An old friend of mine pointed out that I had the perfect spot in my backyard to build a horseshoe pitch. About a week later, he said that we should build one and it appeared he put some thought into it because he started sending me specs and pics of other pits that he had researched.
The drawings he sent me called for wood backstop and throwing platforms. Unfortunately exposed wood dries out and splinters quickly in the Sonoran desert so I decided to redesign it using more Arizona friendly materials. I had a bunch of old landscaping bricks left over for a planter that we removed last year and I’ve used synthetic fence planks for a number of exterior jobs with good results, so I put together this drawing.
The idea was to use treated 2×4’s on their sides to create a base for the synthetic planks, then the bricks as a backstop. With a bit of research I found that professional courts use clay, but I’ve always found beach sand or play sand to be ideal – after all, its my house, not the NHA tournament grounds. We decided to use play sand for the pitch. Once at the store we found that the 40lb bags of playsand were stacking up quickly and it looked like I was going to have to get half the cover that I needed for about $200. We talked to an employee at the store and he suggested course stucco sand sold in 1000 lb bags for $25 each around the side of the building. Thankfully, I have a pickup so we grabbed our other materials and a huge bag of sand and got to it.
First we built the bases. I used treated 2″ x 4″ lumber and some 3/8″ x 6′ synthetic wood textured fence boards that cost about $5 each for the throwing surface. The boxes were 4′ long by about 24″ width. I arrived at this dimension because I halved the 8′ boards and used 4 planks per throwing platform. If I were to do this project again, I would use 6′ throwing platforms because we needed to build an extended sandbox for the pit anyway. If I had stuck to the drawing instead of trying to save $50, I would have a cleaner looking pit.
Once the bases were built, we did the pin footers. I just bought 1″ galvanized steel pipe and cut it to about 25″. Then I grabbed 2 concrete patch kit buckets and mixed the water right in the bucket and inserted the pins. The pins should have 15″ showing above ground with a 3″ lean towards the other pin. I just put a mark on the pin 15″ from the top and hung a wooden ruler from the tip until it was 3″ from the mark I drew. Then I firmly braced it with tape and some wood scraps until it dried. It was ready to move in about 1 hour.
The rest of it went at a slow pace and I didn’t really stop to take pictures, but this is the order we did everything else in:
1. Measure out the 40′ pin locations & draw a line between them for frame of reference.
2. Measure out 2′ from the center of the pin to the edge where the throwing platform will be and place the platforms.
3. Measure 48″ from the pin straight back and start your backstop at that point.
4. Make sure the throw lines (the front of the 4′ platforms or the throw line on the 6′ platforms) are 16″ in front of the pins.
5. Use stakes to delineate the corners of all the features.
6. Dig the pin hole and place the bucket so only 15″ of the pin is showing and fill back in with dirt.
7. Cover the entire area with sand and level/compact.
8. Place everything back in its location and check for stability.
9. If everything looks good and is lined up, use 14″ railroad spikes to hold the platforms in place.
10. Carefully stack the backstop bricks. I chose to do a semicircle for strength and looks, plus it wanted it to look stepped.
At this point we noticed that the sand was going to fall out of the front of the pit, so we built some synthetic decking boxes and buried them so that half of the material was above ground. We then filled each box with 500 lbs each from the bag. I was amazed how much sand those boxes swallowed up. I bought some dust brushes to brush off the platforms and I’ll make a wood dowel rake to finish off the surface between matches. The project took us about 5 hours including the trip to the store and a few pool breaks. Here is what I learned:
1. Hollow galvanized pipe won’t hold up to horseshoes, get solid pipe. Mine is starting to look dinged up after only 20 games.
2. Build 6′ throwing platforms and have a single board connecting them at the front to sandbox the pit – much easier and cleaner looking.
3. The pin should be buried deep. I would guess at least 15″ deep and pack them in tightly. My pins start to move into a vertical position after 3-4 matches. Its easy enough to kick them back down, but it would be better not to deal with it at all.
4. Do this with a friend so you can actually play once the pits are done.
5. Use plenty of bracing under the platforms, the 3/8″ planks will start to bend in the heat or just over time, so don’t cheap out on the cross members.
6. The distance between the backstop and pin doesn’t really seem to matter. Not sure why they even call out a distance, I think all day we had 3-4 pins even touch it and they just dropped straight down.
Finally, I put some screws in our old horse hitching post just behind the first pin to have a place to hang the shoes!
Here are some pics of the final pits.