Jamaican ideals, constant innovation drive Small Axe Disc Golf Co.

By Steve Hill – Rattling Chains staff

The island nation of Jamaica – home of reggae, coastal beauty, and Olympic champion Usain Bolt – at first does not seem like the source of inspiration for a burgeoning disc golf company.

Indeed, the country boasts zero proper disc golf courses.

SmallAxeLogo

For the minds behind Small Axe Disc Golf Co., though, vacations to the country have provided a mindset and energy that they have brought back stateside and injected into their products.

Billed by founder Damon Neth as a “disc golf lifestyle and products company,” Small Axe in the past year has introduced three products to market, all geared toward, as the company’s art director puts it, the “disc-nerd” in every player.

From the Puck – an interlocking putter and driver mini set that can hold coins, first aid kits, and anything else you can think of – to Chucker’s Chalk, which packages grip chalk into a disc golf bag-friendly bottle – Small Axe is aiming to bring players products that combine innovation and function, all while maintaining the core reason most people pick up a disc in the first place – fun.

“It started a long time ago with the feeling that disc golf could benefit from a positive, joyful brand that celebrated the fun and cooperative spirit of disc golf,” Neth said.

After coming to enjoy interlocking minis, Neth dreamed up the idea of a putter and driver hooking together as something that would be more appealing to consumers, he said.

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Bearded Brothers brings all-natural energy to disc golf

By Steve Hill – Rattling Chains staff

With all of the concentration required in order to execute proper disc golf shots (“Am I reaching back far enough? What line am I trying to hit? How’s the footing on this hillside?”), a rumble in the stomach is the last thing anyone needs to worry about.

Have no fear. Bearded Brothers is here.

Started as a simple idea in October 2010 by non-brothers (more on that later) Chris Herbert and Caleb Simpson, Bearded Brothers produces energy bars that are 100 percent organic, vegan, and gluten-free. From its origins in kitchen experimentation to full production that now finds the bars available in 23 states, Herbert said the motivation for building the company was necessity.

BeardedBrothersLogo“Bearded Brothers was born from two guys wanting to make energy bars that tasted great and had solid nutrition,” he said. “Initially, Caleb and I made our own bars for personal use, as healthy eating was a top priority to both of us. Caleb being an amazing climber, runner and cyclist, and myself being an avid disc golfer, traveler and outdoorsman, we realized how hard it was to find an energy bar that, one, tasted good and, two, wasn’t full of crap.

“Unfortunately, we couldn’t find one that met both criteria,” Herbert continued. “So we made our own.”

The Austin, Texas-based duo began by creating eight different flavors of their product, which was then pared down to today’s four offerings via a public taste testing party. They also put a great deal of effort into researching the packaging – which features a resealable, newly-compostable wrapper – and, of course, the name of the company.

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Bachnein merging love of game with eye-catching apparel

By P.J. Harmer — Rattling Chains staff

Once upon a time, three lads in Vermont set out to master the sport of disc golf with the hopes of rising to the top of the professional ranks.

Try as they might, however, reality took hold and this fairy tale wasn’t going to have the normal ending.

Instead, it led to something different, yet still connected to the sport of disc golf in a positive way.

In 2011, Bachnein was formed by friends James Sweat, Taylor Johnson and Justin Kaulius. The trio, based in Burlington, Vermont, worked on creating original disc golf apparel and heavily promoting the game. Some past products include shirts, hats and disc dyes.

Bachnein owners, from left, James Sweat, Taylor Johnson and Justin Kaulius.

Bachnein owners, from left, James Sweat, Taylor Johnson and Justin Kaulius.

The goals were simple — organize sports, grow the sport in the state (and beyond) and create merchandise that would appeal to the masses.

“Bachnein was created to apply more passion to a sport we already loved,” Johnson said. “And yes, we’re still looking to go pro.”

So maybe the fairy tale will eventually have that ending? Who can tell. But for now, Bachnein is focusing on merchandise and apparel, graphic design, directing tournaments and promoting the sport.

The name is interesting. It has a definite disc golf feel, though the spelling seems a little different than many would normally see.

