At a time when most kids are looking for the newest video game craze, we have decided to dig deep into the world of obscure lawn games to bring you the best of the lot. As it turns out, there are plenty of ways we can entertain ourselves outdoors, not the least of which is a little game with PVC pipes and golf balls on a rope — ladder golf.
Ladder golf actually goes by many names, as it’s only recently been patented and standardized. It’s also known as ladder toss, ball rope, or hillbilly/redneck golf. However, despite the potentially unflattering names, it’s a great game that doesn’t demand a lot of equipment or space to play.
So today we’re going to talk about the game’s mysterious roots and the ladder golf game in general. We’ll also discuss the ladder golf game rules and ladder ball scoring, as well as how one might go around making their own ladder toss setup.
To start with the most pressing question, let’s try to get to the bottom of the origin of ladder toss.
According to most sources, redneck golf was first spotted in the 1990s on campgrounds across America. The game required a simple enough setup that included ladders and cheap golf balls, so it wasn’t hard to take it camping.
The golf balls were a part of the bolas, which were throwing weapons that existed even before the game. Because of the prevalence of this weapon in the Old West across the US and Mexico, it’s possible that the game’s origins stretch back a few centuries.
The rope weapon would have balls at the end, allowing North and South American cowboys to swing and release them at small animals. So it’s entirely possible that they used the same weapon for entertainment or simply for practice, and that the pastime later evolved into a game.
Even though the game of ladder toss might have these noble survivalist origins, it remained a family game up until the 21st century. It was then patented by Ladder Golf LLC, which subsequently started manufacturing the game. Since then, the company has continued to bring new eyes to the endlessly fun game, which is exactly what we’re hoping to do today!
Before we hop right into the topic of today’s article, let’s set the scene by talking about the general glossary of the game.
As we have mentioned, the key instruments in this game are the bolas, which consist of two golf balls connected by a length of rope. As you can imagine, those are easy to DIY.
Next, you’ve got the ladder, which is essentially the goal post of the game. Later on in the article, we’ll talk about how one might construct their own ladder. Surprisingly, it’s easier than you might think! The structure is only 3 ladder rungs tall, just above 3 feet in total. In addition, each of the rungs or steps carries different points.
Finally, the last term everyone should know is the toss line. The toss line is a couple of paces away from the ladder, and it’s where the players stand to toss the bolas onto the ladder. Although we’ll go over the official game rules shortly, we believe that everyone should keep to the spirit of the game in their own way.
So essentially, you can make the toss line as close or as far away from the ladder as you prefer. After all, the point of ladder toss is to have fun and spend some quality time with your friends and family!
At this point, you may be wondering: “How big is all of this supposed to be?” Well, don’t worry. You can play a game of ladder toss right in your backyard! Whether the game started with cowboys or campers, you can be sure that it’s compact enough to play just about anywhere. So here’s how you can set it up.
Ladder toss is a simple golf ball string game — so it’s honestly not very difficult to set up. We begin by taking out the ladders. Ideally, there should be about 15 feet between two ladders. However, if you’re playing in your backyard, you can keep it at just a couple of feet apart.
So the two ladders should be facing each other. From this position, the toss line for each ladder is right behind the ladder on the opposite side of the field. The three ladder rungs should all be about 13 inches apart from each other.
Therefore, the total height of the ladder should be about 3.25 feet or a bit taller. And, if you’re playing with even less space, you could keep your game to a single ladder as well. The ladders are also about 2 feet wide. Usually, store-bought ladder toss sets require some assembly. However, it’s as easy as clicking the pieces together, and possibly using screws to attach them.
Naturally, the final piece of the puzzle is the bola. Whether you’re buying or making your ladder golf game, you’ll notice that the length of the rope between the two golf balls is about 13 inches. However, the length can vary between brands and according to player preferences. The important thing is that the bola is able to wrap around the ladder rung securely instead of slipping off.
But now that we’ve established some basic ladder ball specs, we can talk about how to play the hillbilly golf game.
Now, even though the official ladder toss setup requires two ladders that are about 15 feet apart, we’ve already said that you could shrink that distance. There are also lots of other alternatives, especially if you get creative with it.
For example, you may also place the ladders side by side or even use a single ladder. If you end up making your own ladder and bolas, you can even make the ladder a bit wider than the regular 2 feet. That way, you’ll have extra space for the bolas. However, it would also be sort of like playing with the easy mode on. But, we’ll explain that when we go through the ladder ball instructions.
