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How To Play Cornhole: Regulation Game Setup, Rules & Scoring

How to Play Cornhole

Cornhole. Woody. Boarder. Holer. Slider. Board-in-the-Hole. Holy Moly Triple Cornholey. They’re fun to say and they’re even more fun to play!

Cornhole is an all-American pastime that’s fun for all ages and stages. You don’t have to be ready for the 2020 Olympic Games to play (or win!), it’s super-easy to set up and get started, and it’s really, really hard for a player to hurt themselves. So read on to learn more about how to play cornhole, the rules and keeping score!

Cornhole Equipment

Cornhole Equipment

A cornhole board is 47.5 to 48 inches long, 23.5 to 24 inches wide, and at least 0.5 inches thick. They are made from smooth, sturdy plywood that has been sanded so that there are no fissures or blemishes on the surface. The board may be painted with semi-gloss latex exterior paint in a color of choice; the paint should allow the bag to slide a little, but not be so slippery that the bags slide off the board onto the ground. The 2020 rules state that each board needs to have a round hole that is 6 inches in diameter, with the center of the hole 9 inches from the top of the board and 12 inches from each side of the board (so it is perfectly centered). Click to read our reviews of the best cornhole boards!

Regulation cornhole bags are 6.25 inches by 6.25 inches with a 0.25-inch stitched seam on each side, resulting in a six-inch-square playable cornhole bag. The bag should be made from heavy, durable fabric (duck cloth or canvas are perennial player favorites, but bags can be made from different materials, including buffalo hide). Bags are filled with either the eponymous feed corn or plastic/resin pellets for a playing weight of 14 to 16 ounces. A junior cornhole bag is similar, but each one is four inches square and weighs 4 to 6 ounces so it is easier to handle for a young player. Check out our cornhole bag reviews next.

Game Setup

Let the games begin! There needs to be a level, flat area for the cornhole equipment and setup. A standard cornole court measures 8 to 10 feet wide and at least 40 feet long — 45 feet or even slightly more is optimal — to accommodate the boards, pitcher’s boxes and player foul lines.

Set up the boards with 27 feet between them for the games. This area is the foul line for adult play (junior players have a foul line of 12 to 15 feet). The cornhole boards should be angled so that the front end is 3 to 4 inches off the ground and the highest point of the back end is 12 inches off the ground. The pitcher’s boxes are 4 feet long (parallel with, and covering the entire length of, the cornhole board) and 3 feet wide at each end of the court.

Objective

The objective here is to declare victory and annihilate your opponent(s)! You can do this with a clean corn toss and getting all of your bags in the hole with “nothing but corn” (when no bag even touches the board). Three bags in the hole earns you a “Holy Moly Triple Cornholey” and if you get all four bags in, you’ll be “The Great Cornholio,” at least for the rest of the match.

You can also play defensively by knocking all of your opponent’s bags off the board. A “woody,” or a bean bag that’s on the board at the end of the match, earns 1 point. Naturally, you don’t want the opposing player to earn those points so you can use your turns to knock them off — be careful not to slide the bag into the hole instead!

Scoring

Cornhole Scoring

A cornhole game is divided into innings and points are scored using the cancellation method, which means that only one player or team can actually score points in each inning. An inning consists of each team pitching four cornhole bags. Bean bags that are in the hole at the end of the inning count for 3 points and bags that are on the board count for 1 point.

Cornhole bags that don’t make it to the board or are knocked off earn zero points, and the rules are that if the player crosses the foul line, they score no points for that throw, no matter where the bag lands.

Total up teams’ or players’ points for each round, subtract the lower total from the higher total (cancelling out the lower scoring points), and award the remaining point score to the player or side who scored higher. The game is won when one player or team reaches a total of 21 points at the end of an inning. You can play as many games as you like.