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The natural approach — Flywood looking to make a mark on the game

By P.J. Harmer — Rattling Chains staff

Disc golfers are often noted for being fans of nature and the outdoors.

Brad Vehovic is taking it to a new level.

Vehovic, the owner and lone employee of Flywood Disc Innovations, is bringing a new look to the game with hand-crafted all-wood discs. Though not PDGA certified, the discs seems to have found a place in the game.

Flywood owner Brad Vehovic shows off one of his discs. (photo courtesy Flywood)

Flywood owner Brad Vehovic shows off one of his discs. (photo courtesy Flywood)

He founded the Nicktown, Pennsylvania company in 2010. The main products are the all-natural wood discs and, in the past, the company has also produced wax, accessories and hemp discs.

But wood discs?

In a game where plastic rules and rubber has recently started to surge onto the scene, wood discs seem a little out of place.

Especially because the discs Flywood produces can’t currently be used in PDGA events.

“Flywood offers disc golfers an alternative to mass-produced plastic products,” Vehovic said. “Each hand-crafted disc offers natural and sporty characteristics very capable of competing with today’s engineered plastic goods.”

To make his discs, Vehovic uses North American hard maple, Eco Glue wood adhesive, all-natural hemp oil and beeswax.

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Company Closeup: inbounds Disc Golf

By P.J. Harmer — Rattling Chains staff

A search for finding discs that fit his style led Brian Rogers to a much bigger commitment in the sport of disc golf.

And like that inbounds Disc Golf was born.

Rogers, the owner of the company and the author of its newest publication — the inFlight guide, has been playing disc golf for three years.

Rogers said he got hooked on the sport within the first two or three holes and, from there, the obsession grew. As it is with many people, real life makes playing time limited, but he said he’s constantly thinking about disc golf.

“Whether it’s following disc golf forums, reading disc golf blogs or brushing up on the current disc golf news and players standings, I’m surrounded by a disc golf cloud,” he said.

Rogers is a data guy.

His education is in computers/business and IT, so data is obviously a massive part of his life. From that, he said he tried to get the data to tell him something, no matter how he’s working with it.

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Company Closeup: Skulboy Designs

A Skulboy design.

By Steve Hill — Rattling Chains staff

Thinking back to the days of middle school and high school, most people can probably recall that one artistic kid who would doodle on people’s binders and scrawl intricate scenes for the most mundane of assignments.

Duncan Crawford was that kid.

“I’m the guy that people remember as the one drawing on everybody’s notebooks,” said Crawford, the mind behind Skulboy Designs. “I’ve gone barbarians and superheroes pretty much since I was a kid.”

Duncan Crawford at work on a design.

As an adult, Crawford has taken his art from the notebooks to the disc golf course, as he pens unique, skull-filled custom stamps under the moniker Skulboy Designs. Known for aggressive, hand-drawn renditions of skeletons, skulls, and images both mythical and historical, Crawford has gained a following among disc golfers looking for more than the traditional stamp on their plastic.

And while his designs have developed a following, their gestation was born out of simply wanting something interesting for himself.

“Once I started collecting discs and getting discs, I found that there were not enough skulls on discs,” he said. “I’ve always been a skull guy. I love skulls, and there just weren’t enough, you know?”

Based in Monrovia, California, Crawford is surrounded by a bevy of courses and an established disc golf scene, which is where he found his path to stamp design. Playing many rounds at Sylmar Veterans Park – home of Steve and Bamba Rico of Legacy Discs – helped Crawford jump into the process by designing a custom stamp for the course’s 2010 Summertime Open.

The disc design that helped get it all going.

Crawford’s relationship with Bamba Rico was what really got the business off the ground.

“I did a stamp for him, then I started doing t-shirt designs for him,” Crawford said. “And that’s what got it all started.”

But when Crawford began to explore the idea of putting more of his designs on discs to sell on his own, he found the bulk orders that Innova and other manufacturers required to be cost prohibitive.

But a chance opportunity soon came his way — in the form of missing out on a tournament — as he was able to meet Dan Mangone, the owner of Discovering the World, a disc golf shop that happens to be the main West Coast distributor for Latitude 64 golf discs.

