be­lieve that in­no­va­tion in golf has maxed out, that pretty much ev­ery­thing has been tried. My an­swer is, to im­prove on some­thing you first have to try. If, after ap­ply­ing all your imag­i­na­tion and ef­fort you say,“This thing can’t be done any bet­ter,” you’re right. It’s over – for you. But it’s not over for our guys, es­pe­cially our en­gi­neers, Mike Ni­co­lette and Brad Sch­weigert. The first thing they wanted to know when they signed on was, how long did they have? My an­swer: “Fifty years, and if you don’t have some­thing spec­tac­u­lar by then, I’m draw­ing a hard line at 75 years.” In other words, no rush. They then wanted to know what their bud­gets were.To that I said, “Un­lim­ited.” after high school grad­u­a­tion, in 1968 I joined the Marines and after boot camp was im­me­di­ately sent toViet­nam. I got there in 1969.The war was rag­ing then, ca­su­al­ties on both sides av­er­ag­ing 30 000 a week. I hon­estly didn’t think I was go­ing to sur­vive.We were liv­ing day to day, and my only goal was to be alive for mail call the next day. After my Viet­nam ex­pe­ri­ence, noth­ing re­ally wor­ries me. In busi­ness or any en­deav­our, you def­i­nitely want a longer view than I had in Viet­nam. But if you keep

‘EV­ERY­BODY HAS A BOSS. THE PEO­PLE AT PXG RE­PORT TO ME. I HAVE TWO BOSSES. I RE­PORT TO THE IRS AND MY WIFE, RE­NEE.’

mak­ing it to mail call the next morn­ing, you can get through any­thing. one of the many things I got from be­ing a Marine was re­spect for au­thor­ity. I com­pletely sup­port the USGA and the way they’ve laid down rules for equip­ment. I be­lieve in the way they set stan­dards and up­hold them. I like their in­tegrity. what i’ve found in golf gam­bling is, over the long haul the money seems to even out. Ask any life­long golfer if they’re ahead or be­hind, life­time. Usu­ally they’ll pause and then an­swer, “A lit­tle ahead.” If some­one an­swers, “Oh, I’m way ahead” or “I’m way be­hind,” I don’t want that per­son as my part­ner. there came a time in the late 1980s when I was work­ing about as hard as a man can work. I was ex­pe­ri­enc­ing my first taste of fi­nan­cial suc­cess with Par­sons Tech­nol­ogy. I bought a house up at Ea­gle Ridge, near Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and we’d head up there to play golf on Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon, spend the night, then be the first group off on Thurs­day morn­ing.We’d be back in the of­fice, with 36 holes and a rip-roar­ing night un­der our belts, with hardly any­one know­ing we’d been gone.That’s the trick, isn’t it? Play­ing a fair amount of golf at no ex­pense to your work or home life. in cedar rapids, I’d play oc­ca­sion­ally at Elm­crest Coun­try Club where the same am­bi­tious, or­di­nary­look­ing kid would put our bags on the carts and clean them when we fin­ished. When Zach John­son was try­ing our PXG clubs, he said, “Do you re­mem­ber me? I used to clean your clubs at Elm­crest.” Zach then de­scribed the type of irons I played. zach re­mem­bers my clubs bet­ter than I do, be­cause I was al­ways chang­ing. For years I spent $250 000 a year on golf clubs and one year spent $350 000. I had to be one of the most fer­vent golf gear­heads in America. My bud­dies and I would go down to ev­ery PGA Mer­chan­dise Show and use passes our pro buddy back in Cedar Rapids got for us. Some­times the pro would overnight a new set to me, and I’d show up the next morn­ing on the first tee with a bag full of brand-new clubs. We’d play, then go to the con­ven­tion cen­tre and stalk the floor. For me, the dream set of clubs was al­ways right around the cor­ner. when i first con­sid­ered sell­ing Par­sons Tech­nol­ogy, my first wife and I agreed we’d sell it for $40 mil­lion. In­tuit of­fered $60 mil­lion, and I was smart enough to tell them I was in­sulted. Even­tu­ally we got $64 mil­lion.That was in 1994. The moral to that story – and it ap­plies to golf bets and ev­ery­thing else – is to never ac­cept the first of­fer. Re­mem­ber, the first of­fer isn’t what the seller has in mind, ei­ther. one of the con­di­tions of the sale was that I had to go a year with­out work­ing. I moved to Ari­zona, got a place at The Boul­ders and played golf ev­ery day. Ev­ery­body thinks that if they had un­lim­ited time and money to play, take lessons and buy all the clubs they wanted, they’d get bet­ter. But I didn’t get bet­ter. The lessons didn’t res­onate, the clubs didn’t help enough, and play­ing be­came a rit­ual. I still think be­ing self-taught is the way to go. But it can take a lot longer. i’ve never had a busi­ness part­ner. I al­ways go it alone. Why? I started GoDaddy with $35 mil­lion. It was a good prod­uct, but in the white noise of the dot-com boom, we strug­gled to be heard and quickly started bleed­ing money. My bank ac­count shrunk to $32 mil­lion. I thought, I’m not go­ing to worry about this un­til it goes to $28 mil­lion. It goes to $28 mil­lion. Now I’m wor­ried, but I de­cided to go un­til it goes to $25 mil­lion. It goes to $25 mil­lion.Then $20 mil­lion . . . $18 mil­lion . . . $12 mil­lion . . . and down to $6 mil­lion. At that point, I went to Hawaii to fig­ure out my next move. I was stay­ing at the Four Sea­sons, and a guy about my age parks my car.This man just oozed con­tent­ment. I thought, What’s wrong with this pic­ture? This guy is prob­a­bly broke, but he’s happy; I’ve got $6 mil­lion, and I’m mis­er­able. I de­cided to go back to Ari­zona and keep work­ing on GoDaddy. If the com­pany went broke, I’d go broke with it. But GoDaddy didn’t go broke. If I’d had part­ners, there’s no way they would have tol­er­ated it go­ing down to $6 mil­lion and pos­si­bly go­ing broke. They would have been gone, maybe

