Ames' first ax-throwing venue has high-tech targets, full bar in Inside Golf expansion

Ronna Faaborg
Ames Tribune

Editor's note: This story was updated to correctly reflect the number of pool tables available.

A North Grand Mall business has expanded to include Ames’ first ax-throwing venue.

Indoor Golf & Axe Throwing on Sunday celebrated its three-year anniversary of opening as Indoor Golf. Located on the northeast side of the mall near JCPenney, an expansion opened about two weeks ago to include six lanes of ax throwing.

“The response so far has been unbelievable,” said Mike Schmid, general manager and one of the owners of Inside Golf & Axe Throwing. “We’ve only been open two weeks, and we’ve already had four returning groups, so that’s really awesome.

“Ax throwing is really easy and it’s super fun.”

An ax weighs about 2 pounds and is hurled at a target 15 feet away. When it sticks, “there’s just a certain satisfaction to it,” Schmid said.

“There are a lot of different axes you can buy, depending on the type of thrower you are, but the ones we provide are about 2 pounds,” he said.

A more serious ax thrower is likely to bring their own ax, Schmid said, which can cost about $120.

Mike Schmid, co-owner of Inside Golf & Axe Throwing, aims for the target in the North Grand Mall Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021, in Ames, Iowa.

“But the axes we have here are really nice as well,” he said.

Each game can have as many as six players and can last for 75 minutes, with 15 minutes of coaching.

“We have coaches for all of our lanes — we call them ‘axperts’ — and they are in charge of teaching the players how to throw the ax,” Schmid said.

He said he loves golf and always will, but one thing ax-throwing offers: It’s something anyone can do.

“Anyone can throw an ax,” he said. “This is a draw for people from all walks of life.

“Technique is a lot more important than muscle. With the right technique, you get the accuracy you’re looking for.”

Eventually, Schmid plans to offer ax-throwing leagues, couples’ nights and other special ax-throwing events.

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Mike Schmid, co-owner of Inside Golf & Axe Throwing, aims for the target in the North Grand Mall Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021, in Ames, Iowa.

Ax-throwing area has 'North Woods feel' with high-tech targets, full bar

The store location next door was available, so Schmid and the other owners of Inside Golf decided to expand into that space and start offering ax-throwing lanes.

“We cut a big hole in the wall for a door between the two spaces, so now the two locations are connected,” Schmid said. “The new space has a North Woods feel.”

There is a seating area with high tables and chairs at the end of each throwing lane. The score and target are controlled from the seating area.

“One thing about our targets that’s cool is they have a projected target, so it’s a little more high tech,” he said. “Also you have a choice of selecting a target that’s not round. We have tic tac toe, Connect Four and even zombies.”

Scores are kept on an overhead scoreboard, much like in bowling. Targets can be changed from concentric circles to off-center circles or one of the specialty targets.

The ax-throwing center at Inside Golf & Axe Throwing in the North Grand Mall Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021, in Ames, Iowa.

“We have a full bar with eight beers on tap,” Schmid said. “For food, we partner with Time To Roll here in the mall. So all our customers have to do is scan the QR code on the menu we have here and have things like tacos and beef crunch rolls delivered right to their seat.”

“We always knew we were going to expand, and in researching it, we thought ax-throwing was something this town would really appreciate,” Schmid said. “We love Ames and we love the people here even more, and we wanted to bring something of value to town. We think Ames can use something to do like this.”

Growing up in Illinois, the oldest of five kids, he and all of his siblings have found their way to Ames and Iowa State. “I love Ames, and I love Iowa,” he said.

Mike Schmid, the co-owner of Inside Golf & Axe Throwing, uses a golf simulator in the North Grand Mall Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021, in Ames, Iowa.

Golf simulators: Socially distanced fun during COVID-19 pandemic

Inside Golf continued to be successful, even during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We were really lucky this past offseason,” Schmid said. “At a time when a lot of businesses didn’t do so well, we actually found a way to thrive. That was largely due to our awesome customers, but also the sport of golf really thrived. What else was there to do besides get outside? And then that continued through the winter for our customers.”

The golf league at Inside Golf has more than 90 teams, and groups were able to play at different times during the week, which helped with social distancing.

Inside Golf has four bays of golf simulators that offer access to more than 100 courses from around the world — from Pebble Beach in California and TPC Sawgrass in Florida to St. Andrews in Scotland.

Mike Schmid, the co-owner of Inside Golf & Axe Throwing, plays pool in the North Grand Mall Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021, in Ames, Iowa.

“The golf simulators have been really popular,” Schmid said. “In the winter, when you can’t golf outside, we’re packed.”

Along with golf, the simulators offer a range of other activities. More than a dozen games to choose from, including mainstream sports like baseball, football, hockey and soccer. There’s also target practice, carnival games, dodgeball and hunting.

“We’re not going to stop here,” Schmid said. “The ax-throwing is the first project of hopefully many.”

There are already more games available than golf and ax throwing. There are six pool tables, bag sets, foosball tables, air hockey and several TVs for watching sporting events.

“It’s not exactly what you’d expect to find in a mall,” Schmid said. “We love the mall. Some people think the mall is dying, but I actually think just the contrary. There are opportunities for entertainment and other awesome businesses.

“We just got Planet Fitness here this last year, and that’s been great for the mall. Things like that could bring the mall back to what it was 30 years ago, just with different types of businesses.

“I see a lot of potential for entertainment companies, businesses and entrepreneurs to come in and take advantage of the opportunity here, where there’s already a ton of infrastructure in place.”