“Let’s see how it plays out.”
The words of Paul Ulibarri during Jomez Pro’s Bushnell Hole Breakdown ring in the ears of disc golf fans everywhere.
Out of nowhere, the name “Bushnell” has not only become well known, but it’s now virtually synonymous with the product they’ve popularized in disc golf: the rangefinder. Sayings like “let me Bushnell it” commonly answer the question of how far away a target is on the course.
The data-driven approach of Bushnell brings a high-end product and new details to an ever-growing sport and taps into a market on the hunt for more stats and professionalism. Bushnell began dabbling in the disc golf scene in 2019 and three years later has become the presenting sponsor of the largest disc golf event around: the Ledgestone Open.
“We’re excited to come alongside the event and support Ledgestone,” said Bushnell’s disc golf coordinator, Michael Sizemore. “The number of rangefinders we’re making is quite large. There aren’t many organizations in the disc golf world that can put together the kind of package and run events with the number of participants that Ledgestone does at a high level.”
Bushnell officially entered the disc golf world with the Sport 850 rangefinder in 2020. But the company has been in the outdoor sporting optics business for decades. They’ve turned out products such as binoculars, spotting scopes, rifle scopes and rangefinders dating back to 1948.
Sizemore found disc golf in 2007, so when he joined the Bushnell staff as an electrical engineer in 2019, he had an idea.
“Rangefinders are one of the most electrical products we produce,” he said. “I spent a lot of time working on rangefinders and started using it in my own game. I got some funny looks on the course, but I actually loved it.”
It took almost a year before Sizemore’s disc golf product idea was approved by the Bushnell marketing team. In January 2020, the company made its initial entrance into disc golf. They connected with Dynamic Discs and the Disc Golf Pro Tour to run a series of test campaigns examining how the disc golf public responded to using a rangefinder.
“We were very interested to see which portion of the disc golf community would be excited or not excited about it,” Sizemore said.
Using that feedback, Bushnell explored the market further by offering hunting rangefinders to disc golf players. They set up a tent at both the 2020 Dynamic Discs Open and 2020 Ledgestone event and the reaction of the disc golf community changed everything.
“The response we received at those events was so positive that we decided instead of marketing hunting rangefinders toward disc golfers, we’d create an actual disc golf product,” Sizemore said.
On September 1, 2020, the Bushnell Sport 850 Disc Golf Rangefinder was released to the public.
“Since we were relatively unknown in disc golf, we wanted to align with people and groups who matched our brand position,” Sizemore said. “We are in favor of pushing the sport forward to what we think the future version of disc golf is going to be, which is a more professional, more modern and more data-driven sport.”
Ulibarri and Kona Panis are both dedicated to conducting critical analysis and using data to improve their performance, which lines up perfectly with Bushnell’s vision. Bushnell brought them on as sponsored athletes to help push the blossoming product.
“Both of them are improvement-driven, analytical people and that fits well with what we’re doing,” Sizemore said. “On the event side, we’ve tried to stay pretty targeted and only sponsor events that we feel are pushing the sport forward.”
The 1st Annual PDGA Champions Cup was Bushnell’s first event venture, with this year’s Ledgestone Open being their second.
The Bushnell name appears on every Ledgestone Open logo and all event communications, but the rangefinder company has taken their involvement even further. All 1,950 amateur players will have the option to receive a customized Ledgestone edition EDGE rangefinder in this year’s player pack. Singular rangefinders can be purchased at the Ledgestone Shop.
The EDGE rangefinder features a compact, 4x3x1.5-inch design. The red and blue body are complemented by a white viewfinder and button to complete the Ledgestone color scheme. The contour on the base of the device creates a natural and comfortable grip. The word “Bushnell” graces either side of the rangefinder while the “B” tooling pronounces itself in white beneath the viewfinder. The laser can shoot up to 900 feet at a speed of four times per second. The Z-mode shows elevation changes and vivid-imaging adds double the brightness to allow low-light ranging.
At the Discraft Great Lakes Open (an event also run by the Ledgestone team), Bushnell also stepped in to provide disc jockeys to all 825 amateur players. Backstock is still available for purchase at the Ledgestone Shop.
The disc jockey is a 3x3x1.5-inch speaker. Its red speaker face, white trim and navy blue casing match the Ledgestone colorway. A large, navy blue Bushnell “B” stands prominently on the speaker face to remind users who gave them the product. The device’s quick-release strap attaches and detaches to a backpack with ease. Players can play music wirelessly through bluetooth, but the Bushnell disc jockey’s prominent feature is the side button that, when connected to the UDisc app, audibly calls out the distance to the next basket.
Ledgestone players and spectators can visit the Bushnell tent at Lake Eureka during the tournament.