[This post was started back in February…]


I think, a while back, I promised that I would jot down the rules for Horseshoes Golf. I don’t think that, to date, I’ve made good on that promise. Hold on for one sec… I’m scanning through the multitude of posts I’ve made since re-re-restarting this blog… No, I don’t see any follow-up on posting the rules…

Alright, well today, I will finally make good on the promise and prove my unwavering dedication to this blog (and, just to be clear, by “unwavering,” I mean sporadic and almost totally wavering).

So this Saturday — yes, Valentine’s Day — Brian and I (and Sadie too) drove over to Tom’s to play us some Horseshoes Golf (HSG). We were hoping to play some Extreme Horseshoes Golf (EHSG), but the quarter inch of snow that had fallen the day before was melted and gone, forcing us to play Horseshoes Golf with Winter Rules (HSGwWR). The two main changes to HSG, with Winter Rules in effect, are there can be, based on the Coola-Boy’s decision, water hazards (more on this in a bit), and we wear different shoes.

Normally we would wear our work boots, but because this was HSGwWR, we put on muck boots. Next, we filled the coola with beer. Since we hadn’t determined who the Coola-Boy was yet, I volunteered to pack the beer with the stipulation that everyone acknowledge I was not volunteering to be Coola-Boy — that we still needed to follow the Coola-Boy selection process. All agreed and we loaded the stakes and flags and the sledge hammer into the ATV trailer and set out to design the course.

The ATV is loaded; the course design begins...

The ATV is loaded; the course design begins…

Tom took the lead on course design for this outing. He felt that previous layouts, with their longer holes, catered to Brian’s tallness. Brian, with his freakishly long arms, generates a lot more shoe speed in his throwing arc, and therefore can throw a lot farther than the rest of us normal-armed players. The result of Tom’s influence was a shorter course with only one par-two (more on HSG pars later).

Tom gives Jim a tour of his latest course creation.

Tom gives Jim a tour of his latest course creation.

Hole construction is fairly complex and, interestingly, does not require the creation of a hole, though, I guess one does get made when you pound in the stake… Anyway, here are the steps:

  • Start in the general area where the tee box will be and then walk a distance away from the tee box to where you want the green to be
  • Hammer a stake into the ground
  • Get a flag and put it on the top of the stake (and by “flag”, I mean empty beer can)
  • Repeat until done*
Tom is very hands on when designing a course.

a Tom designed course

*Done could equal any number of holes. We’ve been playing nine, but have plans for an eighteen holer. Whatever you want and whatever space and time (but not space-time) allow.

Jeff is called in for the heavy duty construction.

Jeff is called in for the heavy duty construction.

When our course was ready, we picked the Coola-Boy and the Stick-Man. Both roles are punishment for crappy playing, but initially, they’re chosen at random. We throw a horseshoe into the air and whoever it points at is Coola-Boy and a second throw tells us who the Stick-Man is. When you throw the horseshoe into the air, you need to give it some spin or twirl to help with its randomness. Of course this can be dangerous and is the basis for the argument that helmets should be worn while playing HSG.

Brian threw the shoe and it picked Tom to be Coola-Boy, then it picked me to be the Stick-Man. We’ll talk about the Stick-Man in a second, but I want to note that because it was wet and muddy [whine], it was almost better to be Coola-Boy.


The main duty (punishment) of the Coola-Boy is that he has to lug the coola from hole to hole for the duration of the round. It’s also his responsibility to make sure the coola is full of beer and properly iced prior to gameplay, so he may be required to trek back to the house and replenish whatever the coola’s lacking before the round can start.

Tom had an epiphany of sorts after our second round. We usually pick some sort of landmark to designate a tee box — a fence post, a rock or stick, a pile of deer poo — but Tom had the thought that the Coola-Boy should get to pick the location. Wherever the Coola-Boy decides to rest the coola is the spot from which everyone has to toss their shoes. We agreed it was a good idea — give the Coola-Boy some power and help keep the game fresh.

We also decided that when there’s standing water near some or all of the holes, the Coola-Boy can call the water hazard rule into effect. The rule says that if you throw your shoe and it lands completely submerged in water, you lose a point. The Coola-Boy would have to decide this at the start of the game and the rule would be live until the round was over.

Anything can be the OMS, but Brian doesn't need the golf club he's carrying to know that this leaner is good.

Anything can be the OMS, but Brian doesn’t need the golf club he’s carrying to know that this leaner is good.


The Stick-Man has to lug around the Official Measuring Stick (OMS) from hole-to-hole and determine if a given toss is close enough to a stake to be deemed a point. He is also the last word on who is the closest when two or more shoes are close enough to be points.

Though the Stick-Man does wield some power by officiating the scoring for the round, it’s a pain in the butt having to carry around the OMS (and having to remember it — you’ll end up running back to the previous hole to retrieve the stupid thing more than once), which is why it’s considered a punishment, only slightly less severe than being the Coola-Boy.

In my opinion, with HSGwWR, being the Stick-Man might actually be worse than being the Coola-Boy. At least the coola has a handle. The OMS ends up getting pretty wet and muddy, so the Stick-Man ends up getting pretty wet and muddy.


Pick your throwing order however you want (it’s customary for the Coola-Boy to go last and the Stick-Man to go second to last) and pick an OMS. Each player gets one horseshoe (you need to be able distinguish between shoes, so pick different colors or mark them with tape or whatever) and tries to throw it as close to the stake as possible.

Amy, a Horseshoes Golf groupie.

Amy, a Horseshoes Golf groupie.

When your shoe is the closest to the stake and within the length of the OMS and it’s the par toss, you win a point. If you throw a leaner, you win two points — a ringer will get you three points. If two people are within the length of the OMS after the par toss, then the closer of the two wins (and just in case it ever happens, the last ringer trumps the one(s) before it).