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Company Closeup: NutSac

By P.J. Harmer — Rattling Chains staff

It seems like a marketing ploy.

Get a bunch of guys playing a round of disc golf and walking along and one guy has a small satchel-style bag and says “It’s much more fun playing with your NutSac.”

Say what?

Sure, the name NutSac may get some giggles and laughs. But in the end, name withstanding, it’s a quality bag made for the everyday player who isn’t always concerned about carrying dozens of discs.

Founded in 2008, NutSac LLC is a one-man company (besides sewing contrators) who handles the aspects of the business, from marketing to shipping to everything in between.

The business was originally founded by two friends, but when it became evident that business was not going to be able to support two people for at least two years, Greg Kise took control of the business as the second partner (who still has a minor stake in the business) wanted to move on to other projects.

Kise said he had plenty of experience “bootstrapping small businesses,” so he was able to build.

And just like that NutSac, based in Corvallis, Oregon, started its journey.

One needs to back up a little before getting a grip on NutSac.

Why bags?

“Start with what you know,” said Kise, who also serves as a stay-at-home Dad. “I was playing a lot of disc golf and thought the trend toward larger and larger bags was kind of silly. Especially since most of the guys I played with used about three discs.”

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Company Closeup: Arroyo Disc Sports

By Steve Hill — Rattling Chains Staff

Since the sport’s inception, disc golf has been constantly evolving. Lids and blunt-edged discs have given way to the modern, physics-pushing sharp-nosed drivers of today. Courses are growing in size and number. Even bags have pushed the limits of technology, with human hands now being eschewed in favor of military-grade backpack material hoisted over one’s shoulders.

But one area that has not kept pace with the current rate of change is the basket.

Yes, companies have added more chains to their devices, or worked to make them more visible, but current chain-device design still allows for a good deal of spit-outs and pass-throughs. Casual and professional players alike can tell you about their experiences with the “one that got away,” so to speak, more than likely with a scowl and a couple expletives to accompany their stories.

The Arroyo Vortex.

Arroyo Disc Sports is hoping to rewrite the ending to these tales with their new basket, the Vortex.

With the Vortex, the Pasadena, California-based company has completely redesigned the chain structure, giving it a net-like appearance and function. The aim is better catching, happier players, and, in the end, evolution of the game.

“The idea for a new basket sprouted from our experiences as tournament players,” said Arroyo co-founder Logan Turner. “We felt that there was a need for an upgrade to basket technology for a number of reasons, the first and foremost being the functional shortcomings of most baskets we play on today.”

Turner pointed to the aforementioned spit-outs and the havoc they can wreak on a player’s mental game and, in the case of professionals, their wallets.

“All players have experienced spit outs and pass-throughs on putts at some point in their career, and at all levels that can be mentally frustrating,” he said. “Not to mention it can cost top pros hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars each time it occurs.”

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Company Closeup: Explore Disc Golf turns the ‘course into a classroom’

By Steve Hill — RattlingChains.com Staff

Like many disc golfers, Brian Giggey’s beginnings in the sport evolved quickly from recreation to obsession. Giggey, however, took his love of the game one step further:

Profession.

Explore Disc Golf's booth at an event.

Giggey is the founder of Explore Disc Golf, a Massachusetts-based company specializing in course design, equipment rentals, and “Mobile Disc Golf Experiences,” which bring the courses to the people. Through the business, Giggey’s aim is to use the sport of disc golf as a way to have more people interact with nature, while also teaching customers about their surroundings and the game.

“Our slogan is ‘turning the course into a classroom,’” Giggey said. “We believe that disc golf seamlessly lends itself to a variety of environmental education opportunities, in addition to education about the sport of disc golf.”

Education is what first brought Giggey to the sport, he said. While spending long hours in the design studio during his graduate studies in landscape architecture at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Giggey would use disc golf as his reward for getting his work finished.

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Company Closeup: Big Hyzer Bag Company looking to make its mark

In the world of disc golf, bags are becoming more and more important to players.

For those taking the game a bit serious, especially.

It’s not likely, after all, to see a professional-level player — or many amateurs, for that matter — carrying a small sling bag that carries four or five discs.

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.

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