The Clearwater Horseshoe Club dates back to 1916. Records show that membership at that time consisted of 4 players. In the 1950’s, membership had increased to about 40 players. During the 1970’s and 1980’s membership varied between 60 and 80 players. Membership has been between 80 and 100 players since the 1990’s.
Prior to 1940 the horseshoe club was located on the Bay Front at the foot of Pierce Street. In 1940 the courts were moved next to the Baptist Church at the corner of Cleveland and Osceola streets and a club house was built. In 1952 the horseshoe courts and the club house were relocated to the rear of the Baptist Church. The club became inactive in 1961 and remained so until 1972. In 1972 the Club was reactivated at the Bay Front location by the late Norman Gaseau and other club members.
In 1974 the Horseshoe Club was notified by the Clearwater Parks and Recreation Department that it was necessary to again relocate the courts due to a change in land use. The site chosen for the new horseshoe courts was Ed Wright Park, corner of Lakeview Road and Greenwood Ave (now M L King Jr Ave). Eight (8) new courts were installed with the City of Clearwater providing materials and the Club members providing most of the labor. On November 23, 1974, the first NHPA (National Horseshoe Pitching Association of America) sanctioned tournament ever to be held in Clearwater took place. City Commissioner Donald Williams tossed the first horseshoe to dedicate the courts and get the tournament underway.
Since 1975, the Club has conducted approximately 7 NHPA sanctioned tournaments each year open to any member of the Florida Horseshoe Pitchers Association or the National Horseshoe Pitchers Association. The Club has hosted and continues to host the annual Florida State Championship Tournament about every third year and was last hosted in April of 2017.
In 1976 the City authorized the building of a Club House at the Ed Wright Park location. Club member Guy Crouch (building contractor and resident of Largo) drew up plans, solicited local building contractors and arranged to build a 12’ by 12’ Club House without cost to the City. In 1983 the Club House was enlarged to 12’ by 24’ with the cost shared by the Horseshoe Club and the City of Clearwater. Historically, improvements to the horseshoe pitching facility have been a joint effort between the City of Clearwater and the Club and its membership sharing equally in the costs of materials and for providing labor.
In 1981 the Club conducted the first Men’s and Women’s World Championship Invitational Tournament with eight (8) of the top men and eight (8) of the top women in the world competing. Six (6) of the top men and six (6) of the top women were either current or former World Champions. The tournament was conducted over a 3 day period with spectator interest that kept the bleacher seats filled at all times and 3 local TV stations and Cable TV providing advanced and current coverage. Total prize money for the event was $8500.00.
In 1982 the Club conducted a U. S. Open Tournament open to all NHPA members nationwide. Prize money for this tournament was $5000.00. Many of the same top players in the World returned to compete in this event. The Championship Finals were completely taped by Vision Cable Television with club members Norman Gaseau and Bob Dean handling the commentary.
In 1990 the Club House was enlarged to 24’ by 27’ with the costs shared by the Horseshoe Club and the City of Clearwater. Concurrent with the Club House expansion, the number of horseshoe courts increased from 8 to 18 along with necessary lighting for night play. In 1993 a patio with roof was added to the East end of the Club House. The Florida State Horseshoe Pitchers Association authorized the establishment of a Hall of Fame exhibit to be housed at the Clearwater Club House.
The Association granted the Club $3700.00 to establish the exhibit. The Hall of Fame exhibit was dedicated in February 1991. Clearwater Mayor, Rita Garvey, and City Council members participated in the dedication ceremony as well as all living Hall of Fame members and surviving spouses. The Florida HPA Hall of Fame is recognized as one of the best in the NHPA. Several of the Clearwater Horseshoe Club members have been inducted into the Florida Hall of Fame and into the National HPA Hall of Fame.
In July 1994 the aluminum patio type roofing was installed over the pit area of the 18 courts. In 2003 the horseshoe courts were renovated, removing all the stakes and concrete and installing all new concrete 6’ wide walkways (handicap accessible), new stakes, new Kentucky blue clay, new fencing, new landscaping and sod.
The Clearwater Club was awarded the “Outstanding Achievement Award” by the National Horseshoe Pitchers Association for conducting the first ever Men’s and Women’s World Championship Invitational Tournament.
The Horseshoe Club conducts NHPA sanctioned handicapped league play during the day on Tuesday and Thursday from 11:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. beginning the first full week of November and ending the end of March. The Club conducts a non-sanctioned handicapped league play on Wednesday evenings from 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. beginning the first week in October and ending the end of March. League play is handicapped so players of different skill levels all have a fair chance of winning. The courts are available for open practice at all other times, except during sanctioned tournaments. NHPA sanctioned tournaments are normally held the first Saturday of each month, beginning in October and ending in May.
Horseshoe pitching is a lifetime family oriented sport open to men, women, and youth, that provides excellent exercise for your health, with the walking, bending or squatting to pick up the horseshoes, and the reaching and stretching to deliver the approximately 2 ½ pound horseshoe.
League players are required to join the Clearwater Horseshoe Club. Annual membership for Adults is $10 per year and $3 per year for juniors 18 and under. NHPA sanctioned event players must be a member of the National Horseshoe Pitchers Association, which in Florida, the combined annual membership is $36.00.
We invite you to come pitch with us. You can then decide if you would like to join the club. Club membership is not required to utilize the facility for sport, exercise or recreation. If one were to ask any club member why they enjoy pitching horseshoes in Clearwater the response surely will include benefiting from the friendships formed and the non-strenuous activity.
Please visit the following websites for additional information.
National Horseshoe Pitching Association at: http://www.horseshoepitching.com
Florida Horseshoe Pitching Association at: http://www.horseshoepitching.com/links/FLinf.html