The Search for My Perfect Swing — Part 7

My Grip(s)

I basically use two different grips with a third variation, pitching from 30 feet. All grips are used with the Snyder EZ Flip. Two of these grips are the same, just turning the shoe over. I’ve painted my shoes red, to better show what the grip looks like in my fingers. It is extremely important to maintain consistency, and that I grip the shoe exactly the same for every flip and/or turn. So, I go through a little grip routine while stepping to the foul line. Further, it insures that the center of gravity of the shoe is located exactly the same each time. Remember, it is the center of gravity that I am trying to throw/pitch at the stake. I am not wearing gloves in any of these photos, but, under normal circumstances I use leather motorcycle gloves.

The Flip Grip

The photo below shows index finger dangling the shoe prior to taking the grip for either flip. I simply crook my index finger and dangle the shoe at the tip of the hook from the first joint in the finger. From there, I will take the two flip grips. More importantly, it establishes how the shoe will flip through the air. With the grip taken in this orientation, it insures that the shoe will be slightly turned when it hits the stake, which helps with bounceback. If I turned the shoe so that the tips were parallel to the ground the shoe would fly very much like a regular flipper.

Dangle prior to grip

Dangle prior to grip

The next two photos show the two flip grips, which are essentially the same. With the caulks up, when I grip the shoe, I insure that the shoe will hit the ground with caulks down. If you’re pitching in sand or dry clay, the shoes will slide on the caulks. So, sometimes if you’re a little short, you may salvage a ringer. I’ve done a little experimenting with throwing one shoe one way and the second shoe the opposite. I would like to study whether the shoe orientation affects the arrival of an opponents shoe. I’ve come to no conclusions on this yet.

Shoe lands caulks up

Flip landing caulks up


Flip landing caulks down

Flip landing caulks down


The next two photos will show each shoe in the two flip grips, one caulks down and one caulks up. I feel the caulks down grip is more stable. The thumb rests on the flat top of the shoe while the index finger fits nicely at the back of the underside caulk. See the grip above.
Flip--caulks down landing caulks up

Flip--caulks down landing caulks up


Flip--caulks up landing caulks down

Flip--caulks up landing caulks down

The Turn Grip

In this grip I dangle the shoe from the corner of the caulk from the first joint of my thumb. To take the grip I simply close my fingers around the caulk with my index finger almost touching my thumb and my middle finger right below the point of the caulk.

Turn grip

Turn grip


Turn grip for 1/3 turn

Turn grip for 1/3 turn

Warming Up for the turn

When I was experimenting with various grips of the shoe, I discovered that taking the turn grip and rotating the shoe slightly, permitted me to throw the shoe without any rotation or flip. Throwing the shoe this way for 20 or 30 warm up throws, insures that I’m not adding any manipulation with my hands.

Part 8 will discuss the release and exactly where it occurs. I spent a night and about $45 to purchase components and build a frame 5 feet x 10 feet which will sit 2 feet above the ground and permit me to read releases that go as high as 7 feet and downrange 10 feet. I have used multicolored string to create squares 3 inches apart vertically and horizontally. I am hoping that my little Canon S230 will be fast enough to create a video of the release location while using my electronic glove.

Continue to Part 8
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The Search for My Perfect Swing — Part 6

My First Doubles Tournament

I debated on entering this tournament as I didn’t have a doubles partner. However, the entry form had provisions for signing up as a single and matching up with another single on tournament day. The tournament was to be held in Lusby, Maryland. Registration time was set for 8:30 a.m. It was a fair drive of 1-1/2 hours. There were no directions included on the registration form, so, located a website for the Chesapeake Ranch Estates, site of the tournament and requested directions. Received an email saying it was on Clubhouse Drive. Using Mapquests aerial view, was able to locate the horseshoe pits. So, set my alarm for 6:00 a.m.

I awoke at 3:30 a.m. Got ready, had some breakfast and made sure I had everything ready to go. Packed my bag with sunscreen, bug repellent, a frozen bottle of Powerade, a second thermos of cold Powerade, rag for cleaning the shoes, baseball cap and Snyder EZ Flips. I left at 6:30 a.m. I arrived at 7:45 a.m. My directions were accurate. The tournament volunteers were already in the process of setting up, pits uncovered, clay turned, computer setting up, grill heating up. Well organized, I thought. Registration began at 8:15 and I was advised that no other Elder was needing a partner, but, there might be someone available. If not, I’d get my check back and call it a day.

Below is a photo of the tournament director setting up the computer system to record the days events. All of the information from the days events are recorded and ultimately passed on to the NHPA. Ultimately, they will appear on the NHPA website under the NETSTATS selection for each member of the NHPA listed by state and alphebetically by name.

Preparing for the tournament

Preparing for the tournament

About 8:45 I was advised that someone was coming and I’d have a partner. I wondered what shoes he pitched and whether we’d have to use his or mine. Unfortunately, the Elders were not scheduled to pitch until 1:00 p.m. I decided to keep score for a team from Post 7. When the tournament began, there was a little confusion on the proper form for keeping the score. Got that squared away and pitching began. Happy to discover that each team member pitches their own shoes and follows them from pit to pit. Each match would be 40 points or 50 shoes whichever came first. It was 50 shoes for each pitcher, not, 50 for the team. I kept score for 6 matches and received $2.00 ($1.00 each team) per game. Lunch money and money for my scorekeeper later. It was very hot sitting in the sun from 9:00 until 1:00. I was feeling myself wilting from the heat and early awakening.

No warmup is permitted between sessions until all morning matches are completed.

It’s My Turn

At 2:00 p.m. everyone gathered for silent remembrance of our fighting men in action, remembrance of a passing member and National Anthem. Scorecards were passed out, met my partner and discovered that there were 3 teams of Elders. Plan was to do a round robin, pitching each team 3 times with a bye during each round. During my brief warmup, felt that my flip was working better than my turn.

My partner was a member of the local club and 85 years old. We hit it off quickly. The tournament began. My flip was working pretty well, lost the first match, but, had a 40.9% ringer average. We lost the second match, but, again my flip was working well and had a 46.7% ringer average. The bye was next, so, took the time to grab a bite to eat. Third match, another loss, ringer average dropped to 22.7% and continued dropping until I switched to my turn and had a 36.3% average for my last match. Overall average was 30.16% for the day. I couldn’t believe how many ringers my competition was throwing at us. It was obvious that they had much higher averages than my team. I was right. When I returned home I checked the NHPA Netstats averages for the competing teams and discovered they ranged from 40% to 60% per man. Geez, we didn’t have a chance, my partner was at 20% and I was at 30%.

My competitors were surprised I had only been pitching for 1 year and had never seen anyone throw shoes the way I did. A lot of nice complements.

We finished 3rd. No trophy though. Thanked the volunteers for the tournament and got back home at 7:30 p.m. A very long day. It was a fantastic experience. I’m looking forward to the upcoming Maryland State singles tournament in 2 weeks.

I decided to throw this page into the mix to encourage any first time Elder or senior to participate. Think of it as a learning experience and see where your progress has taken you. Ben Hogan once said that tournament competition is the proving ground for what works in practice. My first two games were a validation of my efforts.

Continue to Part 7
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