For many disc golfers, the only true place for practice, especially putting practice, is at the course. Some are fortunate enough to own their own target to keep in the backyard, but many need to make the trip to the local 18 to help dial in their putting technique. dgNOMAD has the goal to provide a target that is easy to setup, portable, and affordable. Their NOMAD target is a very lightweight disc golf target that provides a great alternative to the full size targets you see at your local course.
dgNOMAD owner, Jeff Gradinger, sent us a NOMAD target to try out and we’ve been putting it to use over the previous month or so and have been impressed. The entire target arrives in a long (yet small) red bag with a drawstring closure on one end. You pull out everything and let things unfold. The main pole comes together like any typical tent pole and the six poles for the “chains” easily lock into place. I put chains in quotes because they are actually plastic. Don’t take this as a negative. It really keeps the weight down and the experience is virtually identical to playing with metal chains, you just don’t get that sound of chains banging together. Performance wise, you don’t see a difference.
Another thing you might notice is the lack of a basket to catch the discs. This really was a non-issue for us. We were using the NOMAD for putting practice and the added effort of reaching down to pick up the discs wasn’t a big deal. Even without the basket, the NOMAD target is PDGA approved for XB an XC level events.
You hear often about focusing on a single link in the chain or a very specific spot on the target when putting. The NOMAD really helped us in this sense. There aren’t many chains to pick from and as long as we were hitting that target cleanly, it was clearly a made putt.
After many hours of practice in the backyard, we were able to see the practice translate to more accurate putting on the course during a full round.
Another product dgNOMAD puts out are their Nite Chains. These are UV reactive plastic chains that glow in the dark when a UV LED flashlight is focused on the chains. The chains can easily be added to any disc golf target for a great solution to night disc golf. They are equally as light as the chains on the NOMAD. When you place an order for Nite Chains, they will include a UV LED flashlight with a small stake to help the flashlight remain focused on the basket.
The amount of glow produced by the chains was more than we expected. We could easily see our target and could really picture a full course lit up with the Nite Chains on them for a very cool night disc golf experience.
After some continued putting practice, we had to get a hold of Gradinger again to see the story behind dgNOMAD and their products.
All Things Disc Golf: When and why did you start dgNomad?
Jeff Gradinger: The dgNOMAD story in a nutshell starts with Cub Scouts: Up until last year there were a bunch of boys who called me “Cubmaster”, a couple years ago they decided they wanted to learn to play disc golf. It was somewhat of a challenge for me, as up to then I had never played. Rick at Disc Golf World was instrumental in setting up the scouts with discs and magazines to get them excited, and he also convinced me that disc golf was fun, easy to learn, and that we’d all have a blast. However, I got stuck trying to find targets that fit our budget, were small enough to take more than a couple camping, or were suitable at all to take on a hike. Thirty kids can’t keep which tree is which straight, so we needed something to throw at. My garage has always been a jumble of half-crocked ideas; a few of them got put together, broken, modified, broken again, etc, until finally the NOMAD™ emerged. It’s two and a half pounds, folds to 3″ around x 24″ long, offers a regulation size target (PDGA approved for XB & XC events) that can be set up in multiple formats and sizes, and is available with UV reactive chains for glow golf.
All Things Disc Golf: How important was it to you to make sure the Nomad is PDGA approved?
Jeff Gradinger: Initially we sought approval simply to secure a certain amount of legitimacy, but quickly realized there was a need for approved targets more portable than those currently available. A good example is the Dragons Lair, an Army course at Camp Casey, South Korea. It wasn’t practical or affordable to set up a PDGA approved course given their circumstances, and there is enough interest they are planning a sanctioned tournament using their NOMAD™ targets. There probably won’t be too many sanctioned tournaments stateside using our targets, but the option is there for those who want to give it a shot, either with a full course or with a few alternate pin placements.
Even though the NOMAD™ fit all the technical specifications, the approval didn’t happen as easily as I thought. The PDGA has since updated the target specs and the NOMAD™ is now in a class of it’s own, literally and figuratively, as the sole member of the new “object” classification of PDGA approved targets.
All Things Disc Golf: What are some examples of people using the Nomad that you didn’t expect when you first made the product?
Jeff Gradinger: I was a little caught off guard by the international interest, mainly because it just wasn’t something I’d thought about. Early on, with my limited exposure to disc golf I figured if I was lucky I’d recoup development cost by selling a set every now and then to some Boy Scouts or a church group. Knowing what I know now in a lot of markets the NOMAD™ is perfect…lots of players across the globe don’t have a course nearby, and many of them rely on bikes and public transportation to get around. Mach Lite and Skill Shot targets are great for certain uses, but it just isn’t practical to haul a few of them across town on the bus, train, or the back of your bike.