Even though we wouldn’t like to be called sticklers, the official version of the game does have some preset rules.
So what are the ladder golf game rules? Well, basically, the way you play this golf ball yard game is pretty similar to how you play horseshoes. The objective is to toss the bola onto one of the three ladder steps. However, while in a game of horseshoes players attempt to hit a vertical stake, in ladder toss, they’re trying to hit the horizontal step of the ladder.
Typically, the game can work with 2 or more players or teams, although you can practice on your own as well. Both sides should start the first round with 3 bolas each. Depending on the space available, the game will either start with two ladders that are either facing each other or side by side. If there’s no space for two ladders, you can get by with only one ladder and a couple of adjustments to the game rules.
The toss line can be set up a couple of feet away or even 15 feet away if you want to play by the book. We’ve found that a closer toss line is best for kids, or when you’re just having fun.
Before the players take their positions, we should decide who gets to toss first. We recommend starting with a random selection method, like a coin toss or drawing straws. Whoever wins the selection can throw their 3 bolas first, before another player tries their hand at it.
Each side can put forth one player to toss their bolas during a single round and switch them out. Whoever scores the most points at the end of a round can toss first the next round.
As it turns out, ladder ball scoring is fairly straightforward as well. According to the official rulebook, the game is over once a player or a team win 21 points. Of course, each of the ladder rungs is worth a certain amount. See? Pretty straightforward.
However, there are a few key aspects of the scoring rules that the players get to work out between themselves. For example, many families have their own ways of playing the ladder golf game. Specifically, players can decide whether there’s a way for the points to cancel out, and how that might happen. But before we start untangling those rules, let’s go over the official ways to score points in ladder toss.
Remember the patent we mentioned when we talked about the history of ladder toss? Well, according to the official rules the official Ladder Ball manufacturer uses, the three ladder steps are worth 1, 2, and 3 points, going from the bottom step upwards. Therefore, getting 21 points can take quite a few rounds — so you can settle in for a whole day of fun. However, there’s a catch!
In the official version of the game, the 21 point goal is actually more of a hard limit. So, if you have 19 points and have your bola land on the top rung, you have to toss again. Any toss that gets you over the 21 points is discarded. However, sticking to the rules too much can make a game less fun. That’s why the players should ultimately have the final say as far as the rules are concerned.
The points should be counted after each round after both teams have had the chance to toss. If you don’t want to write the score down on a piece of paper or whiteboard, the same company that makes the official ladder ball game also makes a scoreboard. The board can be hung or screwed onto the side of the ladder, or you can just have it on a table somewhere. It also comes with metal magnets in various colors, to signify each of the players’ scores.
Additionally, there are various ways to go about the toss as well as to disrupt the opposing team when they toss. But we’ll explain all the tips and tricks of ladder ball in a bit. Before we do, we should answer one last scoring question.
In a word: yes. But as always, it depends on the rules the players have agreed upon. So allow us to explain what the official rules of the rope ball game have to say about canceling points.
Imagine the following scenario. A player stands at the toss line and chucks their first bola, which lands on the top ladder rung. Remember, that one is worth 3 points. Still, you may not celebrate just yet. As they throw their second bola, they end up knocking the first one off the ladder!
In this case, the fallen bola wouldn’t count at the end of the round. And, the same goes if you’re playing with a single ladder, and one team or player knocks another’s bola off the ladder. Any bolas that aren’t on the ladder at the end of a round, after both sides have tossed their 3 bolas, don’t count, no matter where they landed.
Also, if two players or teams are playing with a single ladder, having both of their bolas land on one rung cancels out the points. For example, you could have two red bolas and a blue bola on the top step. If that happens, you would only add the 3 points to the blue team, since a bola would be taken from each side.
Of course, although these rules are straight from the official ladder ball instructions, we certainly won’t enforce them! The whole point of ladder toss is to have some fun, so, as with all of the other rules, including it in the game is entirely up to the players.
Now that we’ve gone over the general setup and scoring of this golf ball yard game, let’s talk about technique.
Once you step onto the toss line, you’re completely free to throw the bolas as you please. You can even bounce them off the ground. However, most people use an underhand method of tossing. Typically, players hold the ball at one end of the bola in their hand while the other one hangs at the end of the rope. Then, they swing their arm back a bit and release the bola with a forward motion.
Separating the balls like this makes it more likely for the rope part of the bola to completely wrap around the ladder rung. Players who have never player ladder toss tend to find this portion of the game more a matter of chance than anything else.
