Here’s a full step-by-step DIY guide on how to build a horseshoe pit and create a court right in your own backyard.
Playing horseshoes may not be as popular today as it once was, but it doesn’t take too long before those who do play the game to get hooked.
Spending a few hours a week ‘pitching shoes’ down at the local park might not be enough to scratch your horseshoe playing itch.
So why not build your own horseshoe court at home?
The good news is that a backyard horseshoe pit is not only inexpensive but a lot easier to build than you think.
Grab a few buddies, and you can create your own horseshoe pit over a weekend or two with these instructions.
Before You Build Your Own Horseshoe Court
While installing a horseshoe pit is not a huge investment in time or money, like anything else, it is a good idea to be certain.
If you are not a regular horseshoe player already, spend a bit more time playing the game to see whether it is something you are going to stick in the long run.
Building a horseshoe court requires a fair bit of land which you must be willing to dedicate to the game. And it is unlikely that anyone has ever suggested adding a horseshoe court is a good way to add resale value to a home!
The construction process described in this article is for a backyard-style horseshoe court, and not one meant for professional play.
Each horseshoe league usually has its own regulations regarding the size of the pits and other specifics.
Therefore, if you are planning on competing in a league, it is best to build your backyard court as similar as possible to the ones they use in your league. This will give you the best opportunity to practice at home.
Building a horseshoe pit doesn’t require advanced woodworking skills, but it does require the ability to use basic tools. Safety is always your first priority, so make sure you know what you are doing, or get help from someone who does.
If you don’t feel confident using a saw, you can get your local home store to cut the wood to size for a small fee or even for free! Just ask.
Find the Correct Location
So, you are sure you want a backyard horseshoe court? Great, but before diving into the construction of your own horseshoe court, you may want to call your local planning office.
Although it is unlikely, you might live in a municipality that requires you to get a permit to install a horseshoe court legally. And since you will need to do a little digging, you want to verify you are not going to hit any buried utilities.
The first thing you are going to need to do is to find a good location.
When looking for somewhere to place your horseshoe pits, you want to locate a relatively flat portion of land. Although the grade of the ground does not need to be absolute level, the more level it is, the easier it will be to both build the pits and play.
Horseshoe Court Dimensions
After finding a flattish strip of land, you will want to measure the area. A regulation-sized court is 48 feet long and 6 feet wide.
The most critical measurement is the distance between the two stakes which comes to exactly 40 feet. While you can fudge the other dimensions a bit, the stake to stake measurement needs to be maintained for the best results.
It is also a smart idea to look for an area that is not directly under trees.
Building a horseshoe pit directly under trees will most likely mean you will wind up spending more time removing leaves, branches, and other debris from the court than actually playing the game!
The last consideration before beginning the project is that you will want to locate the court away from anything which a stray horseshoe might damage like your home or garage.
A good rule of thumb is to have around ten feet of empty space on either side of each stake just to be careful.
How to Build a Horseshoe Pit
Every horseshoe court requires two pits. For this backyard version of the game, the horseshoe pit dimensions are 30 inches across and 48 inches long.
This is slightly smaller than most regulation horseshoe pits. But using these dimensions will make your court much easier to build because you can utilize standard lumber sizes.
By slightly shrinking the size of the pit and eliminating the dedicated pitching platforms on either side, you are saving a lot of land without sacrificing much playing
experience at all.
- 2-foot long 4×4 x 2 (look for lumber labeled “ground contact” and “pressure treated” for best results)
- 2.5 foot long 4×6 x 2
- 2.5 foot long 2×6 x 6
- 1.5 foot long 2×6 x 4
- 40 inch long 4×6 x 4
- Enough sand or your choice of filler to fill the pits.
- Weed matting
- Horseshoe stakes x 2
- Metal epoxy (optional)
- A bunch of 3.5” outdoor screws
- Heavy-duty metal ground stakes
- Rubber mallet
- Edging shovel (if you have it)
- A saw (optional if you get the lumber pre-cut)
- A ball of string
You’ll also need a good set of pitching horseshoes.
Measuring Your Pits
- To start, use a measuring tape to cut a string 40 feet long. Have one person hold the end of the string where you want one stake and walk the other end to where you want the additional stake. Hold the string taut, and mark both ends with a peg. Using a string will give you a much more accurate measurement than running a tape measure along the ground.
- Next, use a measuring tape to measure 30 inches from side to side with the first peg in the middle. Mark off the distance by using two more pegs on either side of the first one. This is the width of your pit.
- Now measure 18 inches behind each of the three pegs and mark each measurement with more pegs. This is where you will build your backstop.
- Finally, measure 4 feet in front of each of the backstop pegs and mark with pegs. Use the other pegs to help you maintain a straight line. Now that you have the final dimensions laid out for one pit, repeat the process using the other peg you put in during the first step.
