As you step up to the line, ax in hand, you stare down the wooden target in front of you. With a powerful swing, you launch the ax into the air and watch as it lodges as closely as possible to the painted bull's-eye you aimed for. This is the sport of ax throwing, and it’s taking over DFW one brand-new location at a time.
One such location is Bad Axe Throwing in Dallas on Grand Avenue near Samuell Grand Park. Bad Axe Throwing is one of the biggest chains of ax throwing in North America since they first opened their doors in 2014. The founder, Mario Zelaya, also founded the World Axe Throwing League. Jesus Kendall, the location manager for the Dallas and Oklahoma City Bad Axe Throwing locations, has seen steady growth since the Dallas site opened in June.
“It’s growing every day,” Kendall says. “Since we opened we’ve been getting busier and busier.”
The sport has become a phenomenon in the last few years, with the World Axe Throwing League’s World Championship televised on ESPN. When the ax throwing championship first aired, interest spiked so high that it made the Bad Axe website crash because of the amount of traffic. Events happening the day after slowed the company’s servers so much that they weren’t able to pull up the waivers each participant is required to sign.
A private event on average lasts two and a half hours, but interested parties can rent a lane for themselves at a rate of roughly $20 per hour. While the idea of throwing a large ax toward a target may seem intimidating for some, Kendall insists that the sport is accessible for anyone interested.
“There’s a lot of guests that come in feeling like they’re not athletic enough,” Kendall says. “They can’t do it, they’re not that strong. That’s not the case. As long as you can follow instructions, you’re good to go. Anybody can do it.”
A coach on hand guides guests on the best techniques and proper form to be the most effective in hitting the wooden target. The coach serves as the ax sherpa, giving tips to become proficient in minutes, while organizing tournaments to create a friendly competition for bragging rights.
The success of the ax throwing business model is attracting many new investors to open up locations. Entrepreneurs Mitesh Natha and Vikash Bhula are opening up the first Arlington location, Texas Axe Throwing Co., in the Downtown Arlington District of Urban Union. The planned grand opening is scheduled for the first week of March, and they’re ready to jump in with the other trendy restaurants and bars that make up Urban Union.
Knowing that neighboring cities had ax throwing locations available, the duo wanted to offer a different experience for the Urban Union clientele who make the district their entertainment destination.
“We wanted to put a Texas-themed spin on it,” Natha says. “Also we wanted a substantially different venue. We’ll have arcade games, classic arcade games, which is something that no one else offers. Also a beer and wine bar, and we’ll have two barn doors that’s going to separate the ax throwing places so you can have a private event as well.”
The entrepreneurs took great pains to study the market to see where they wanted to set down roots and who the key demographic would be for an event such as this. What they found, as they researched the sport in-depth, was that the interest from the public carried a wide appeal, especially for groups wanting to do something different from the traditional options, like bowling.
“The first time I threw one, I wanted to keep throwing more,” Bhula says. “And whenever you go with a set of people, it definitely brings out your competitive spirit. One thing I know is, people love competition.”
The trend shows no signs of slowing down, with the rapid expansion of chains like Bad Axe, and smart investors like Natha and Bhula setting up shop. The sport is still so new that it’s hard to predict the longevity of its appeal, if ax throwing possesses staying power or if it's another trend in a long line of short-lived ideas, but for now, business is booming. One thing everyone can agree on, there’s a certain rush that comes from throwing an ax.
“Pulling that ax out of the board is just an amazing feeling,” Kendall says. “It’s gets very addicting after a while. Some people will get addicted to doing yoga, or working out. This is pretty much the same thing. It’s a great stress reliever, and it’s just all around fun.”
Places to try ax throwing:
It’s recommended for all locations to book in advance. Most places will accept walk-ins, but there might be an additional charge and they don’t guarantee availability.
Bad Axe Throwing Dallas
5428 E Grand Ave.
Bad Axe Throwing is one of the largest chains in North America and the name you’ll most hear associated with the sport. While the location is still fairly new to Dallas, Bad Axe has spent years raising awareness of ax throwing, and its tried-and-tested approach to working with guests keeps positive word-of-mouth spreading.
715 N Glenville Drive, 440, Richardson
Class Axe in Richardson has the benefit of being ahead of the curve and opening their location years ago. Like many of the other locations on this list, Class Axe is BYOB, so the night is guaranteed to be inexpensive unless you bring in bottles of Cristal. This is also one of the larger chains experienced in ax throwing, having opened six locations around the country and two more on the way.
Fort Worth Axe Factory
220 S. Sylvania Ave., Suite 110, Fort Worth
Fort Worth Axe Factory is proud that it's the first ax throwing location in Fort Worth, and the locals have been happy about it as well. Also like the other locations on the list, if you have your own ax, you are allowed to bring it in to throw as long as one of the coaches approves it. The ax factory is dog-friendly as well, just make sure your dog is ax-friendly.
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Awful Axe Throwing
418 E. Jones St., Building 5, Suite 300, Lewisville
If you’re looking for a place to host a party or team-building event in the Lewisville area, check out Awful Axe Throwing. Don’t let the name fool you, Awful Axe makes sure each guest has a unique experience. A Bluetooth speaker is set up on the lanes, so blast whatever makes you want to throw an ax the most. They don’t sell alcohol, but you are able to bring your own beer and wine. Bring extras for the people around you, because if they’ve heard you play the same Beyoncé song on a loop for the last hour, they’ll need it.
Texas Axe Throwing Co.
506 E. Division St., Suite 120, Arlington
While still a few months away from opening, Texas Axe Throwing Co. is setting itself up in the right location for groups wanting a different experience from their night. Already a destination spot for an evening of trendy dining and drinks, the Urban Union district of downtown Arlington has the right combination of surrounding attractions to complement the upscale vision of the owners of Texas Axe. With a full-service bar, arcade games and, of course, ax throwing, Texas Axe Throwing Co. will have something for everyone.