The Cornhole Game: All You Ever Wanted

What do you think of when someone mentions the word “Cornhole“? For some people, it might be a game played at family reunions. For others, it may conjure up memories of good times with friends on summer evenings. And for many others still, they may not have any idea what “Cornhole” is! Well then- this post is for you!

Here are all the basics to get started playing Cornhole like a pro and making your next summer party one that you will talk about until next summer comes around again: What is a cornhole game?

What is a Cornhole Game?

Cornhole is a popular backyard game in the USA. Its fame has been spreading massively across all states in the past years. The game itself is almost like a corny (Yes, I’m secretly a struggling comedian) version of Horseshoes. 

In horseshoes, you need to throw actual horseshoes and make them land on a pole. In Cornhole, you need to throw corn kernel-filled bags into a hole on a wooden platform. It sounds surprisingly easy, but there are plenty of intricacies at work in such simple motions.

It is a game that is easy to play but hard to master. People of all ages can enjoy it equally, so it spreads like wildfire across all states, a bit like Spike Ball. Given the relatively simplistic nature of the game, it has professional leagues and regular sporting league events on ESPN.

The origin of the game is a bit obscure, but modern Cornhole gained its popularity in Cincinnati. It soon became the backyard game of choice for any house party in the Midwest. It used to be a typical game people played at tailgating parties.

Tailgating parties are one of the catalysts behind its spread across the country. People from different states came to know about the game through these events, and they brought it back to their states.

Why Do They Call It Cornhole?

Most people ask, “what is a cornhole game?” but few spend time thinking about why it is called a “cornhole” in the first place. The game has quite a few aliases, such as bag toss, tailgate toss, beanbag, etc. But Cornhole remains its prominent identity because the primary authoritative organization of the game ACA & ACO uses Cornhole in their name. 

However, not all cornhole bags have corn kernels in them. Sometimes they use sand, resin, plastic, and other such materials as substitutes. They use resin-based fillings in the bags for Pro League. Cornhole does not sound like the most creative name for the sport. However, it is the one that best describes the essence of the game in a literal sense.

There are controversies regarding the name, and many people want to have it changed to something else. The term “Cornhole” is also a widely-used slang in some states, so some people are not entirely comfortable with the name.

There are always some term-police on the internet who will come up with countless arguments and counterarguments about this topic so that I won’t venture too far into the murky waters.

How Many Boards Do I Need in The Cornhole?

You would generally need two boards and 2 sets of bags to play the game. The Cornhole boards are 48″ x 24″ with a 6-inch hole at the top. The placement of the hole is 9-inches below the top panel. Both boards share the exact dimensions and size. The top of each board needs to be 12-inches above the ground, and the bottom needs an elevation of 3-inches.

Cornhole has two game modes. The singles mode involves a lot more walking because both players pitch from the same side. So, they need to walk to the other board to retrieve the bags after each frame. In singles, players need to switch from panel to board after every frame.

Of course, you can choose not to walk all the way there if you have a 3rd party carry the bags back to you, but this is not how it goes in the Pro League. However, you do not need to walk back & forth in doubles. Both sides have two players standing in doubles, so you can keep cycling through the bags as the game goes on.

What’s the Distance for Cornhole?

A standard Cornhole game takes place with the two boards 27 feet apart. There are also 33 feet layouts for larger venues. Young people (10y/o ones, not the 20+ ones) generally play on shorter courts, but the pro league has no such accommodations.

A cornhole court is 40 feet long and about 8 feet wide. This measurement is only regulated for the pro league, so you do not need to follow it accurately to play in your backyard. Most of the time, just having the boards 27 feet apart is more than enough to enjoy a good round of Cornhole.

Of course, you would need to follow the measurement to a T if you are hosting a tournament. There’s also an added requirement of vertical clearance of 12 feet above the board. That means you cannot play in a backyard that has any overhead obstacles.

How Many Points is it Worth When a Bag Lands on The Board?

Cornhole Bags 0 & X
Cornhole Bags 0 & X Photo by https://unsplash.com/@jontyson

You can score a single point when the bag lands on the board. When the bag lands and stays on the board, it is called a woody. If it slides through the hole, then it is called Cornhole.

Cornhole follows a cancellation scoring system. One player can cancel the other player’s score if they have a higher score. For example, if you score 3 points, and the opponent scores 1 point in one frame, the end score will be 2-0.

The game ends after one player reaches 21 points. You get 1 point for placing the bag on the board and 3 points if the bag goes into the hole. The overall score is determined at the end of each frame (after both sides throw 4 sacks). The players cannot move the cornhole bags before counting the score each round.

