A ‘bowling alley’ for throwing axes, see the new Battle Axes on Manchester street
Until recently, I’m not sure I’d ever actually touched a hatchet. Battle Axes in Lexington changed all that.
In my rural Arkansas youth, I’d split a little (very little, if I’m honest) firewood with a full-sized axe, but my visit to the new venue opening Nov. 1 in the Distillery District in Lexington was my first exposure to the competitive sport of hatchet-throwing.
According to owner Shawn Courtney, Battle Axes is one of about 100 places across the US that allow patrons to book a pit and come in with friends for a little axe-throwing fun.
This one is in the hot Lexington entertainment district on Manchester on the former Pepper Distillery campus. It’s the first business to open on the ground floor of the old rickhouse and it fits right in with the brewery, distilleries, bar, restaurants and more.
Basically, if you’re looking for hip and fun, the Distillery District is the place to be.
And throwing is fun. Once you get over the natural leeriness most of us have for handling sharp objects.
But, as owner Shawn Courtney said, they take plenty of precautions to keep you safe. You have to wear closed-toe shoes, for instance. One of my throws landed flat against the target and came reeling back across the floor, so you need to stay on your toes.
Participants are watched by pit bosses who will keep you from doing unsafe things, such as going to collect your hatchet before your opponent has thrown.
The pit bosses also are eager to show you how to throw, too.
It can be tricky. It took two instructors working with me to get my first bull’s eye.
First there was “Kilted Dave” McCreary, who started me with a small tomahawk and a two-handed throw.
Grip it with your dominant hand on top, raise it overhead, look straight at the target and release it about eye level, he explained.
“The axe wants to fly,” Kilted Dave said. “Just let it go.”
So I did. And it flew. I hit the target, just not with the pointy part of the blade.
“That wasn’t terrible,” Kilted Dave said. Thanks, Kilted Dave.
So I tried it again. And again. And again. And, yes, again. No luck.
Eventually, I let photographer Charles Bertram give it a go. And he stuck it on his third throw. And his fourth.
(I don’t like him, by the way.)
Videographer Marcus Dorsey had a little trouble with the two-handed throw but got the knack when he switched to a one-handed throw.
Frustrated, I wandered away to watch the other pit bosses practice.
One of them, Dennis Cejvanovic, offered to work with me. Dennis also sometimes wears a kilt, as do several of the other men in the pits, but he was on his lunch break from his “real” job as an the assistant manager at a Lexington Verizon Wireless store, so he was wearing jeans and red sneakers.
Dennis upgraded me to a heavier ax and had me scoot forward a bit. My first few throws hit then fell out. After a little tinkering with my technique, it finally happened.
The ax landed and stuck. In the red center event.
I actually shrieked, “I did it!” and made them take a photo of me with it. That’s how good it feels.
Manager Morgan Middleton said that enthusiasm is pretty normal. They’ve already had calls from people who want to book bachelor parties, corporate events, business lunches, join a league ... you name it. Reservations are strongly encouraged.
The 10-pit indoor hatchet-throwing venue also serves beer (they will have more than 50 Kentucky craft beers in cans), but it isn’t really a bar. In fact, there are no TVs and there’s no place really to hang out.
It’s usually $20 for an hour per player; four to 10 players can make reservations for a pit. Players can go head-to-head and keep score in a variety of ways, or you can just throw. The outer black circle is 1 point, the inner circle is 3, the bull’s eye is five and the two “clutch” dots on top are 7 points each.
Middleton pointed out there is a pit dedicated to “walk-ins,” where you can come in and throw with whoever shows up. But mostly, it’s the kind of thing where you’d book a slot with a group of friends.
“It’s like bowling,” Middleton said.
With really sharp blades.