As you warm up to the game and learn to feel each toss out, you’ll begin to channel the awesome warriors who were the first to use this type of a throwing weapon. Through the ladder golf game, you’ll also sharpen your hand-eye coordination and gain more control over your movements as well.
However, the game actually takes more than just throwing skills. In fact, there’s a way to keep winning even when you’ve tossed your 3 bolas. According to the official ladder golf game rules, distracting the opposing player or team is not only allowed but encouraged. This is your chance to goof around and make as much noise as you’d like. Everything short of physically touching your opponent is fair game!
Obviously, since we’re going to be throwing things, we should also try to play it safe. Namely, when the opposing team is tossing their bolas onto your ladder, stand off to the side. You wouldn’t want a stray bola to hit you in the face, would you?
Also, bolas are for ladder toss, not horseplay. If you have kids, you ought to teach them not to misuse the bolas or climb the ladders. The ladders won’t be able to withstand the weight, and children can either chuck the bolas at each other, or squeeze them around various body parts. Surely no one needs to be garrotted, no matter how intense the round is. In fact, someone getting hurt will only lead to an abrupt end of the game. So it’s best to avoid such unpleasantness altogether by taking some safety precautions.
But now we’re ready for the game! We all know the ladder toss rules, the glossary, and the scoring system. And, we even managed to learn some tossing tricks! The only thing that’s missing is the ladder ball set itself — so where can you get one?
Well, when it comes to buying a ladder toss set, you’ll be happy to learn that you can find it pretty much everywhere. As we have mentioned before, there is a single company that holds the patent for the ladder ball game. However, since the game had existed since long before it was patented, many other companies have tried their hand at making a ladder toss set. So we cannot even say that the original patent holders make the best product — although, of course, we encourage you to try different ones.
Certainly, online shopping is the easiest way to get your hands on a ladder ball set. Amazon actually has a whole ladder ball subcategory of products in their Outdoor Games section. In fact, they actually have all sorts of sets, as well as bolas of various colors. Since most ladder ball sets come with only six bolas, three of each color, you may well find yourself in need of a few extras.
And, if we’re discussing the best ladder ball game manufacturer, we do have a company in mind.
Having researched the best ladder golf manufacturers in the business, we feel confident that GoSports is the best one of the lot. We particularly like their PVC set with 3 red and 3 blue golf ball bolas. The bolas are made of a thicker, 16-inch long cord and real golf balls!
The ladder is made of white, blue, red, and yellow PVC pipes, and the two ladders come with blue and red PVC connectors to help distinguish the different teams’ ladders. There’s also a scoreboard between the top and the middle rung of the ladder, with a sliding marker to help keep score. This product is also incredibly easy to assemble and take apart, and it even comes with a convenient bag.
However, if you don’t really want to get your ladder toss set from the Internet, you can easily make your own. So if you’re in the mood for a DIY project, here’s how you can do it.
If you just love the way the GoSports ladder ball set looks, but figure that you can do it better, you can just head on over to your local hardware store and buy a couple of PVC pipes and connectors and be done with it. Or, if you prefer the wood setup the original Ladder Ball company makes it, you can also do that. Both ways are pretty easy to do, but let’s start with the easier route: the PVC pipe set!
If you’ve ever wondered how to make your own ladder golf set, we’ve got you covered. All you need is some careful consideration and a bit of effort. So let’s start with some consideration.
First, try to envision or even draw what you want your ladders to look like. You’ll want to have a stable rectangular base and three ladder rungs sticking up from the middle of the base. Once you decide upon the size you want your ladder to be, you’ll be able to get the materials you need from the nearest home improvement or hardware store.
For the most basic shape of a ladder, one with a rectangular base, you’re going to need 6 T-shaped PVC connectors and 6 elbow collectors for a single ladder. The T connectors are going to connect the longer sides of the base rectangle to the ladder, as well as the lower two rungs of the ladder to the sides. The elbow connectors will hold the points of the rectangle base as well as the top ladder step.
Other than the PVC pipes, you may also purchase spray paint if you want to decorate your creation. And, while you’re at the store, you might as well pick up a nylon rope for the bolas — but we’ll talk about that a bit further down the line.
When it comes to the length and the thickness of the PVC pipes you need to get, it’s all up to you. We recommend going for the 0.75-inch PVC pipes and attachments. As for the pipe length, you can essentially do whatever you want. However, if you want to do it by the book, you can make the ladder 2 feet wide and 3.25 feet tall, with 13 inches of space between each of the ladder rungs.