There’s a scoring tower that comes with this game. Each player needs to update their score on it after playing one frame. Though, it is better to have a third party manage the scoring tower for transparency reasons.

What is the Cornhole Bust Rule?

Busting rules are kind of unsavoury, in my opinion. It can get pretty complex if the scorekeeper messes up in any way. The bust is a local game rule, and you won’t ever see it on the official matches hosted by the ACL.

The busting rule reverts player’s or group’s scores to 15 if they cross the 21-score mark. Now you may be wondering how that is legitimately possible if the game ends at 21 points. It happens because the scores are tallied at the end of each frame. So, you could end up with more scores than necessary if you don’t play it carefully.

It is more of a house rule at this point. The ACL does not allow the bust rule in official games, and whoever reaches 21 first will get to claim the victory. You will only see the bust rule in an amateur league or unofficial games & tourneys.

Where to Buy Cornhole Game?

You can get Cornhole boards from Amazon or get a set from the American Cornholes directly. The ones from ACO are generally more reliable than the ones you get from random shopping sites. 

The ACO has alternate boards with dice like this ACO dice game. Of course, they also have the standard tournament board. The downside is these premium ones are relatively expensive. So it is generally cheaper to get a woodworker to build one for you.

The Fundamentals of Making Your DIY Cornhole

If you can’t find a cornhole board to buy, you can always go the DIY route. See, cornhole boards are some of the easiest things to craft. It is an inclined board with a hole on it. How hard can it possibly be to craft?

The ACO has accurate measurement standards for their cornhole boards. I suggest following that to avoid any inconsistencies.

Step 1: Materials

First off, you’ll need to get 2 pieces of 3/4, 1/4, or 2/4 plywood (Thinner ones will reduce the board’s weight and make it easier to carry). You will need each of them to be 24×48 inches to adhere to the ACO rules. Get some premium pine or other top-quality wood. That way, you won’t have to spend too much time sanding the board for smoothness.

You will also need four 2/4s for the beams of the board. You need to divide that into four pieces 20-3/4 inches, four 40-7/8 inches, and two 12-inch pieces. I suggest getting all of the wood sized up from a woodworking store unless you have the appropriate tools at home.

You will also need four 4-inch 3/8 bolts. Also, get 4 washers for those bolts. You can get matching ones if you get them from the same store. You can find these in any hardware store. On one end, cut two semi-circles out of the 12-inch pieces. These will act as the board legs.

Step 2: The Frame

Now connect the beams into the correct shape of the board and drill them together from the front. You will need two screws from each side, so four screws in total. Use clamps to tighten the beams before drilling to make sure everything stays straight.

You will need extra tools if you want to do the pocket-hole. Most people don’t keep a pocket-hole jig lying around, so I won’t elaborate too much on that.

Step 3: Place the Plywood

Place the plywood over the frame you just made. You can use screws to secure the plywood on top. Do it from the top side of the board so that the screws don’t pop up on the game side. You can seal the screws with some putty later so your surface will remain smooth.

Brad’s nails are another excellent option if you have the necessary equipment. These are far less messy than regular screws. Countersink screws from the top are another option, so is using pocket holes from the bottom. So, it depends on the kind of equipment you have on hand.

Step 4: Attach the Legs

The semi-circles side of the 12-inch legs should go towards the plywood board. You need to drill two holes on the side of the board to fit the bolts. Place the leg through the bolt and then tighten it down enough to secure the legs.

You’ll then need to cut the angles on each leg so that the board doesn’t wobble. It’s a bit tough to get the measurements right, so be careful about that. The legs need to stay parallel when you pull them out.

Step 5: The Cornhole

You should always cut the hole after placing the plywood on the frame. Doing it before it’s secure might ruin its shape. Grab a paper the same size as your board, and draw the required 6-inch hole in the appropriate position, 12 inches down from the upper line of the board.

Use the paper to mark the hole on the wood and use a flush-trim to make the hole. You can sand the board down with a power sander for a finishing touch. Now paint over it, apply some varnish or wood oil as you see fit.

