How to Build a Backyard Horseshoe Pit

By: Patrick J. Kiger

Building Your Horseshoe Pit

Even world leaders like to play horseshoes. Here, former U.S. president George H.W. Bush plays a game with former president of Russia Boris Yeltsin.
Even world leaders like to play horseshoes. Here, former U.S. president George H.W. Bush plays a game with former president of Russia Boris Yeltsin.
J. DAVID AKE/AFP/Getty Images

The first thing that you need to do is mark off the right dimensions for the court with a pit at each end. The complete playing area should be 48 feet (14.6 meters) long and 6 feet (1.8 meters) wide. At each end, there's a 6-by-6-foot box that contains both the area where the players pitch and the pits themselves, each of which should be 3 feet by 4 feet (1 by 1.2 meters) in area [sources: NHPA,]. Use paint or chalk to mark where everything goes.

Next, it's time to dig the pit and set up the stakes. The pit doesn't have to be too deep — 8 inches (20 centimeters) or so is great. Dig out a hole in the center that's roughly another foot (30 centimeters) or so. Position the stake so that it's sticking precisely 14 inches (26 centimeters) out of the ground, and angled at a 3-inch (7.6-centimeter) slant from where it comes out of the ground. If you're using the bucket as a base, then pour the cement around it, and let it harden a little [sources: Boga, NHPA ]. Then shovel the clay into the pit, a couple of inches at a time, and pack it in [sources: Beam Clay].


Now, dig out the areas around the pits and along the edges of the court, and lay the flagstones. You don't need to dig very deep, just enough so that the stones are solidly seated in the ground.

Now it's time to build the backstop. Use the sledgehammer to pound the deck posts into the ground. Then use your electric screwdriver and the wood screws to attach the boards to the posts. Make sure it's all nice and sturdy [source: M&M Horseshoe Company].

When that's finished, you need to get some NHPA regulation horseshoes, which you can buy from a variety of Web-based dealers or sporting goods stores. Horseshoes designed for horses won't work as they're not uniform in size. Look for ones weighing 2.5 pounds (1 kilogram) with openings no greater than 3.5 inches (9 centimeters) [source: NHPA].

Author's Note: How to Build a Backyard Horseshoe Pit

I've only pitched horseshoes a few times, and those were strictly casual games in someone's backyard during a cookout, on a non-regulation court where the competitors lubricated themselves with a few beers beforehand. So I was surprised to learn that horseshoe pitching, at its highest level, is a serious sport. The greatest horseshoe pitcher of all time, Alan Francis, is capable of getting a ringer 90 percent of the time—which is three times the success rate of an all-star caliber baseball hitter at the plate.

Related Articles


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