If it’s not the par toss, then whoever gets their shoe next to the stake and within the length of the of OMS first gets a point. Leaners and ringers only count on the par toss. If two people get within the length of the OMS on the same throw (doesn’t matter who’s closer as long as they’re both points), then the hole is a carryover (one tie, all tie, so even if you were on your tenth throw when other players tied, you could win the carryover on the next hole).

With a Par Two hole, you can win by being closest, with a leaner, or with a ringer on the second toss (the idea being that no one, not even Brian, can throw far enough to get a win on the first toss).

Behold the Majesty that is the pro horseshoe golfer!

Behold the Majesty that is the pro horseshoe golfer!

So here’s some examples…

1. It’s a par one hole and Tom is throwing first, followed by Brian, and I’m throwing last. I’m the Coola-Boy now, so I place the coola where I want to throw from and everyone tosses from that same spot. Tom’s throw is long, lands funny, and gets some roll, so it’s obviously outside the OMS. Brian gets a good throw and landing, but we can’t tell if it’s within the OMS or not. My throw has too much arc and SPLASH! lands in a puddle in front of the stake. Fortunately, it plugs in the mud, ass in the air, so I don’t have to take the water hazard penalty — it’s not totally submerged.

We approach the hole and all agree that Brian’s throw looks short. Tom is the Stick-Man, and just to be sure, uses the OMS to verify our assessment. He butts one end of the OMS up to the stake and aims the other end towards Brian’s shoe. If the OMS can touch both simultaneously, it’s a point. It doesn’t — short by about two inches. That means we all get a second toss, and leaners and ringers are off the table.

Brian picks up his shoe and throws a ringer (which isn’t hard to do when you’re only four feet away from the stake and have a three and half foot arm reach). I’m about twelve feet away — my toss isn’t a ringer, but it’s within the OMS, so I tie up the hole. Tom doesn’t even bother throwing since he’s automatically in on the tie.

2. So the next hole is a par two and the carryover is plus one point. Since nobody won the last hole, the throw order is the same — Tom, Brian, Jeff. I, as Coola-Boy, mark the tee box again, and I figure I need to employ some strategy because Brian has an advantage on this hole. If I go too close, there’s a chance Brian can make a point on his first toss, and if I start too far back, then Tom and I are left with fairly long second shots while Brian will probably be relatively close. I split the difference.

Tom throws and it’s pretty short and in the tall grass. Brian… he chokes, throwing the horse shoe about fifty feet straight into the air and it lands short — way shorter than Tom’s. My throw is good, nothing spectacular, but it lands on the ATV path and leaves me with a makable second shot.

Brian’s second shot is okay, but it probably isn’t a point — same for Tom’s. I’m sitting about thirty-five feet away, so just short of a regulation horseshoe toss (forty feet). My second throw looks good its whole arc and CLANK! lands resting on the stake, a leaner!


I win the hole and the carryover, so I get three points, two for the leaner plus the point for the carryover (sometimes a carryover can be worth two, three, even five points; depending on how many consecutive ties you’ve had before someone finally wins).

3. Last example to show what happens when more than one person gets a ringer…

The next hole is a shortie, maybe thirty feet. Even though I’m the Coola-Boy, I throw first since I’m the last player to score any points. My toss is crap and the shoe lands on its edge and rolls almost as far past the hole as the distance to the tee box. Tom throws next and it’s perfect, a ringer. Brian throws and it’s not very pretty, goes in a little hot but bounces towards the stake and catches it, spins a few times before settling down on top of Tom’s — another ringer.

It’s a cheap win, and Tom is rightfully pissed that Brian just got a ringer from such a horrible toss, but Brian gets the three points. He also banks a two-buck ringer, which means he collects two bucks from each of us at the end of the round.


The game continues until all of the holes are complete, and the winner is the player with the most points. Any carryover points left in the hopper after the last hole is played are tossed out. In the case of a tie after the last hole, the players with matching scores play an instant death match, starting on the first hole — first player to win any points wins the match.

An instant death match may also be used to determine who the Coola-Boy and Stick-Man will be in the next round should tie scores prevent you from knowing who your worst players are.


And now, the important rules, the bets. Of course, these are just suggestions — things we’ve come up with and/or carried over from regular horseshoes. You should feel free to come up with your own bets (and please share your ideas). The following should give you a good starting point though:

Overall – This is what all of the losers are going to pay to the winner. We play “one winner,” so there’s no second place. If it’s a two-dollar game, and you have four players, then the winner will get six bucks at the end of the round for overall.

Ringers – There’re few different bets relating to ringers:

  • First Blood – The very first official ringer gets the thrower an extra buck from every player. There’s some fine print, though; let’s say player one throws the first ringer of the game on hole two, but then player two throws a ringer on top of player one’s — player two actually gets the First Blood money, because his was the first ringer that counted. If by some miracle, another player in the group also got a ringer, then the First Blood money would go to him. Overly complicated? Remember, First Blood is an extra buck, so the player also gets a buck (or bucks) for the ringer itself.
  • Regular Ringers – A straight forward ringer nets the thrower a buck from all of the other players at the end of the round.
  • Pay Up the Chain – This won’t happen often, but say a player tosses a ringer, then a second player throws one on top of the first, then just for confusion-sake, a third player manages to ring as well — he would get three bucks from each player at the end of the round. Each consecutive ringer, on the same hole, is worth an extra buck.

That’s Horseshoes golf in almost twenty-five hundred words. To really get the most out of the game, I highly recommend you get a Coola-Boy T-shirt and make your Coola-Boy wear it during his stint.