Digging Your Pits
- First, you want to dig out the borders of the pit. If you have an edger, use it. But you can also use a standard shovel. You want to dig down to 5 inches. Try to be as close to 5 inches as possible.
- Once you clear the border, dig out the rest of the pit using a regular shovel to the same 5 inches in depth. As you dig, try not to stand on the pit, or you will wind up compressing the soil and making it harder to dig.
- After you dig out the pit, check the depth in several places to make sure it is around approximately the same. It is not too important if there are slight variations, but you shouldn’t be off by more than a half-inch or so.
- Finally, you want to dig an even deeper trench that runs the width of the pit and about three inches on either side of the peg you placed to mark where the stake will go. This trench should be about 4 inches deeper.
- Now repeat the same instructions for the other pit.
Burying the Stake
Now is an excellent time to put in the stakes. There are two main considerations you need to think about when installing the stakes.
The first is that both stakes should extend around 14 to 15 inches above the surface when the pit is filled with sand.
The second consideration is that the stakes need to lean about three inches forward.
Many regulation courts use cement to hold the stakes, but a more straightforward solution for the backyard uses a 4×4 block of wood.
To use this method:
- Drill a 2-inch hole into the center of the long end of one side of one of the 4×4.
- Use a rubber mallet to pound the stake into the 4×4. Make sure it is not slipping in the hole. If it isn’t as tight as you want, you can use a metal epoxy like J-B Original Cold-Weld Steel Reinforced Epoxy to secure it. Remember to follow the instructions and allow the dry completely before continuing.
- Place the 4×4 in the deeper trench in the horseshoe pit. Position it in such a way that the stake is 15 inches from each side and 18 inches from the back of the pit. Lean the stake forward around three inches. Hold it still and start to backfill the hole. Press down as hard as you can using your feet as you add the soil.
When you are done, test to make sure the stake doesn’t move when you apply pressure to it. Repeat the same process for the other pit.
- After the stakes are secure, it is time to add the borders for each of the pit. This is simple to do, but it is critical to measure correctly before cutting.
- Arrange the borders for each of the pits on a hard, flat surface. Place one 2.5 foot long 4×6 in the front. Lay the two 40 inch 4x6s on either side. Make sure the narrow ends of all the boards are facing up. The cut ends of the longer boards should be entirely behind the shorter board. Use a drill to secure the boards together using 3.5-inch outdoor screws.
- Now you can start to assemble the backstop. Place three 30 inch 2x6s on the ground to make a 30 inch by 18-inch rectangle.
- Take a 1.5 foot 2×6 and place it about a third of the way from each end. These will be used to hold the backstop together. Use two 3.5 inch outdoor screws to secure each board to the supports.
- Finally, screw the backstop to the rest of the border with two screws in each board.
- Place the finished borders in the pit. The sides and the front edges should stick out about an inch above the undug ground surrounding the pit.
- Once the borders for the pit are aligned correctly, use heavy-duty metal stakes to secure the rear of the backstop to prevent it from moving. Do this by pounding the metal stakes halfway into the ground right behind each of the two supports.
- Repeat for the other pit.
Filling the Pits
You are almost ready to start playing horseshoes at home. All that remains is filling the pits.
When it comes to filling horseshoe pits, you have a lot of options. The most common type of fill is typical, everyday play sand you might find in a child’s sandbox.
But that is not your only choice. You can choose from several different colors and quality of sand designed to be used in horseshoe pits.
Some people even prefer to opt for using clay as a filler. The amount of fill you require will depend on the type. Ask the supplier before ordering so you won’t order too much or too little.
- Before you add your fill, it is always a good idea to lay down a weed mat to keep anything from growing. Cut it to size and add a slit for the stake.
- Once the weed mat is down. Fill the pits. Remember, don’t fill the pit completely. You want around an inch of border sticking up.
Congratulations! You are now ready to play horseshoes at home.
You can make your horseshoe games even more enjoyable by adding convenient places to put your drinks down when you are pitching. Add plenty of seating if you expect people to want to watch a match or two.
Note that the estimated times for this project will vary depending on how handy are, who’s helping out, and ready access to materials and a suitable location.
It may take only an hour or two, but always factor in a little extra time if you’re building a full court with borders, backing, and a nice level fill.
Here’s a helpful video on building a really nice court in your backyard. In this tutorial, he uses timbers for rustic borders and backing (also less expensive) . He also creates a cover to protect the pit and when not in use.
Do you want to play horseshoes at home but don’t have enough room?
You can always install a single pit!
Playing horseshoes is all about having fun, so whether you have a full-court or a half-court, grab your friends and a few cold ones and get out there and start pitching!