The Shooting Academy - What is Sporting Clays?
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Sporting Clays Course Design

What is "Sporting Clays"?         Where did Sporting Clays come from?

To best explain Sporting Clays let's go back in time to the mid 1800's.  All large estates in England are owned by the "landed gentry", (Lords, Earls, Barons etc).  These are massive acreages of land where almost unlimited game could be bred and reared.  If you wanted to hunt, you had to be invited, by the landowner, to shoot on his land.  The alternative was that you poached (Robin Hood days).  Although social standing played a large part in being invited to shoot, there was also a requirement, from the landowner, that you were a reasonable shot - he didn't want his game just winged or injured - clean kills were preferred and a "not-so-good" shooter could be passed over, regardless of his social level.

Where then to practice?  As the majority, if not all, the hunting land in England was under control of the "upper-class", there was very little, if any, land available for the "social-ladder-climber" to practice his shooting skills.  There were many attempts to produce "game-like" targets for practice, and by the 1870's, many attempts had been made at producing "life-like" inanimate targets. 

First there were glass balls, similar to fishing floats, then they stuffed feathers into these balls to make them more "life-like" when hit.  These balls were thrown into the air for the shooter, but the "caddie" stood a good chance of being showered with glass fragments, or being directly shot (There is only so high a glass ball can be thrown - the higher you throw - the less chance of being shot).  Capt. Bogardus Patented a Glass Ball Trap to project these balls higher into the air.  These resembled the early Anglo-Saxon catapults where a length of spring steel was secured  to the ground while the other end had a small cup fitted to it and was tensioned down to the ground thus bending the spring.  A peg was inserted into the device at the cup end to hold the bent "arm" down.  To this, was fastened a length of string going back to the shooting position.  A glass ball was placed in the cup and the caddie would retreat back to the safety of behind the shooter.  When the shooter was ready he would request the string to be pulled, and the arm would release.  The term "PULL" is still used today as the international signal to release a target.

An innovative idea, for that time, was to add two extra strings (as can be seen right), to control the direction of throw.  The top picture shows a "wobble" trap while the lower shows a single direction trap.

This was a slow game and expensive in glass and very messy.

It was in the 1880's that a guy named Ligowski reportedly saw children skimming clamshells across a pond and came up with the idea of the first clay target - that was the founder on all clay targets used today.  Shaped like a saucer, the original targets were made from baked clay and were extremely hard to break.  Today they are made from a mixture of limestone and petroleum pitch and are very regulated as to size, height and weight.

New launchers were designed by emulating the children's arm throwing the clays by "flicking" the wrist.  That principal is still used today on all clay target throwers.

Going back to the "social ladder climbers" ....  With the development of the new targets and launchers, more shooters were training in preparation of being invited to shoot on the estates, but they became engrossed with the fun of having targets continually available, and the practice soon became a sport in its own right.

The IBSA (Inanimate Bird Shooting Association) was formed to be the ruling body on this new sport and the first Championship was held at Wimbledon Park, London in 1893.  

From this time the sport progressed very rapidly until the start of the First World War.  It ceased during 1914 - 1918 but restarted in 1919 and took off in "leaps and bounds".

There were now two types of shooter;  the target shooters, and the gentry who used the sport purely for tuning up their hunting skills.  Both King George V and his son (The Prince of Wales) were so enthused about target shooting that they had a launcher mounted on the stern of the battleship they used when visiting overseas...  (So that's where that idea came from).

The sport developed  further and the idea of simulating hunting conditions, by hiding or camouflaging the launchers and throwing targets to suit the topography of the land, evolved.  Hence, Sporting Clays was born and the first International Sporting Clay tournament was a match between England and Scotland at Carlisle, Scotland in 1925 (Scotland won).

Today, Sporting Clays is the fasted growing shotgun discipline.  Thousands of courses cover the world varying from a "mom-and-pop" backyard operation using half a dozen launchers to the multi million dollar "super-courses" spread over hundreds of acres using 100 to 200 fully automatic clay target launchers, where shooters move from station to station riding golf-carts, traveling tarmac roads similar to top golf resorts.

I am pleased and proud that I was a major contributor to the development of the "Super Sporting Clays Courses" being built today.  The first US Super Course was designed by me at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort and Spa, named after my company The Shooting Academy at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort and Spa, PA, USA.

Having set the standard, others soon followed, many designers visited The Shooting Academy at Nemacolin to study, photograph and take my ideas to revamp old courses and develop new courses to resort level.  I still lead the world with my latest design in Abu Dhabi, UAE.  The Abu Dhabi International Shooting Club (ADISC) at Al Forsan Resort is the world's most elaborate and expensive shooting complex in the world.                                                    
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