In the world of disc golf, bags are becoming more and more important to players.
For those taking the game a bit serious, especially.
No, the bigger bag is becoming more and more prevalent, especially for tournament players. Bags need to do more than carry discs, though. There has to be enough room for snacks, drinks, towels, jackets and anything else.
How about a stool?
Those tournament days can get long and with backups on some holes almost inevitable, one might want to sit down.
Enter Big Hyzer Bag Company.
Owner John Chamness, an amateur-level player from Huntsville, Alabama, has been playing the game seriously for eight years, but has been involved with the game since 1985. That’s when his step-father used to take him to the original University of Alabama-Huntsville course where the targets were concrete cylinders used for storm sewers. At that time, they just used standard freestyle Frisbees.
Coming from that point to making bags that he hopes will compete in an already competitive market was a long road for Chamness, the 2007 Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) Volunteer of the Year.
The concept of Big Hyzer Bag Company came in 2007 when Chamness and his friend, Will Kelly, went to an A-Tier event at the SportsPlex in Athens, Alabama. Another friend, Chad Smith, was on the final card with pro Steve Rico and the duo wanted to support Smith.
As they stood on the bridge behind the 18th tee, Chamness said he saw players sitting on or carrying three-leg stools. At that point, he said to Kelly, “You think they would make a bag with a chair built in, like one of those standing golf-club bags.”
That’s all it took.
The following Monday, Chamness was building multiple prototypes of the bag.
And now, the small company based in Madison, Ala., is looking to make a bigger impact. The company had but three employees — Chamness, his wife Pam and Chris Mullins.
That Chamness is building bags is interesting in its own right. A hardware designer in the utility industry, he said he didn’t set out to design the next thing in bags. He just wanted to incorporate the chair into the bag.
“There were features I wanted, such as bottle pockets that close,” he said. “I was so sick of the standard bottle pocket on all other bags that is just a padded sleeve. I have lost more bottles on the course then I care to recall.”
He said he also wanted a larger pocket for hooded sweatshirts or rain jackets and he saw the need for a hidden interior pocket.
Up until recently, Chamness has sewn all of the bags as well. The company now has a contract with someone in North Carolina.
“I bought an industrial sewing machine, dusted off the skills from seventh-grade home economics class and did work,” he said. “I also designed all the mechanical (parts) in CAD (computer aided drawing). I originally wanted a plastic seat that would open off the end and provide a true chair for players to comfortably sit on.”
That didn’t work out, however, as the prototyping costs were getting a little crazy. After years of plugging away at different designs, he settled on a patent-pending 8 frame design.
The bag, which has a price tag of $149.99, weighs just under four pounds.
“If you think that’s heavy, weigh your bag sometime,” Chamness said. “I can say that my friends can’t tell the difference between the weight of my 8-Frame bag and their whatever-brand bag.”
As for the stool? It’s designed to support 250 pounds. Chamness, however, said he is 6 foot, 4 inches tall and weighs 255 and has never had an issue.
The bag, which is made with nylon, will hold 23 discs in the main compartment. The putter pocket will hold four putters and the smaller pocket, which is directly under the seat, can hold another four discs if you need it.
Beyond disc golf, the bag is also built to support Ultimate players. The putter pocket can hole an Ultimate disc and the main compartment can be used for anything an ultimate player might need (shoes, cones, clothing etc.)
One thing Chamness said he is extremely proud of is that his bags are American made.
“The one promise I made to myself from the beginning was it had to be made in America,” he said. “If that was not possible, then I would find something else to do. I refused to sell out my fellow citizens in the name of profits.”
Chamness also said his company cares about the sport.
“We want you all to enjoy our products, and the sport of disc golf,” he said. “I truly believe our bag makes it easier and more enjoyable to play a round of disc golf. With the courses rapidly getting bigger and longer, a round can take its toll. Having this built in seat makes the rounds more comfortable and more enjoyable. We want you to enjoy disc golf, and enjoy using our products to play disc golf.”
Obviously the goal of the company is to turn a profit, but Chamness said this endevor is there to try and give back. Before they had even sold a bag, Big Hyzer had sponsored two events and gave away $2,500 in cach and prizes.
“We offer very good margins to retailers and have an aggressive plan for professional sponsorship to include sales commissions and, eventually, stock options,” he said. “We want our team to truly be a part of the team and what better way then to give them a piece of the company?”
Currently, the company isn’t sponsoring any professionals, but Chamness said he has been in talk with some “young guns” in Alabama and he’s spoken to some high-ranked players. He said he trying to break new ground with their sponsorship packages.
“Obviously we want the biggest names we can get, but we also want to support the locals as well,” he said. “There are some great players that will be coming onto the scene out of Huntsville, Ala., and we are proud to help them get there.”
It’s not easy breaking into the industry side of disc golf, but Chamness and his company are already starting to think ahead. He said there are several other bags on the drawing board. One is being saved for a “splash signing” of a big professional, with the bag being a signature model.
In the future, he said he’s hoping the company is stable. This ride has had ups and downs and he said he’s looking to expand into other markets, such as the hunting and fishing market with the frame design. But, his roots are in and will stay in disc golf.
“In the end, I love disc golf,” he said. “I think we have a good idea here and the concepts for products to come are 10-times better. Big Hyzer Bag Company can be an active part of the disc golf community for years to come and, to me, that is extremely exciting.
Big Hyzer Bag Company on the net:
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P.J. Harmer is the lead blogger for Rattling Chains. If you have any comments, questions, thoughts, ideas or anything else, feel free to e-mail me and the crew at: pj [at] rattlingchains.com. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitterand like us on Facebook!