The Search for My Perfect Swing — Part 15

My Final Sanctioned Tournament of 2008

The final tournament in the area was the Fall Classic sponsored by Days Inn of Frederick in Frederick, Maryland. The Frederick Horseshoe Pitching Association held this tournament. It was an absolutely perfect weather day, cool in the morning and warming up by noon.The pits were in perfect condition. It looked like the FHPA had gone out of their way to make this final tournament a memorable event. Everything was set up, clay uncovered and ready, grass nicely groomed, stakes painted, registration underway, horseshoe table completely full with brand new shoes and free breakfast sandwiches delivered hot and delicious. Naturally, I wanted to support the organization, so, I purchased a new pair of Magnet shoes. I have a theory about bounceback, and felt that the Magnets might help. I am hoping that during the winter months I will be able to check out the problem of bounceback with high speed video.

The tournament began promptly at 10:00 a.m. There were 4 classes. Class C consisted of 8 competitors covering 4 pits. This was a cancellation tourney with the match ending with the first competitor reaching 40 points, no shoe limit. I had decided to use the Snyder EZ Flips, held caulks down. I was anxious to try something that I had been working on for a day or so. More about that later. I was the 4th seed, based on ringer average within the Class.

It was my best tournament yet. I went 7-0, won my Class and received a first place class patch. I had hoped that I would finish this tournament with a 50% ringer average. I ended up with a 41% average for the tournament. I experienced many more bouncebacks than usual. My shoe was coming into the stake too directly, even though I was pitching from the right side. It was not until late in the tournament that I realized why. I had made a slight change in my Pre-Release setup that caused this problem. See below.

A Newly Found Secret

I consider this new change to be the most important of all. It is so simple, I don’t know why I haven’t thought of it before.

As you can see from my previous parts, I have been experimenting with various stances on the approach. I had discovered that an open stance retards the ability to throw to the right of the stake, if the shoe is passed close by the right leg on the way back. If the shoe was going right you would end up hitting the back of your right leg on the forward swing.

When you are practicing, you can use any number of helpful aids. For instance, the line of flight string, the plumb, a string at the highpoint, etc. When you participate in competition there are no provisions for helping aids. You are limited to a few built-in aids at the court and, of course, your own personal built-in aids. At each court, there is a foul line at 27 feet, an approach, generally about 18 inches wide, and the distant stake. By rule, you are not allowed to place either foot off of the approach. If you’re pitching from 40 feet, you also have the stake to the right or left of the approach.

Previously, I used the foul line for my foot alignment and the distant stake for shoe alignment during my pre-swing rehearsal. I would try to drop the shoe and swing along the perceived line of flight to my backswing stop point, swing forward and release the shoe. If everything went correctly I would get a ringer, bounceback or bounceoff.

While experimenting with my foot placement and the open stance, I noted a link to the flight of the shoe as it passed by my right leg. If I kept the shoe close as it passed my leg, sometimes ticking my pant leg, the shoe would go directly at the stake. However, the open stance places me further from the distant stake. When my right foot is forward, my release point is 25-1/2 feet from the stake. With my right foot back, I added another 1-1/2 to 2 feet to the distance. So, I kept reverting back to the right foot forward position.

After I position my feet at the foul line, right foot forward, I take the grip on the shoe, drop my arm straight down, stand as erect as necesssary until the shoe rests on my right leg. I touch the shoe on my leg. I swing the shoe up to my aim point, just to the right of the stake, and try to pass the shoe as close to my right leg as possible as I swing back. This insures that I remain on the line of flight back and through. For some reason, my brain seems to know exactly where my right leg is. What I didn’t realize until late, was that as I bounced the shoe against my right leg, I was inadvertently rotating and straightening the shoe in my grip, producing a squarer flight. I need to make sure that I retain my grip after taken, and not permit the shoe to rotate in my grip.

E-mail me with any questions

Table of Contents

Continue to Part 16


The Search for My Perfect Swing — Part 14

A Few Random Comments

A Slight Stance Change
I have modified the stance shown in Part 13. I have moved my right foot further back in the stance and along the right edge of the right approach. I do think I have a little more insight into why this stance change seems to work for me. In 1976, Lee Trevino wrote a book entitled, “Groove Your Golf Swing My Way.” Of interest, was his unusual stance and the reason and apparent result. He felt that he was able to swing down the flight line further than any other golfer.

What became apparent to me almost immediately, was that if I missed the stake, the shoe passed the stake on the left. It was almost impossible for me to throw the shoe to the right of the stake. The instantaneous feedback was that if the shoe went to the left, I had allowed the shoe to pass too far away from my right leg on the backswing. When I concentrated on passing the shoe very close to my right leg, the shoe would go directly at the stake. Sliding my right foot back further, also gives me better balance control. This stance is in keeping with the centered and balanced stance normally found in martial arts classes.

Modified Stance

Modified Stance

Making the Most of My Practice

I try to practice every weekday weather permitting. I try to avoid practicing on the weekends so as not to disturb my neighbors with the constant clanging of horseshoes.

I practice as if I am in a tournament. I try to make every shoe count. I keep score.

I keep the pit in tournament condition. I don’t practice on a hard surface. It becomes frustrating watching shoes jump all over the place.

I knock off the major clods of clay, but, clean off only my gripping area.

If my first shoe is a ringer, I throw the second while maintaining my position. If my first shoe is not a ringer, I make a mental note as to why, step off the approach and reset.

I sometimes throw four shoes and consider the first two as my opponents and try to match or best the first two shoes.

I make my practice a competition with myself. This encourages pressure to succeed.

While pitching in clay, and my opponent is a flipper, there are times when the opponents shoe will block the arrival of an incoming shoe. You have two choices, try to pass the shoe between the shanks of the opponents shoe, or, hit the stake above the propped shoe. My practice now includes proppring a shoe against the stake and trying to hit the stake higher.

I throw 50 shoes, check the scoresheet, look for trends, take a break and start over.

If I’m quitting for the day, I continue until I throw a double and quit.

Practicing propped shoe

Practicing propped shoe

Staying in Shape
It became apparent that anyone anticipating tournament competition and the practice necessary needs to be in good physical shape. Pitching horseshoes, whether from 30 or 40 feet stresses my knees, hips, back, arms and shoulders. I’ve found that working out at the gym is the best regimen for maintaining good physical condition. On Monday and Wednesday, I perform my usual routine(s). The Friday before a tournament, I concentrate on exercising my core muscles and stretching out the connective tissue in my shoulders. Building finger strength, i.e., concentrating on pinch grip strength is definitely a plus. Carrying 25 or 45 pound plates with thumb and fingers handles this problem nicely.

E-mail me with any questions

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Continue to Part 15