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BEACON Senior News

Try your luck at horseshoes

May 01, 2018 05:15AM ● By Kathy Applebee

GVHPC members Maurice Drake, Al Baumgartle and Jeff MacDonald.

What outdoor activity is inexpensive and portable, requires no particular athletic prowess and can be played almost anywhere? It's horseshoes—and there’s one local group willing to teach you the ropes.

For those unfamiliar with this centuries-old game, players pitch horseshoes at metal stakes placed 40 feet apart. The closest shoe to the stake that is within six inches scores one point and a ringer is worth three. Pitching both shoes closer than an opponent’s scores two points.

Members of the 30-year-old Grand Valley Horseshoe Pitching Club (GVHPC) meet weekly at Canyon View Park for friendly competition, recreation and socialization.

Interim President Al Baumgartle, 75, said horseshoes is a fairly laid back sport. The local competition tends to be friendly, and it’s gentle exercise, with some bending and stretching, making it a great activity for seniors.

“It gets me outside, and the people I meet in horseshoes are playing for the fun of it,” he said. “Sure, everyone likes to win, but most people just want to have a good time.”

A veteran pitcher for 22 years, Baumgartle travels for competition and has played against pitchers of all ages. He recalled last year’s World Horseshoe Pitching Championship in St. George, Utah, where he competed against a 91-year-old man.

“He beat me, but he was such a nice guy that I didn’t really mind,” Baumgartle laughed.

The club is also trying to encourage younger people to take up the activity.

Maurice Drake has played horseshoes for over 20 years. He likes the exercise—he said he can easily walk over a half-mile on the days he plays and walks even more during league play.

“I throw about 160 shoes a day, which means I walk the 40 feet between posts 80 times,” he said.

The club meets at 5 p.m. Thursdays at the clay pits on the east side of Canyon View Park. Membership is only $5 per year. Players bring their own horseshoes and pay just $4 per week, which goes toward maintaining the pits.

Local leagues are 100 percent handicapped, which gives anyone—not just the lucky—the opportunity to win.

“With a handicapped system, the newer players actually have a better chance of winning since they improve more quickly than experienced players,” said Jeff McDonald, the club’s late president and secretary.

Learn the rules of the game and how to keep score at a four-week, non-sanctioned league hosted by GVHPC.

This league is a great opportunity to receive coaching and test your skills. Newbies can also test various types of horseshoes before purchasing.

For details, call Baumgartle at 314-4694.

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