How to Play Ladder Ball: Rules for a Favorite Backyard Game

By Jackson Lewis

Bolas hang on a ladder golf rung

Ladder ball is a fun game to play at any outdoor occasion. It has nothing to do with golf, except for the fact that it involves golf balls, so no golf skill is required. This article will help you learn the rules of ladder ball so you can be a step ahead at your next backyard get together.

Ladder golf, also known as ladder ball or ladder toss, is a yard game you’ve probably seen played at a family barbecue, tailgate, the beach, or in a friend’s backyard. Unlike real golf, the only skill involved is tossing a bola, so it’s welcoming to all, beginners and ladder golf experts alike.

Ladder Golf Rules at a Glance

The official ladder ball distance is 15 feet, and teams earn points for each bola they successfully toss onto a rung. The higher the rung, the more points are earned. For quick reference, the rules of ladder ball are outlined below. Continue reading for more detailed rules and scoring.

1. Play with 2 or 4 players consisting of two teams. Each team uses a set of three bolas.
2. Set the ladders and throw line 15 feet apart.
3. Score three points for a bola on the top rung, two for the middle rung, and one for the bottom rung. An optional bonus point may be awarded for all three bolas on one rung, or one bola on each rung.
4. Score exactly 21 points to win.

Additional Ladder Toss Rules

During each round, every player on each team gets a turn throwing his or her three bolas at the ladder target. The bolas must be thrown one at a time and tossed underhand.

After every player has thrown all of their bolas, the round is over. Bolas may be thrown in any manner they desire, including bouncing them off the ground. Opponents are allowed to distract bola tossers through making noise and other means as long as the bolo tosser is not touched.

No participant may cross the toss line until all players have thrown their bolas in the round.

Ladder Golf Setup

Ladder golf can be played with two or four players, representing two teams. The object of the game is to be the first team to reach exactly 21 points.

The equipment used in ladder golf is simple: two ladders and six bolas. The ladders each have three rungs and the bolas, consisting of two golf balls attached to each other by a short rope, come in two colors, with three of each color.

Set the two ladders 15 feet apart, measuring from the base of the ladder, not the outstretched leg. The ladder represents the throw line, so be sure not to drift in front of your ladder when tossing your bola.

Stand on the opposite side of your partner, and if playing in teams of two, next to an opponent. Flip a coin to determine which team will throw first, and the teams will alternate turns following the first bolo toss.

Ladder Golf Scoring

Ladder ball scoring is done by hanging bolas on the ladder rungs. Typical point values for the ladder rungs are:

Rung Points
Top 3
Middle 2
Bottom 1

An optional one bonus point may be awarded if you manage to get all of your bolas on the same ladder rung or one on each rung of the ladder in one turn.

You can knock an opponent's bola off a ladder rung, and they lose the points previously earned.

In the event of a tie at 21, play continues until one team is two or more points ahead of the other team after a round.

If a team exceeds 21 points, all of their points for that round are canceled and they return to the total they had when the round began.


Image: Irina274/iStock/Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

About the Author

Based in Memphis, Jackson Lewis has been writing on technology-related material for 10 years with a recent emphasis on golf and other sports. He has been freelance writing for Demand Media since 2008. Lewis holds a Master of Science in computer science from the United States Naval Postgraduate School.