‘IF A 4½-HOUR ROUND SEEMS LIKE A DEATH MARCH, MAYBE YOU NEED BET­TER COM­PAN­IONS.’

for good rea­son.When you’re in it alone, only you draw the line. So, no part­ners. i thought there was a good chance that GoDaddy was go­ing to fail. If it did, my plan, after watch­ing the guy park cars in Hawaii, was to move to Las Ve­gas and be a stick man at the craps ta­ble. I knew I could find hap­pi­ness and peace of mind even if I was broke. I re­alised there is far more to hap­pi­ness than sim­ply hav­ing money. All money does, by it­self, is give you a dif­fer­ent set of prob­lems. Ac­cept­ing the worst pos­si­ble out­come gave me the guts to hang in there.And it’s a damn good thing I did. my first big break came when the dot-com bub­ble burst.This was the best thing that could have hap­pened – for me. See, al­most all In­ter­net com­pa­nies stopped pay­ing their bills, ex­cept for me. Com­peti­tors went away. Out­lets that wouldn’t give me a break on ad­ver­tis­ing were sud­denly lin­ing up to give it to me. I came back from Hawaii in March, and by Oc­to­ber we were cash-flow pos­i­tive. Two lessons here. One, al­ways pay your bills. Never stick any­body. Put your cred­i­tors first, and a lot of op­por­tu­nity will come your way.Two, when there’s a disas­ter – the dot-com col­lapse hurt a lot of peo­ple – it also cre­ates op­por­tu­nity.That’s when your eyes should be open widest. so godaddy turned a cor­ner, and in 2005 we had built up a war ch­est of $10 mil­lion. It was time to ad­ver­tise on a big venue. I chose the 2005 Su­per Bowl. Not cheap, and I was wor­ried our ad would get lost while view­ers were drink­ing and talk­ing. We needed some­thing a lit­tle risqué that would catch peo­ple’s at­ten­tion. So we cre­ated an ad in which the GoDaddy Girl, Candice Michelle, did a par­ody of Janet Jack­son’s wardrobe mal­func­tion. The ad was to show twice, once early in the game and again at the two-minute warn­ing. After the first show­ing, our servers shook from traf­fic.The sec­ond one, Fox Sports de­cided not to show.They said it was “out of tenor” with the other ads. But it didn’t mat­ter.The ad was out there, and our mar­ket share went from 16 per­cent to 25 per­cent that week.We didn’t pay for the sec­ond ad, of course, and got a full credit for the first one. To this day, that ad is taught in ev­ery im­por­tant class on ad­ver­tis­ing as an ex­am­ple of what an ad­ver­tise­ment can do. the one thing I in­sisted on for that ad – the se­cret sauce – was for the wo­man to be a brunette.At the time, blondes were the no-brainer choice for TV and ad­ver­tis­ing. But some­thing told me that a strik­ing, dark-haired wo­man would make a big­ger state­ment. Noth­ing against blondes – my wife is a gor­geous blonde – but when you want edgy with max­i­mum im­pact, go with the brunette. a few years ago I went to a gas sta­tion – the best place to con­duct re­search – and asked peo­ple what came to mind when I said the word “GoDaddy.”The an­swer was al­ways, “Dan­ica Pa­trick.”What made Dan­ica unique as our spokes­woman? I played golf with her re­cently, and it oc­curred to me that it’s not her beauty, though she is beau­ti­ful. It’s not her abil­ity as a NASCAR driver, though she’s ter­rific at it. She’s unique be­cause she’s a wo­man