Photos Cameron Flaisch
Rome Axe Throwing owner Jeffrey “Jeff” Burke went to visit a buddy of his in Charlotte, N.C. last year. While there, he was able to take part in an activity that would soon inspire him to bring Rome, Ga. a unique opportunity to roll up their sleeves and do something primal, all in the name of sport. Now, he hopes to show others why hitting a bull’s-eye with a hatchet is wholly satisfying.
Burke threw a few frames while in North Carolina, and he loved it.
Axe throwing is very similar to darts, but you are throwing an axe at a target. You stand behind a line at a specified distance, aim at a regulation size board and score points. The Rome venue has a few of their own takes on various games you can play. However, but during league games the games are more structured. Throwers play a ten-frame game like bowling.
To score in league-style play, throwers accumulate a point total based on what they hit in the first four frames. If a thrower hits the line of the higher score, they record the higher score. Beginning in the fifth frame, throwers have the option to call (or not call) a “kill shot.” A kill shot is accomplished by hitting one of two “buttons” outside of the point ring on the target board. The buttons are hard to target because they are small and out of the usual target frame. If one is hit in the fifth frame, throwers can get a higher score. Nailing a kill shot when you call it is eight points for the player that can shift the game in or out of their favor.
But if the player misses the kill shot, they get nothing. Even if they have hit any other areas on the board, the score is not counted because once you call the kill shot, you must hit one of the buttons.
In frames six through nine, you again accumulate whatever point totals you hit and on the tenth frame you have another option to call the kill shot.
“We had a blast,” Burke says, “so the first thing I did when I got back home was build myself a target at my own woodshop in Calhoun, Ga. Then, as I grew to love it more and more, I thought to myself that Rome would be the perfect place for this.”
Burke broke down two factors that supported his theory. “Rome needs something to do and there are a high volume of college kids in the city, so things kind of fell into place.”
What was formerly Duke’s Military Museum was a location that caught Burke’s eye and he was able to secure the property for his new business venture. After a little renovating, like adding lanes and targets Rome Axe Throwing opened their doors in August of 2019.
Sharon Talley, who goes by the handle Talley, is an axe throwing coach who works at Burke’s establishment. She agrees with him about Rome being a great location for the venue.
“Rome Axe Throwing is a cool addition to this town that has so many limitations as far as entertainment options, that doesn’t involve alcohol. We have needed somewhere like this for a long time. And with the owner Jeff being a thrower himself, he figured this would be a good place to open a venue.”
In Rome Axe throwing, what you have is an entertainment venue where you can go and let off some steam. You could bring a date, or you could have a birthday party.
They are also working to start throwing leagues as well as holding weekly tournaments. Talley anticipates a good turnout. “We want to get our venue to a competitive level like the venues in Atlanta. We have even had people come from Atlanta to visit us to throw because it is so much cheaper. Plus, our business is growing every month because people are learning that we are here.”
Axe throwing is a national sport that is quickly becoming a worldwide sport. “The fact that there’s one in Rome, Ga. is amazing,” says Talley.
In Atlanta there are already several axe throwing venues. There is also a national chain of axe throwing venues, and there is a national league of axe throwing. Another Axe coach, Brady Truelove, who has been with Rome Axe Throwing since it opened and has a long history with the sport, speaks on the game’s history and its place in society.
“Axe throwing started out as an urban sport and it has grown in the last few years,” Truelove says. “Leagues have begun popping up as well as more tournaments. It can even be seen on ESPN because they broadcast the World Championships.”
Truelove has thrown in numerous tournaments and participated in leagues. He points out the intangibles of the sport. “I like the competitive aspect of axe throwing, the social aspect of it, and the fact that it’s something different to do. You meet different people who also love the sport. I have met so many cool people on the league circuit. I have friends that travel the country for competitions.”
Another caveat of the game is after the fifth frame, throwers trade places or swap boards with their opponent. Talley explains the significance of the board swap. “It doesn’t seem like much, but you wouldn’t believe how much it can throw you off going from one side of the game to the other.”
There are numerous other variables that can throw players off, which is another factor that makes the game so much fun. But it is not necessarily easy for everyone. “The difficulty of the game varies from person to person,” Talley explains. “It’s different if you’re speaking about league games or just throwing in general. The difficulty is based on the person because I’ve seen little, bitty, tiny people come in here and throw like they’ve been doing it for years. Also, I’ve seen big, hulking dudes come in and not be able to hit a thing. It depends on your confidence level, which can go south really fast based on your attitude.”
Talley continues, shifting the conversation to her duties as an axe coach. “Typically, we can instruct you to where you need to be. We take a lot of pride in our ability to be laid back and show you the ropes. Our goal is to give you what you need to be able to make your axe throw stick into the board. We’re not going to take your money, and for an hour you try and you can’t get the hang of it. We actually work with you until you feel like you can start making good progress. Some people nail it at the very beginning, some pick it up halfway through, and some people won’t get a board stick until the very end. But usually, we can get people to a comfortable skill level and enjoying the game. Unfortunately, there are some instances where people just cannot grasp it at all. For them it is extremely difficult. But for the majority of people who have come in – while it is tricky – they can get it. Teaching others about axe throwing is fun though.”
“We will break down the anatomy of your throw and give you the proper knowledge of how to position your body, because everything has to do with your throw,” Talley continues. Where you stand, how tall you are, and the speed of your rotation all matter. It all has to come together, and that’s our job. We work to help pull it out of you, because again, most people have it.
“No two people throw their axes the same, but it is really all physics. Plus, you don’t have to hum it, meaning you don’t have to power it into the wall. It is a light throw, but not too light.”
Some patrons find the activity very therapeutic. It helps them gets their mind off of things and relieve some stress.
“Throwing is very therapeutic for me,” says Talley. “They say the key to centering yourself in anything, whether you have anxiety, depression, or whatever, is becoming present in what you are doing. I think that’s why sports are relaxing to some people, especially axe throwing. When you’re throwing axes, you can’t be anywhere else in your head. You need to be mentally centered and paying attention. It forces you out of your brain and you’re able to focus on just the axe and throwing. Once people understand how to center themselves and be in the moment, it becomes a lot of fun. That’s what I love so much about it, and I honestly didn’t know that I would. I just came in here looking for a job and now I’m totally obsessed with it.”
“You don’t realize how much fun it is, until you actually do it” says Burke. “When you finally get an axe to stick on the target, things are different from then on. We have a lot of people who are scared. They are so timid at first and once they get one to stick, they’re hopping up and down and screaming and having a good time” he says with a laugh.
“Watching their reaction is the most rewarding part,” adds Talley
Rome Axe Throwing is a family friendly environment, so they currently do not serve alcohol and the venue is not meant to be a bar atmosphere. Age ten is the youngest age to throw in the regulation lanes, and there is a play area for children younger than ten.