That would require you to get nine 2-foot PVC pipes for the steps and the base rectangle. The base can have two 2-foot pipes on the longer sides, and one on each of the short sides. But if you find the length of the base excessive, you can trim the pieces on the longer sides. You’ll also need six 13-inch pipes to go between the base and the ladder steps.
And, if you’re not a rule stickler either, you can throw the rulebook out entirely and make your ladder completely to your own liking. No one ever said it couldn’t be 3, or even 4 feet wide. Why not have more than 3 ladder rungs? A little bit of creativity never hurt anyone, especially when doing DIY projects!
If you’re going to spray paint your parts, we recommend doing so a day before assembly. We also wouldn’t advise the use of glue during assembly. That way, you’ll be able to disassemble the ladders and take them with you wherever you go.
Although building your own PVC ladder toss set would be incredibly easy, there’s something to be said about playing with wooden ladders. However, it would also require more planning.
If you want to make wooden ladders, you’ll have to be more skilled with a drill. You can build a T-shaped base using 3 boards for each side of the ladder — a 3.25-foot long one and a shorter one that will stand on the floor. The ladder rungs can also be wooden sticks, or you could use metal or PVC pipes.
As we have mentioned, the dimensions and the amount of materials are completely up to you. But as long as you create a plan and follow through, you should be just fine. And the best thing is that these materials are typically pretty affordable as well!
If you want to make everything look nice, you may want to find a friend or a family member whose tools you can borrow. When you buy the boards, you can sand them or perhaps round the edges a bit. Moreover, you can top them with a clear shiny coat, or even stain or paint them. If you want to connect the horizontal and vertical pieces of wood with an interlocking design, you’ll want to saw some bits off both pieces.
When the boards click together, you can drill through them both and connect them with a screw. Make sure to choose a screw or a connector that’s easy to take off. That way, you’ll be able to disassemble and pack up your ladder.
Still, if you don’t care about the portability and are only making a ladder toss set to keep in your backyard, you can just nail and screw everything together. Or, if you want the ladder rungs to be removable, you could screw closet pole sockets to the insides of the vertical boards and hang the ladder steps from them. However, in this case, you would need the base pieces to be connected to each other.
Alright, so we’ve got our ladders. Now, all we need is the bolas, and we’ll be all set! You can get used golf balls in many sports stores or get cheap ones from the dollar store. You should be able to find 3 balls for a dollar, so you can get about 9 to begin with.
To easily distinguish between various players’ bolas, you’ll have to spray paint them. But before you do, you should drill a 0.3-inch hole through the balls. Make sure that you have a sure grip on them — with clamps, not fingers — and try to make a hole that goes straight through the middle of the ball.
Now that your golf balls are ready, you can take out the rope. As we have mentioned, the official ladder golf game rules call for the bolas to be 13 inches long. However, our favorite store-bought set has 16-inch bolas. And while you definitely shouldn’t go too short, ultimately, the length of the bolas is up to you.
If you’re using nylon rope, you can insert it through the ball, then tie the rope off and burn the edges a bit. Since the rope is nylon, it’ll melt and seal the knot. Repeat the process on the other side of the rope, and you’ve got yourself a bola!
The thickness of the rope doesn’t seem to matter in this case. You can even use twine or a thin rope — as long as it won’t snap upon impact. However, since some brands rely on the superior thickness of their rope to sell their ladder toss sets, it may be relevant after all. So while we definitely wouldn’t advise going overboard, a thicker rope might help you get a better toss out. As long as your rope can fit through the hole you drill into the golf balls, you’ll be fine.
There you have it! You’ve just become an expert at a fantastic golf ball yard game. With a bit of ingenuity, we’re certain that you’ll be able to make it your own. What’s more, there are many variations of the game you could play, too!
Many a summer day could have been improved if we’d only known about ladder golf sooner! Fortunately, you needn’t have the same regrets. Back up your ladder toss set, whether it is homemade or store-bought, and take your kids for a beach holiday. We guarantee that they’ll be only too thrilled to spend the day sharpening their tossing skills!
Yes, ladder golf can be romantic, too. With just a few modifications to the game, you can make sure that no one ever forgets your happy day. For example, you might decorate the golf balls at the end of the bolas to look like roses. Or, you could wrap satin ribbons around the ladders!
It’s the most epic battle we can imagine — the groomsmen versus the bridesmaids! And of course, having a game of ladder ball will offer ample amusement for everyone else as well. The only thing that can make your special day even better is to have a ladder toss game bring the families even closer together.