Singles Cornhole Matches

Singles game play pits two competitors directly against each other. Each player stays in their designated lane throughout the match. Players start at their headboards (Player A goes first, for example) and take turns tossing their four bags until all bags have been thrown. For the next round, players walk to the ends of their lanes, take score, and pitch to the opposite board. Play continues until one cornholer has reached 21.

Doubles Cornhole Matches

A double, or team, cornhole match features four players in teams of two — team A and team B, or a red team and a blue team, for example. Players stay in the lane designated for their team. Players at the headboard (Team A or the red team) alternate tossing bags until each one has pitched all four of their bags and taken score. Then for the next round, the players at the foot board do the same until each team has pitched four bags.The game continues until one team scores 21 points.

Useful Tips

The game of cornhole is about more than just tossing corn bags at cornhole boards until a score of 21 is reached; sometimes you need to employ a bit of strategy to come out on top for each round of the game! Things to think about include:
  • Do you want to knock someone else’s bag off the board so that it doesn’t earn them 1 point? A low, fast pitch can be the best way to eliminate that bag.
  • Do you want to get your cornhole bag cleanly in the hole to score 3 points, without knocking your opponent’s bag in (remember that points cancel out, resulting in no points for either player)? Throw high and soft so that it sails over the bag blockade.
  • And if you’re close to the end of the game and you or your team will win with the points on the board, “fire blanks” by tossing your bags to the side or well in front of the cornhole board so you avoid knocking one of your bags off the side of the board and losing 1 point or knocking one of your opponents’ in, thereby giving them 3 points.

How To Throw A Cornhole Bag

How To Throw A Cornhole Bag

As mentioned above, there are different ways to throw a cornhole bag. When you play, you need to position yourself completely within your box without going over the foul line, and you need to pitch under-handed. Other than that, though, feel free to develop your own style and strategy!

It’s worth knowing that many top scoring cornhole players employ a pancake-style pitch where they use their fingers (not the wrist) to throw the bag with a horizontal spin and a slight downward angle. Also, if you aim for the front of the cornhole board, you’ll have a good chance of hitting the hole or positioning your bag so you can knock it in for 3 points easily, later in the game.

Remember that when you’re scoring, you get 1 point for every bag that’s on the board at the end of the inning. You’ll want to make sure that bags that don’t make it into the hole stay on the board, instead of sliding off or being knocked off the side of the board. If your bags tend to hit the board but then slide off onto the ground, try to throw them so that they land with one full side in contact with the board. You can do this by arching it higher so that it lands softly and lies flat.

Fancy learning how to play some other great yard games next? Click here to see horseshoe sets, check out bocce ball sets, or even giant Jenga! We’ve also discussed Kubb sets and tetherball!

Frequently Asked Questions

Cornhole is a backyard/outdoor game that involves throwing small, weighted, square bags into specially designed cornhole boards with centered holes and scoring points. The game got its name because the bags were traditionally stuffed with feed corn. Cornhole can be played by  two to four people (two on a team) at a time and is suitable for all ages, genders and skill levels. Young children or people with limited mobility can use junior-size bags to play so they can be part of the game too.

The bag toss distance for cornhole is approximately 30 feet. The pitcher’s box is 4 feet long and you can stand anywhere in the box. The center of the cornhole is just under 27 feet from the front edge of the pitcher’s box. So, depending on where in the box you plant your feet and whether your bag makes it into the hole with “nothing but corn” or slides along the wood, you and your throwing arm need to give it enough juice to go about 10 yards.

To set up cornhole, you’ll need players or teams, a large level playing area, two cornhole boards, and eight cornhole bags. Set up the boards with 27 feet between them. Mark off the pitcher’s boxes and foul lines, and get ready to play! It won’t take you a lot of time or money to get started, so it’s a great way to team up or have some fun with friends, family or neighbors.

Conclusion

Whether you’re training for tournaments or wanting some backyard fun, you can set up a cornhole court quickly and easily. Everyone can play, scoring is easy, and you can make your boards and bags as simple or as colorful as you like. Gather some guys, girls and gear and get started with the game!

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