Tips For Getting Better at Cornhole

Cornhole is a simple game, but it takes a lot to become a master. The more tips and tricks you know, the better your performance will get. Here are few helpful hints to enhance your cornhole skills:

  • Weight distribution: Distribute your weight evenly. It’s better to stand steady with secure footing than leaning forward to gain an extra few inches. Evenly distributed weight will help steady your aim.
  • Hand movement: Try to keep your throwing hand straight. It’s OK to bend the elbow slightly, but you ultimately want to have a straight hand when the bag leaves your hands.
  • Grip: four fingers at the middle of the bag and your thumb at the top. You want to hold it like you are holding a small Frisbee. Don’t pink a corner like holding a dirty diaper because that will mess with your aim.
  • Posture: Relax your shoulders and hand when you throw the bag. Tightly grabbing it will only slow it down.
  • Cornhole is a fun game to get the whole family together. Check out this short video from the American Cornhole League!

American Cornhole League. (2021, February 24). Cornhole 101: Mastering The Basics [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f9RQdkfksZk

Conclusion

I hope you learned something from this article because I had a blast writing it. Remember that Cornhole is always fun to play and a great way to de-stress. It’s also perfect for getting the family together or making friends on the beach when they come over with their board in tow! And as a bonus – it’s a blast to play by yourself as well.

Please share this article with your friends and let them know how they can have fun for hours on end! I’ll be back next week with more creative ideas, so make sure you bookmark my blog or subscribe. Thanks again, and I hope you enjoy the Cornhole game.

Sources of Information

What is Cornhole? (2021, July 13). American Cornhole. https://americancornhole.com/what-is-cornhole/

K. (2018, May 22). Cornhole Game History. Historic Hudson Valley. https://hudsonvalley.org/article/cornhole-the-game-and-its history

Official Cornhole Rules by the ACO – American Cornhole Organization. (2021, July 5). American Cornhole. https://americancornhole.com/rules/

Cornhole Central. (2021, April 13). Cornhole Rules and Scoringhttps://cornholecentral.com/cornhole-rules

Lazy Lab Acres. (2019, June 15). How To Make Money Building Cornhole Boards [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xwsr5haKYLc

DIY PETE. (2019, June 23). How To Make Cornhole Boards [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcY0B3O_ryA

Joe2Jock. (2019, January 11). Cornhole for Beginners [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b10mBn5sFc0

Cornhole Science. (2021, May 16). Cornhole Science Clinic [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fvJfawbU2uw&t=761s

Wikipedia contributors. (2021, August 14). Cornhole. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cornhole

Muller, M. (2021, May 7). The History Of Cornhole – How It All Began. Cornholecanvas.Com. https://cornholecanvas.com/blogs/cornhole-life/history-of-cornhole-test-2

Joe, John And Jared & Cornhole.com LLC. (n.d.). The Origin of Cornhole | Bag Toss History – Cornhole.com. Cornhole.Com. Retrieved August 21, 2021, from https://www.cornhole.com/cornhole-origin.php

6 thoughts on “The Cornhole Game: All You Ever Wanted”

  1. I am from South America. I recently heard about this backyard game called cornhole, but I didn’t know what it was all about. So I decided to research. Thank you for writing this post. It has answered all my questions and even given me a bit of background how this game became popular in the US. Over in my country, there are also some simple games that are popular at any gathering.

    Reply
    • Hello, Ann in South America. I would love to hear more about those simple games and backyard BBQs you guys have over there! Yeah, cornhole has just started getting popular here in New Zealand with lawn bowls, so it’s perfect for a fun summer evening on the grass 😉

      Reply
  2. Hi, I’m Shannon and I am from the northern suburbs of Adelaide South Australia, Here we play a similar game we call potato shooter.

    Our game has the same basic structure it is just done with a sack of potatoes and a hole dug in the ground. lol

    I can see how doing with the wooden platform would be a way for the city folk to play. I think this is great how one game can be played in two different countries and be called two different names and be played with different tools.

    Reply
    • Fantastic feedback, Shannon fascinating. The potato game sounds like a ball. I think we have a game with Kumara in NZ. Sorry about the pun. We have some amazing traditional games to that is something I can use to expand this blog and have a different angle teaching the world about backyard games.   

      Reply
  3. Thank you for the in-depth overview of a favorite outdoor activity of mine. It was only a few months ago that I noticed the professional leagues playing on tv, things have come a long way.

    We play this more often during football season while tailgating, but also break it out during family functions to get everyone out and enjoying the fresh air. It truly is a great family friendly game that can be enjoyed by all ages.

    Reply
    • It has just recently gained popularity as a pleasant backyard pastime in New Zealand. It is common to see more leisure activities at Fairs and Galas, so it would be great when it grows into a new sport with seminars and events like lawn bowls. It strikes me as the perfect retirement game. Croquet clubs already exist. You are quite correct; it is ideal for the whole family, including a grandmother and the burgeoning small child.

      Reply

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