Sheaf BagfarmersSHeaf

    It is the AD’s responsibility to verified all implements before a competition.

  • The Sheaf is a burlap bag filled with baling twine, rope, or hay. Baling twine tends to be the preferred material.
  • Some rule sets limit the sheaf size to be no more than 24” long, 18” wide, or 12” high.  — This has very little to do with judging the sheaf event.

The guide lines for the minimum weight of a sheaf:

Men’s Pros and Amateurs 20 Pounds
Men’s Masters and Lightweights 16 Pounds
Women’s (All) 10 or 12 Pounds
Women’s Masters (used by a few) 8 Pounds

Non-standard weights:  The 16-lb rather than the 20-lb sheaf is often used for amateur men in the Mid-West (Lots of tall uprights).  Certain regions use a 12-lb bag for women.  Masters 8-lb bag is only used at a few events..

The Pitchfork or is it a Hayfork?

This should not be a controversial topic.  However,  the rules are written with the knowledge that tradition is embedded in the rules leading to them being less rigid and legalistic.  This fact combined with our society moving further and further away from an agricultural based economy, leads to ambiguity in the definition of hay and pitch fork and makes it more difficult to purchase a three tine fork.  Thus, throwers are buying 5 tine forks and modifying them down to three tines.

Whether it be called a pitch or hay fork, the rules were written with regards to a three tine fork. This should not be an argument.

Pitch VS Hay fork

Throwers should not be surprised if a judge or AD bans the use of 5 tine fork.  ADs may consider banning these forks as the stab pattern is narrower than 3 tine forks, thus shortening the life of the bag.  Plan and simple economics.     .

Rules on the Fork

  • NASGA based rules: The sheaf will be thrown over a crossbar for height with a pitchfork. The toss shall be made in any manner desired using a pitchfork with at least two tines.
    • MASA & SSAAA rules requires the use of a three-tine pitchfork
  • Borges based rules: The toss is made using a pitchfork with a 5-foot nominal handle.
    • It can easily assumed that you can cut down the handle shorter than 5′.  The concern is with forks made artificially longer.
  • USAD rules are a bit more formalized:
    • The Pitch Fork used in the Sheaf Toss must be a commercially produced pitch fork.
    • The Pitch Fork can either have two or three tines.
    • The Pitch Fork handle shall have a nominal length of 5’ or less.
    • The Pitch Fork may be modified to the extent of removing tines, reshaping the tines, shortening the handle. Modifications such as welding additional handles, etc. are not allowed.
  • Competitors may bring their own forks but it is understood that any competitor may use any fork that used in that flight’s competition.

Comments on Fork rules

The reason for mentioning the length of the fork is to avoid problems with some who believe just because a rule-set does not expressly forbid something, that something is okay.  Years back, some joker brought a very long fork TO USE, which in turn triggered the length rule.  Judges and ADs need to step in and say NO, when things like this occur.

Highland Games rules are written with tradition in mind and does not have the over regulated flavor that appears in track and field event rules. Whether the rule set forbids overly long forks or not, the AD can refuse there use: His field, his rules.

Fork Modification:  Generally Not mentioned in rules but something a judge and AD needs to consider.  How will modifications of sheaf forks be viewed. Modifications such as welding additional handles, etc. should not be allowed as the additional handles may provide a competitive advantage.  Further, judges and ADs are generally not machinists and are not able to judge the modifications, which can change the temper of the steel, weakening the fork.  There have been cases were a tine broke and the bag shot off to the side with the tine still embedded, which brings up the specter of safety.

Throwing Motion

  • Sheaf – The toss must be made using a pitch fork .
    • The competitor can use anybody’s pitch fork is not in every rule set, but is a basic principal of this event: Borge’s Rule Set states it well: Competitors may bring their own pitchforks but it is understood that any competitor may use any pitchfork that will be used in the competition.
      • As a judge, encourage respect for other throwers fork.

Not in most rule sets, but is understood:

      • The pitch fork is never thrown with the sheaf. If it is, the attempt is scratched. Can do this under Unsportsmanlike conduct and or completing the throw safety.
      • In general the pitch fork should remain in both hands.
      • A scratch should be called if the thrower intentionally completes the throw one handed in the situation where he stands under the bar and lifts bag over bar one handed and shakes the bag off — the starting height should never be this low for this to happen.
      • It will be considered an attempt when the bag falls of the fork after the throwing motion starts but before the throw is completed
        • The same goes for when the thrower launches the sheaf and it rebounds back towards the thrower and he catches… The thrower does not get to start over!
        • The attempt starts when the thrower sets his position and the bag leaves the ground.



  • Even though each and every thrower is responsible for his/her own safety, the judge has the ability to set the tone by emphasizing safety issues before each event.
  • Before each throw, the impact area should be scanned for those foolish enough to cross. Throwing should be halted until the field is clear of those not involved in the event.
  • The judge should pick a position to stand or sit that allows clear view of the cross bar and outside of the impact zone or the zone where the sheaf bag will land if it flies off the fork at the low point.
  • Never stand or allow others to stand on the release side of the throwers as this is one of the most dangerous place to observe this or any event with the spin.
  • The Judge determines whether a throwing style is safe and whether the athlete can perform the style safely.
  • In the interest of safety, the judge has the right to disqualify any competitor who, in the judge’s opinion, does not have the ability to complete a throw without undue risk of injury to himself, other competitors, or spectators.
  • The judge also has the right to disqualify any competitor who displays poor sportsmanship or engages in inappropriate conduct.
  • An announcement that a left hand spinner is up should be made.
    • They release on the opposite side, which may dictate observes to move.
    • Observers and competitors can get complacent in height events.