How to Play Ladder Ball: Rules and Gameplay Instructions

Ladder ball rules can be intimidating if you haven’t played the game before. But don’t let that stop you! Ladder ball is one of those massive hit tailgate games that one just can’t imagine an American sports event without. It’s popularity across the country, and later the world can be attributed to the variations in rules that have appeared locally to make the game more interesting. 

Accordingly, in different regions, the game is called monkey ball, ladder toss, goofy balls, rope and balls, and much more. The official name is, however, Ladder Golf declared by the copyright holder, Ladder Golf® which also dictates the official ladder ball rules.

The rules are quite easy to follow and below, we will quickly walk you through them while dropping in a few helpful tips making it easier for you.

What Is Ladder Ball?

Ladder Ball Game Info image

Ladder ball is a popular backyard game loved by kids and adults alike and for good reason. Just like Bocce Ball, it involves equal mental concentration along with physical coordination, technique, and precision. Yet, it’s charm lies in the ladder ball rules that are simple and easy to master with some basic practice. Once you’re through with the rules, you will enjoy the challenging moments while playing it with your kids.

Number Of Players: 2-6 (three teams of two players each).

Ages: Enjoyable for all age groups.

Difficulty: Medium.

Length Of Play: 30 mins for professionals – over an hour for beginners (for a game or two of Ladderball).

Main Objective: Wrap bolas around higher valued rungs.

Why We Love It: Ladder ball rules are simple but flexible. This makes it an ideal game for playing with kids and family, but also leaves room for tweaking a few rules to increase the level of challenge for adults. On a sunny outing with family or friends, a ladder ball game is all you need. Whether you’re bored of the regular games like badminton and horseshoe or want to try out new games for a change, Ladder Ball games are sure to give you a thrill.

An Overview Of Ladder Balls’s History

Ladder ball has an interesting story behind its commercialization and popularity. It is said to have been patented as a ‘ball and ladder’ game by a postman in 2002. For him, this was a fun game that he played with his family for years before he realized it can be patented and shared with the world.

Within three years, the company that now holds official rights to the original game, Ladder Golf LLC approached the postman to buy the patent, manufacturing, and commercialization rights. The company marketed the game by hosting a tournament in the same year and Ladder golf/ball soon became widely famous.

Although officially introduced to the world a decade later, various speculations indicate that the game was discovered in campgrounds by cowboys in the early 1990s.

What You Need to Play Ladder Ball

The game doesn’t require an elaborate setup making it one of the easiest and the best outdoor games to play with a group of people on a fun weekend. A typical ladder ball box will contain two elements:


– Two ladders, each with 3 rungs are used.

– Each ladder is about 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide made of either steel, wood, or tough plastic.

– The balance of the ladder when the balls are wrapping around a rung is an important factor you must consider while buying.

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– Generally, six bolas in two different colors for different teams.

– One bola consists of two balls tied together with a vinyl cord or string.

– The balls used are generally golf balls and hence, the popular name ladder golf.

– Some brands may also use plastic, rubber, or tennis balls. The main objective is that the weight on either end of the strings should be proportionate.

– If you’re looking to get extra balls with highly durable ropes, VLUB’s set of red and blue would be a great choice.

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Ladder Ball Rules and Instructions

Ladder ball rules image

A toss is generally used to decide who goes first. The teams decide among themselves which player will compete against which one from the opponent teams and every pair/ trio get a ladder assigned. In case there’s a single ladder, the players take turns.

Points to remember before the game begins:

– Players are allowed and encouraged to make sounds, gestures, and movements to distract the opponent during their toss.

– Touching a player during a toss is not allowed.

– The bolas knocked off the rung by an opponent will not be counted in the final scoring.

Wrapping A Bola

Each player’s turn consists of shooting one toss to wrap a bola around the rung. Generally, one ball (one end of the bola) is held, and the other is used to gain momentum. The goal is to throw in any manner — overhand, underhand, spin, or bounce — and hook up a bola onto the rung. The more the bola’s string wraps around the rung, the better.

In some more difficult variations, the bounce is not allowed. To make it more challenging for professional players, some variations also have ‘call the toss’ rules where the players can only score from a wrapped bola if the rung was called out beforehand.

Players alternate turns to achieve this goal and a round ends when a player from each team has played three tosses. Towards the end, according to the number and color of bolas on each rung, scores are calculated. The same repeats with the next pair/ trio and the scores keep adding.

Canceling The Opponent’s toss

According to official ladder ball rules, a player can cancel out an opponent’s toss by wrapping a bola around a rung that already has a bola of the opponent. It is important to remember that if you play such a toss, you do not stand a chance to score from that bola either.

This strategy is intentionally used by players for two main reasons — avoiding the situation of a tie by reducing the points of the opponent team and when a team’s score has already reached 21 but turns are left. However, achieving this toss means the player has to be professional enough to land the bola precisely on a rung of their choice, which is quite challenging.

Scoring and Bonuses

Traditionally, each rung is assigned a number in the order of 1 to 3, starting at the top. Some variations, however, assign 3 to the top rung and 1 to the bottommost. Wrapping a ball around any of the rung scores that player the corresponding number of points. Missing a toss has no penalty points.

Each player in a team tries to score points in order to add up to a total of 21; nothing less, nothing more. Besides the regular scoring, bonuses can boost the scores of a team and help them win.

SpringBoard Bonus is the most common bonus that scores a player an extra point for a fascinating toss where the balls on the bola launch back towards the player. However, a player’s favorite remains the 3 bolas bonus where a player manages to wrap each of the bolas on different rungs of the ladder. This boosts the score of that team by 10 points.

The game continues with scores adding up in this fashion until a team scores exactly 21 points after completing each player’s rounds.

Frequently Asked Questions

Have a few questions about playing ladder ball? Here is a look at some of the questions you may have, and their answers. Once you know the rules and the answer to these questions, you will be able to win the game effortlessly.

How Should We Take The Aim To Increase The Chances Of Landing A Bola On The Ladder?

To increase the chances of wrapping your bola around a rung on the ladder, make sure to keep the balls separate when taking a toss. Forming an arc and aiming for tosses without bounce (unless you have mastered the technique) will help the bolas to wrap easily.

What Happens If You Go Over In Ladder Ball?

It is subject to local rules and variations. However, the Ladder Ball rules instruct that if a team or a player goes over the pre-decided score of 21 points, the scores are reset to 13 for that team. It can be quite challenging to get the exact score, but that is what makes the game more fun and exciting.

What Is A Tight Dangle In Ladder Ball?

Bolas tend to hang and dangle on the rungs of the ladder in any regular legal toss. If by technique or chance, a bola completely wraps itself around a rung leaving no room for dangling, it’s called a tight dangle’. In some variations, such a toss is rewarded with an extra point.

More Games You Might Like

If you are bored with playing badminton or horseshoes, try playing other outdoor game Ramp Shot (See Ramp Shot rules) which is similar to Ladder ball.

If you’re into tailgate games for the family, you must try out Horse ShoeSpike Ball, Tetherball rules, and KanJam.

If you’re looking for outdoor games for the kids, you can replace balls with eggs and try out Drop the egg.

You should also check Bounce Off rules for indoor game inspiration.

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