with stones. She has the guts and moxie to com­pete in a male-dom­i­nated sport and hold her own. dur­ing my early days at GoDaddy, I had a den­tal hy­gien­ist named Nancy Jo. I went in to get my teeth cleaned, and she gave me nitrous ox­ide. First time I’d had it, and man, did I feel good. When I went back to the of­fice, our call cen­tre seemed bleak. The peo­ple seemed grim, un­en­thused, just go­ing through the mo­tions. So I de­cided to spend $1 000 and hold a se­ries of con­tests, with sig­nif­i­cant prizes, cash and mer­chan­dise. That day, the board cleared – twice. (It had never cleared be­fore.) And we did $18 000 more in busi­ness. I learned an im­por­tant busi­ness les­son. When there’s a fun work en­vi­ron­ment, pro­duc­tiv­ity goes way up.All this hap­pened be­cause of a tank of nitrous ox­ide and a wo­man named Nancy Jo. some­where north of age 70, dur­ing the tran­si­tion from se­nior to su­per-se­nior, men start dress­ing like flags from other coun­tries. It’s like the sig­nal that goes off when but­ter­flies are in mat­ing sea­son. Men start wear­ing ex­plod­ing colours that don’t match. Pat­terns clash.Things don’t fit right. The aware­ness about their ap­pear­ance goes out the win­dow. Whis­per they have soup on their shirt, and they say, “Thank you,” and then ig­nore it.When I get there, please be good enough to let me know. re­nee and i like to give back. Forbes Magazine says I’m worth more than $2 bil­lion. Most of it’s on pa­per. Re­nee and I signed The Giv­ing Pledge, started by Bill Gates and War­ren Buf­fett, in which we promised to give half of our net worth away by the time we move on to the next life. So far we’ve given away more than $104 mil­lion through the Bob & Re­nee Par­sons Foun­da­tion, and ob­vi­ously we’re far from fin­ished. ev­ery­body rails about slow play. But have you ever no­ticed that when you’re with re­ally great peo­ple, it’s not that big a deal? If a 4½hour round seems like a death march, maybe you need bet­ter com­pan­ions. Or at the very least, some sym­pa­thy for the poor guy shoot­ing 120 in front of you. golf be­came a lot more fun when I learned to em­brace a bad day. My (hand­i­cap) In­dex is 9.1, but I’m the kind of 9.1 who oc­ca­sion­ally shoots 96. It used to drive me nuts. Now, when they shove the score­card at me with the 96, I’ll hold it up, smile, and ask my part­ner,“So what did you think of my game to­day?” one thing i’d love to do with a re­li­able dirt bike is to get a cou­ple of bud­dies, go toViet­nam and ride it down the Ho Chi Minh Trail just to get some idea what it was like for the guys com­ing the other way. long be­fore yamaha made mo­tor­cy­cles, they made pianos.They switched to mo­tor­cy­cles be­cause after World War II there was high de­mand for cheap trans­porta­tion and no de­mand for pianos. I be­lieve in go­ing where op­por­tu­nity takes you. I started out as an ac­coun­tant and moved into soft­ware cod­ing and writ­ing. I later founded GoDaddy, and to­day I’m mak­ing golf clubs. I’m al­ways pre­pared to change.When I was a young guy my fa­ther told me I should do what I love. He said,“When you love some­thing, it tells you all its se­crets.”

PHO­TOGRAPHED AT SCOTTS­DALE NATIONAL GOLF CLUB.

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