First, let me say that we lived in Florida just under 3 years. While we played shuffleboard for most of that time, our experiences were confined to the Avon Park and Sebring shuffleboard clubs. So, by no means am I an expert on Florida shuffleboard.
That being said, I’ve now played shuffleboard longer than that here in St. Louis. Here are the primary differences I have noted between how they play shuffleboard in Florida compared to how we play shuffleboard in St. Louis, both for practice and in tournaments.
In Florida, we had very specific warm-up exercises we did to determine drift and speed of the courts. Here in St. Louis, we don’t. We usually do one practice lag, one real lag, and then two practice shots. I can remember taking practice shots with my partner in doubles using their stick to simulate a block on each side, then shooting at a disk in the 10, and 4 more disks on each side of each 7.
In Florida everyone I played against began their games by setting up a block. In the Midwest, no one but me does that, and I don’t do it all the time. It depends on the court and who I’m playing against. No, here they go for the point and hope that their opponent misses removing it and then they put the block up if that happens.
When I first moved back to St. Louis only a few players removed an opponents disk from line. Now most of them realize if they don’t take that disk off, the other player will try to convert it into a double.
Both in Florida and here there are players known for being “kitchen players” and others that never try to put you in the kitchen.
We played 12 frame games in Florida, and in some tournaments whoever reached 75 points won. Here we usually play 8 frame games. Being the type of player that takes a few frames to learn the court, I almost always do better in the last 4 frames than the first 4 frames. In fact, most of my wins are come from behind victories. I wish we did play 12 frame games all the time, I think I’d win more often. Our club does occasionally play 12 games, something I suggested we do just to get used to the longer games we may face in tournaments
In Florida, the norm is to clear the board once you get a significant lead, and continue to keep it clear for the rest of the game. In some of the tournaments I played in at Avon Park, when faced with a really good opponent, that happened to me as early as the 3rd frame of the game. While it ups the chances of winning, it really isn’t much fun if you’re the one behind.
I have shared some of these differences with my friends in the St. Louis Shuffleboard Club. A few of the more competitive players will start clearing the board in the 6th frame of an 8 frame game. Most do not. Some of our really good players will ease up on the weaker players once they have a comfortable lead. A few show no mercy ever.
I must confess, in one game where I played against a raw beginner I just wanted to see how high I could score in the 8 frame game. My opponent was not removing my disks so for me, the game was just “target practice.” I focused on scoring and did not remove my opponents disks either. I ended up with over 160 points, which I think is a club record. I’ve never done that again, and I’m usually one of the guys that shaves a little off my game if I dominating to the point where it’s embarrassing to my opponent. There are a few of us that will even go so far as to knock an opponents disk out of the kitchen for them. I see no point in crushing them. In fact, some of us just consider our inter squad games as practice for the tournaments. Glen VanMatre, is a good example. He’s in the middle of the stat sheet for inter squad wins in our club, but he has won more Gold and Silver medals in tournaments than anyone else in the club.
As good as some of our players are, I often wonder how we would stack up against Florida players. We only play twice a week in those 8 frame games so I suspect we’d beat most of the amateurs, but I’m not so sure how we’d do against the pros. What I wish could happen is a “Shuffleboard Player Exchange Program.” It would be like a “Student Exchange Program” – we’d arrange to have 8 or 10 of us visit a club in Florida and stay with “hosts” from that club, and then reciprocate and open our homes to a similar sized group who would come to St. Louis to compete against us in friendly matches. Then during non playing time we’d show our guests around St. Louis. How cool would that be?
My other “fantasy” is to someday become a snow bird and each Winter go back to Florida and tune-up my game by playing 4 or 5 times a week against some of the best players in the country. Funny, when I was younger I fantasied about beautiful women, now it’s shuffleboard!
Stan Speaks: I have some appreciation as to what motivated Stu to prepare the above article: Here is one I wrote (2004) while wintering in Arizona: Arizona Florida Comparison up 2017 08 03