The Search for My Perfect Swing — Part 2

After my first night of pitching I decided I needed lots of practice. At first, I drove down to Post 7 and practiced in their pits. I took along a shovel and broom to tidy up the pits after use. It wasn’t long before I realized that having a pit in my backyard was a better solution.

The Pit

First, decide on the location and pit material. The pit location was easily determined, in the shade. Secondly, did I need to put in two pits? The location of my underground cabling, location of my park style bench and direction of the sun, simplified the choice. WARNING! If you have decided to put in a pit, contact your local “Miss Utility,” to locate your underground wiring. I decided that one pit would do.

The chosen pit location was slightly downhill, which was good. The pit would be mostly above ground and didn’t require a lot of digging. My main power cable ran fairly close to the front of the pit. The standard pit is 3 feet wide and 6 feet long with the stake smack in the middle. I decided I didn’t need a pit that large. I had a number of treated logs from a previous garden that would work fine. They were 48″, so, length became 48″, width almost 24″. I used a 7/8″ stake mounted in a piece of wood at a 12 degree angle and 15″ above the ground. I later changed this stake to 1″ because it started bending backwards from the constant hitting. More on that later.

The fact of the matter, you could simply drive a stake in the ground, measure off 40 feet and mark a foul line at 37 feet, and you’re in business. For Elders, Women or Juniors measure off 30 feet and put a foul line mark at 27 feet. If I was serious about this, I wanted the pit and approach to simulate tournament conditions. Therefore, I put in the pit.

I also included a backboard about 12″ above the pit and covered it with a thick rubber mat to muffle the sound and protect the wood from shoes going long. For a while, I covered the stake with heavy 1″ rubber tubing to muffle the sound of the shoe hitting the stake for the sake of the neighbors. It wasn’t too long before the rubber was badly gouged and subsequently discarded.

My Pit

My Pit

The Approach

Next, was the 40 foot approach(s). I put in both left and right side approaches, exactly 36″ apart, just as they would be on a regulation pit. I put in a marker for where the stake would be located, if a pit were there. I use this marker for foot positioning. Six 16×16″ concrete slabs from Lowes at $3.00 each took care of both approaches, 3 for each approach. Both approaches are perfectly level and properly lined up with the far pit. Two weeks ago, when I requalified as an Elder, I added a second approach at 30 feet.

The Pit Material

This became a fairly easy choice. I’ve never attended a sanctioned tournament that used sand. So, clay would be the choice. Finding suitable clay was almost impossible to find and too expensive. Artificial clay was also excluded. I chose “Kitty Litter.” Two 50 pound bags of Kitty Litter from my local BJ’s and one 40 pound bag of children’s play sand, took care of the pit material. Kitty Litter is white clay. Don’t use regular sand from your local building supply store. It is too grainy for the mix. WARNING! There has been some information about the silica in Kitty Litter in the dry state. So don’t breath in the dust as a precaution, when pouring.

To fill the pit, add a little Kitty Litter and a light topping of sand. Lightly water the mix until both sand and clay are wet and continue this formula until the pit is filled. Let it set until the next day giving the clay time to absorb the water. The next day, turn over the mixture and top off with a layer of sand. I use a 8″x8″ tamper, purchased from Lowe’s to tamp down the pit. You’ll know the pit is ready when the pit material does not stick to the tamper. Eventually, you will get the clay to a consistency that comes close to the clay in tournament pits. About every other night I slightly water down the pit, and cover it with a tarp. I also use a piece of PVC pipe with a cap to cover the stake for safety reasons.

The image above is my finished pit. Note: the ringers were not staged, but, I did wait until I made them to take the picture. After the photo was taken I replaced the stake with a 1″ diameter stake to conform to most tournament stakes. I placed a number of calls to various welders in the area and located an old horseshoe pitcher who agreed to weld a 22″ stake to two 16″x16″ steel plates with a 3″ lean (12 degrees) at 15″ above ground. Cost — $50. It is rock solid. The plates are buried 7″ below the level of the pit. The welder even painted all of the steel with rust inhibitor.

