Ask players at Molly Hatchets Urban Axe Throwing to compare ax throwing to other sports, and they'll add the same disclaimer after their answer.
“It’s kind of like darts,” says Bert Casiano, 37, of Mastic Beach, who works in sales. Then he adds, “More dangerous darts.”
“Bowling. It has that same feeling of hitting the target, having the right velocity and strength,” says Laura San Nicolas, 45, of Miller Place, who owns an insurance agency. Then she adds that disclaimer: “More dangerous bowling. It’s very much a real ax.”
Ax throwing is a cutting-edge sport that has come to Long Island, pun intended. Molly Hatchets brings the activity to Ronkonkoma, and a second venue dedicated to the sport, Axe Island, is slated to open in Bohemia this winter. It’s just what it sounds like: Players throw axes at wooden targets, hoping to hit a bull’s-eye by sinking the blade into the wood. More points are earned for each ring closer to the bull’s-eye that the hatchet hits.
“This lets you live out a manly fantasy, your lumberjack dream for sure. Here you can do it in a safe environment,” says Adam Schuster, 27, an insurance salesman from Miller Place.
Upon arriving at the venue in an industrial area in Ronkonkoma, players sign a waiver before they can enter the throwing arena. That area is like an enormous garage, with seven chain-link fence cages, similar to batting cages. Each cage has two lanes, each lane with a wooden target at the end.
Owner Kurt Andersen, 56, of Sound Beach, built the rustic targets with red bull's-eyes by himself. A tree stump at the front of each cage holds two axes, each weighing about one-and-a-quarter pounds. Axes are not to leave the caged areas.
In the area, the banging of axes meeting wood — sometimes slicing into it, sometimes knocking against the target and falling to the ground — reverberates throughout, as do grunts from some players as they throw.
Andersen requires throwers take a brief safety session prior to participating. Regulations include, for instance, waiting for the person on your paired lane to throw his or her ax before walking down the alley to retrieve yours. “It’s a natural reaction to get your ax right away because you just missed. Don’t do that,” Andersen tells a group on a recent Friday night. He also instructs them to place axes back in the wood stump instead of handing them to other players to ensure no one gets inadvertently injured. Andersen coaches players on how to hold the instrument. “You’re too far choked up on that ax,” he says to one woman whose red fingernails are wrapped around the wooden handle.
As players compete, Andersen periodically walks around like an exterminator, spraying water on the targets to make the boards more porous so axes can enter more easily.
Andersen was introduced to ax throwing about seven years ago on a trip to Niagara Falls. At that time, he was working full time; now that he’s retired he says he was able to launch the business.
Those looking to spice up their parties can consider using Molly Hatchets as the backdrop. The venue offers birthday parties for adults and children. Kids play using smaller tomahawks that weigh about half a pound and have longer handles and smaller blades. Closed shoes are required for everyone.
Participants can bring in food; there are picnic tables inside the throwing area. Alcohol, however, is not permitted unless the entire venue is rented out for a private event.
Brittany Larkin, 28, of Bay Shore, came one recent evening with several of her cousins “just to try something different.” She called the evening “a nice bonding activity.”
Casiano, one of Larkin’s cousins, says ax throwing is harder than it looks. “I saw everyone doing it on social media,” he says. “It’s something to do that’s active, that’s fun.”
Molly Hatchets Urban Axe Throwing
WHEN | WHERE Mondays through Thursdays from 5 to 10 p.m., Fridays 5 to 11 p.m., Saturdays 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. and Sundays 3 to 8 p.m.; 860 S. 2nd St., Ronkonkoma
INFO Best to call for reservations; $29.99 per person for 90 minutes; $10 for non-throwers; 631-648-9622, axethrowinglongislandny.com
A second ax
Axe Island, a second ax throwing venue, is coming to 1626 Locust Ave., in Bohemia. “We are waiting for our final building permit to come through from the town,” says co-owner Kathleen Connolly, 42, of Rocky Point. She says she expects to open in late February or March, with four cages made from wood. Each cage will have two targets and be assigned a personal coach. “What sets us apart is we’re putting in a beer, wine and cider bar,” Connolly says. After two drinks, participants will no longer be permitted to hold an ax, she says. Cost will be $40 for 90 minutes. “It’s coming along very nicely. We’re really excited,” Connolly says. For more information, call 631-750-1621 or visit axeisland.com.