The Horseshoe Court is the fundamental playing field of the Horseshoe game. In its simplest form, it is comprised of two 1-inch in diameter metal stakes driven into the ground 40 feet apart so that 15 inches of each remains above the ground level, and each stake has a lean of 3 inches towards the other.
For communities that do not have permanently constructed horseshoe court facilities, horseshoe courts for a youth league or tournament can be set up on any flat unobstructed location such as a vacant field or lot, or even in a park or backyard. The number of courts set up will be limited by the size of the space. Generally, each court will need 50 feet in length and 10-12 feet width of open space between courts. This distance gives room for kids to stand and move around the horseshoes courts without the fear of being too close to a neighboring court that they might be in danger of being struck by an errant shoe.
Fortunately, since Horseshoes is one of America’s favorite pastimes, it is likely that there will be some horseshoe courts in or nearby most communities. These may be found in parks, campgrounds, church yards, fair grounds, fraternal lodges, and in some cases dedicated indoor horseshoe pitching facilities. Horseshoe courts may vary in their set up, having or lacking backboards, concrete pitching platforms, sand or clay, and perimeter fencing.
The National Horseshoe Pitchers Association (NHPA) has set precise specifications that horseshoes courts must meet to receive a sanction from them. These NHPA sanctioned horseshoe courts are among the best constructed facilities and are most conducive for setting up a youth league. If your community has one of these facilities, you are off to a solid start. This map of NHPA Clubs by State provides lists of communities with NHPA sanctioned courts in each state and contact information to the local NHPA club. This interactive google map gives the address of many Horseshoe Courts by State.
If your organization plans to construct new horseshoe courts for your youth horseshoe pitching club, this diagram gives details on building a quality horseshoe court. Even if you do not build a NHPA sanction-level court, the diagram provides the correct measurements you should adhere to when setting up any horseshoe courts.
Because youth do not stand at the full 40 foot distance, it is wise to ensure that the space between the stakes is flat and unobstructed. The proper distance a kid should stand from the opposite stake will vary individually for each kid and is usually dependent upon their strength and experience pitching. The very smallest of kids may need to stand within 10 feet from the stake. Generally, kids up to 12 years of age (called “Cadets”) may stand as close at the halfway point, 20 feet. Teenagers (called “Juniors”) may stand up to, or anywhere behind, 27 feet from the opposite stake. As a kid grows and matures in the horseshoe game, they will tend to naturally move back to maintain a distance that accommodates their natural swing. In official play, “foul” lines are marked at 20 feet (middle) and 27 feet (on each side) for the youth age groups.
How many courts are needed?
This depends on the predominant style of play in your youth league.
– Singles leagues are set up with one-on-one competition, that’s usually 2 participants per horseshoe court. If you have many participants, or very few courts, 4 kids may play singles on a single court; one game pitching one direction, then the other game pitching their horseshoes the other direction. The two games switch ends record their respective scores and then repeat until the games are over.
– In Doubles leagues, 4 participants (2 doubles teams) can use a single court.
A general rule of thumb is that there should always be a horseshoe court available for use at any time for the youth in your league for competition or practice. If youth are idle, waiting for a court to open up for their turn to play, you must have other activities or training exercises for them to work on while they wait so they remain active and focused during the league time. If you have more participants than courts available, it is recommended to divide the league into separate groups that meet at different times to accommodate all the youth. Splitting a group can be done based on age division (Cadet and Junior) or skill level (beginners and experienced).