NOTE: In 2008 I switched from kitty litter to blue clay. See Part 16 for a description of the purchase and installation of blue clay which I have continued to use since.

Part 3 will discuss my variety of horseshoes, the importance of knowing the center of gravity, and links to the various sellers and manufacturers of the various horseshoes.

E-mail me with any questions
Continue to Part 3
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The Search for My Perfect Swing — Part 1


Welcome to my blog. I will be updating this blog frequently, as I test, modify, adjust and finalize various aspects of my horseshoe pitching. I am also creating an Activity Record to reflect any changes made to this blog. The header above, reflects the flight of my horseshoe when released 25.50 feet from the stake at a height of 3.0 feet reaching a high point of 6.75 feet. The foul line was 27 feet for an Elder pitcher. The flight plot is broken down in 1/40th of a second increments. I’ve also tagged the various points on the plot that are meaningful. I will demonstrate an electronic glove that shows your exact release point which makes these plots possible. The vertical line indicates the highpoint of the arc of flight and the exact location downrange of that highpoint which is 10.72 feet. 


I am hoping that some of the information that has worked for me, may also work for you. “The Search for My Perfect Swing,” is a play on words based on the excellent book entitled, “The Search for the Perfect Swing,” by Alastair Cochran & John Stobbs. The book was written in 1968 that was an effort to determine the science of swinging a golf club and whether there was a perfect swing. Sir Aynsley Bridgland of the Golf Society of Great Britain gathered a variety of authorities in many disciplines, ballistics, anatomy, transport technology, medicine, biomechanics, physiology, etc. There were many conclusions that were developed by this group of professionals that applies today, i.e., coefficient of restitution, swing speed and mass, launch angle, spin rate, foot position, late release, etc.


As you read through, you will see the results of a computer program that calculated the flight of a horseshoe based on any release point, any maximum height or any distance, time of flight, initial angle of release and initial launch speed. I’ve also created a variety of teaching aids such as a special electrified pitching glove that shows the exact release point, an apparatus that controls the arm swing on the line of flight, a platform that monitors the foot position and stride, a test to determine the center of gravity of any shoe, and a “Pendulum Man” that displays how to determine the visual alignment to the stake, etc. I will also discuss how to use a metronome to control swing speed based on computed time of flight.
I am primarily directing this blog to the beginner, youth, women and Elders who are new to pitching horseshoes or are considering joining a league or pitching in tournaments. The NHPA indicates an “Elder” as anyone reaching the age of 70 in the current calendar year. I reached this milestone in 2008. This entitles me to pitch from 30 feet. I’ve decided to pitch from 40 feet on my league nights and 30 feet in tournaments. Perhaps you are just checking out this blog to see if there’s anything new.

The Beginning

In 2007 I joined American Legion Post 7 in Crownsville, Maryland, primarily because they were the only Post that had a horseshoe pitching league. The league coordinator at Post 7 was able to find an available partner and my horseshoe pitching was to begin. Prior to the first night, I stopped by my local darts/billiards/horseshoe store and purchased my first pair of horseshoes — Sidewinders. I was stunned by the number of horseshoes available. I don’t know why Sidewinders, they just felt good. I also ordered two videos — “Yes, Horseshoes!,” with Dan Kuchcinski and “How to Pitch More Ringers,” by the late Carl F. Steinfeldt. I read everything on the web I could find, unfortunately, there was not very much. I also tried to find some local pits where I could practice. Nothing found.

The first night arrived and I was both excited and nervous. I met my new partner, was introduced around and noticed 10 nicely groomed rows of sand pits. Problem number 1! My partner was a flipper and couldn’t use my Sidewinders because they didn’t have a place for his thumb. Bummer! I had to use his shoes — Snyder EZ Flips. This is not a cancellation league, it was also an 80% handicap league. All points counted. Ringers 3 points, a leaner and anything within a shoe width was 1 point. Each game was 36 shoes, 18 shoes in each direction, 3 games each night. I wasn’t expecting a lot, and that was good, I averaged 18 points per game without a single ringer in any game. I left that night with the determination that I would find some answers. So, this is a synopsis of my search and what I have learned along the way.

Continue to Part 2
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