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Last updated: October 3, 2021
If you’ve seen people playing ladder ball in a park or at a barbecue, you might be wondering exactly what it is. Or maybe you sort of have an idea but are a bit fuzzy on the specifics.
Either way, this guide will walk you through the game and teach you how to play ladder ball. Even if you’ve played before, you might learn something new!
What Is Ladder Ball?
As you might already know, I am a huge fan of backyard games, and ladder ball is definitely on my list of favorite games to play with friends and family.
But what exactly is ladder ball?
Also referred to as lasso golf and ladder toss, the game of ladder ball basically revolves around throwing two balls tied together with a rope (bola) onto a ladder.
It’s a similar concept as throwing a pair of tied up shoes in the air onto telephone wires and power lines. You get the idea. Points are scored if the bolas stay on the rungs (or steps) of the ladder.
That’s ladder ball in a nutshell. Now let’s dive a little deeper into the specifics of this great backyard game.
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Ladder Ball Rules for Dummies
Ladder ball is the perfect lawn and backyard game, because it is so easy to set up and start playing.
Before we get into how to play ladder ball, let’s take a look at what sort of equipment you will need for the game.
Setup and Equipment
Ladder ball is one of the easiest games to set up, which makes it so convenient to take on camping trips and to tailgating parties.
You only need two things for a game of ladder ball:
You can buy these together in a ladder ball set, or otherwise make them yourself at home. Let’s explain how below.
1. The Ladders
Ladder ball ladders are typically 36″ to 39″ high and about 2 ft wide. They contain three rungs that are about 12″ to 13″ apart.
Buying a set is easiest (and not expensive at all), but If you don’t want to buy a set, you can make one out of PVC pipes, wood, or metal. A home-made set might be a fun family project, too.
Check out this YouTube video explaining how to build your own ladder ball sets with PVC pipes and golf balls.
Traditionally, ladder ball uses two ladders, but you can also start playing with just one ladder if you’re short on time or materials.
2. The Bolas
Bolas are two balls connected by a rope, typically a nylon rope. Each player or team in ladder ball will have three bolas, usually in different colors to make it easy to tell which ones belong to which person.
As with ladder ball ladders, you can buy bolas in a ladder ball set. But they’re incredibly easy to make, using nylon rope and the ball type of your choice. Basically, any evenly-weighted ball will do, but popular options include:
- Golf balls
- Tennis balls
- Rubber or plastic balls
You can even make a monkey’s fist knot at each end of the rope instead of adding proper balls. As long as you get a decent amount of weight on each end, it will work.
Now that you know what equipment you need to start playing, let’s get into the game’s objectives and rules.
The objective of ladder ball is really simple.
You’re going to try to throw the bola at the ladder in such a way that it wraps around a rung and stays there until the end of the round. Each bola still hanging from a rung at the end of a round wins points for the person or team that threw that bola.
You can play the game as a one-against-one game, or as two groups of up to four players. The first person or team with 21 points wins.
The game’s simplicity is one of its charms, making it ideal for family backyard game days, or events where people of different ages are playing together. It’s simple enough to understand, but challenging enough to keep things interesting.
It’s also worth noting that ladder ball’s simplicity also makes it easy to adjust to suit different players’ needs, so it’s something everyone can enjoy together.
Ladder Ball Rules
Ladder ball rules are easy to follow, which is great because it means that it’s easy to teach to new players.
- Set up two ladders 15 ft apart from each other. If you only have one ladder, use it along with a throw line about 15 ft away.
- One at a time, players stand alongside one ladder (or behind the throw line) and throw their bolas at the far ladder. Once the first player throws all three, it’s the other player’s turn.
- After each bola is thrown, the round is over, and it’s time to add up the points. You’ll play as many rounds as needed until a player scores exactly 21 points.
There are a couple of things to note since they’ll definitely come up at some point:
- Only bolas still hanging at the end of the round are counted. Players can, and often do, knock each other’s bolas off the rungs. This is allowed and part of the fun.
- Players must not cross in front of the throw line or ladder while throwing.
- If a player scores over 21, the points they score in the last round don’t count.
- In the case of a tie, players continue playing until one player scores exactly two points at the end of a round.
For example: a player goes into a round with 20 points. Say they score two points, bringing their total to 22. The two points they scored in that round don’t count, and their total is still 20. They must play another round in the hopes of scoring exactly one point to reach the goal of 21 points.
Because ladder ball is such a casual game, many people have slight variations on the original rules. Feel free to adjust the rules as needed to suit your players.
As with the rest of ladder ball, players are free to change the scoring process as they see fit. But in the original game, scoring is as follows:
- Top rung: 3 points
- Middle rung: 2 points
- Bottom rung: 1 point
To make things even more exciting, ladder ball also offers players bonus points if you:
- Wrap all bolas around one rung in a round.
- Wrap one bola on each rung in a round.
Keep in mind that, like regular points, bonus points are only scored at the end of a round, so the bolas must remain hanging to count.
Ladder ball is meant for fun backyard and tailgate gatherings where it’s okay to get a little loud, albeit within reasonable limits.
As such, the game allows, or even encourages, distracting players with banter and movement, as long as there is no touching other players or bolas involved.
Now that you know how to play ladder ball, you’ll be ready the next time someone brings it out at a family gathering. Or better yet, buy or make your own set so you can introduce it to others.
It’s the perfect way to enjoy some quality time outside in the backyard with friends and family.