The number of current players using the NOMAD™ as practice targets was also a pleasant surprise. I did the best I could to approximate the experience of throwing at a championship caliber chain assembly because I figured as long as I was going to do it I’d do it right. Again, my limited experience had me envisioning lots of kids hauling NOMAD™ targets around on bikes down to the corner lot, and more novice players just getting into the sport who didn’t want to spend a couple hundred bucks on a basket they didn’t know for sure they would use much. It turns out that most of our customers are pretty serious about their disc golf and look at the NOMAD™ either because of its portability so they can get some practice throws in whenever they want, wherever they are, or they are buying it as a second practice target. One side of the yard has a basket, the other has a NOMAD™. Practice time is twice as efficient when you don’t have to walk back across the yard carrying a stack of discs, now they can “throw both ways”. They are also being used to practice difficult shots; it’s easier to set up obstructions, slopes, and other difficult situations with our target that it is with other portables.
All Things Disc Golf: Were the glow chains something you produced right away or was this a natural evolution of the product?
Jeff Gradinger: Our NITE CHAINS™ were almost a byproduct…with so much chain laying around the shop, eventually some of it wound up draped across our DISCatcher just because it was a handy place to put it down. We were in Des Moines lighting up 18 for their annual glow tournament, and even I was surprised at the visibility. I hadn’t set any up that deep in the woods with the leaves down before, from the parking lot you could see baskets 800 feet away that were set back in the trees. Pretty cool, and a totally different glow experience than glow sticks.
All Things Disc Golf: What is next for dgNomad?
Jeff Gradinger: I’m pretty stoked about 2014. We have a completely new product in development, as well as a new education set and marketing plan that will be ready to go the first quarter of 2014. NOMAD™ targets are the perfect fit for schools that don’t have the funding to go all in for the EDGE program but want to give disc golf a try. Nine NOMAD™ targets and a stack of discs are a fraction of the cost of the full EDGE set, they fit in the corner of a closet, the weight and ease of setup means kids can be involved in building the course or changing from a range setup to course play in a matter of minutes. For the younger kids it’s fun to have each target a different color, each number plate is customized, and they can be used in the gym on a rainy day without tearing up the basketball court.
The growth rate of disc golf is historically high and continues to be excellent, mainly because of the enthusiasm of players and the grassroots efforts of tons of people to get the sport seen. Every club and town with a course has a core group of players that really want to make it work, are excited about growing the sport, and who go out of the way to put their best foot forward. With the release of our upcoming education sets, along with our new funding models, it will be a piece of cake for clubs to fund sets for a couple schools a year.
We have two players on our team ready to start their first year on the pro circuit. Adam Morrison, the 2012 U-19 champ and this year’s amateur points leader is doing an excellent job of promoting dgNOMAD out of Columbia, MO. Tim McDill had nine top 10’s and three wins this year, he is currently lighting up courses all over Hawaii but will be back stateside in the spring ready to go. Both of these guys are instrumental in our plans to increase the visibility of what we have to offer. Dean Street Amsterdam is doing a knock-up job promoting disc golf and dgNOMAD all over Western Europe and has taken our products to several countries.
Next year you’ll see dgNOMAD as minor sponsors of more tournaments and hopefully start to see our name on merchandise in players packs across the country.
All Things Disc Golf: If people want to purchase a Nomad or the glow chains, is your website the best way to do it?
Jeff Gradinger: Right now the product pages at dgNOMAD.com link to our eBay page. We are working on retail distribution with several websites and would prefer to eventually leave individual sales up to distributors so we can concentrate on the education market and growing the sport. Club discounts are available, email firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know what you are looking for. If you want to see our products in your favorite brick & mortar or on your favorite website, let them know we are are looking for distribution!
All Things Disc Golf: Anything else you want to cover?
Jeff Gradinger: If I could find a genie in a bottle, I’d have him erase preconceptions about the NOMAD™. Some folks scoff at the lack of basket and don’t give it another thought. Others don’t want anything to do with a “plastic” target. Our experience has shown that once guys get it in their hands and have a chance to throw at a NOMAD™ their opinion changes. The size and portability offer the opportunity to literally “throw anywhere”, both for serious practice and for fun. Set the NOMAD up in a narrow format and you have a smaller practice target to fine tune your putting. Leave one at work or in your car and you can get in 10 minutes of practice on your lunch break, just about anywhere. Leave it short with the mast folded up and you have a target for mini’s in your living room. You have a huge range of options with the NOMAD™ that you didn’t have before.
As far as the “plastic” misconception, again that’s something that most guys change their mind about once they get one in their hands. Everything you see on the target (aluminum, fiberglass, UHMWPE base, and chains) is made in the USA from American materials. I’ve gone out of my way to use quality materials and have backed it up with an industry leading no questions warranty. Yes, parts of it are plastic but it is perfectly suitable for its intended use. I have yet to get a NOMAD™ back for a warranty claim, and the only ones I’ve ever seen broken are the ones I’ve broken testing them. I even ran over one with my Suburban, one piece of fiberglass cracked but the target was still useable.
The NOMAD™ target is sized so that if your disc hits the chains, more than half of it would have snagged chains on a traditional target and would probably drop in the basket.
Thanks for the interview! Your readers can find us at dgNOMAD.com as well as on Facebook and Twitter. Questions about distribution, education sets, and club discounts can be sent to email@example.com.