Ladder Ball is a game that's still new to this world. As far as we know, it started on campgrounds, beaches, and tailgate parties across the US sometime during the past 50 years. Some say it has cowboy roots; stemming from wranglers tossing their bolo ties at the fences out of boredom. There were no ladder ball-related patents until as late as 1996, and the "real" name of the game remains an issue of some contention. "Ladder ball" seems to be the most common, and that's a good thing; the other names vying for attention are hardly befitting a Hayneedle website. Now to that we've got that cleared up, let's talk about how to play ladder ball.
Where Do I Stand?
Let's Pick Teams
Ladder ball is played using a unique projectile called a bola. Each bola is made of two golf balls attached to either end of a short rope. Bolas, or ladder golf balls as they're sometimes known, respond animatedly to centripetal force and wrap quickly around anything they touch. The best way to get a feel for it is to go ahead and start huckin'. Some people hold both balls in their hand and launch it like a horseshoe; others drop one ball and give it a quickly swinging underhanded fling. However you do it, be sure to throw it at the ladder; we don't want anyone to get hit in the bolas.
Which Rung Does What Now?
A ladder, for the uninformed, is comprised of a long line of steps or rungs between two vertical poles. A ladder ball goal is not much different, but it's limited to three rungs. Each of the rungs on a ladder ball goal is worth a different number of points. However, with the game still in its infancy, there's a lot of debate about which rung is worth what. Some folks like to say the top rung is worth 1, the middle rung is worth 2 and the bottom rung is 3 points. But others like to have the top rung worth 3 and the bottom rung worth 1. How you score it is up to you, but make sure there's a consensus before the balls start flying.
What Are We Playing To?
If I throw my ladder golf balls and score a total of 5 points and then the other team throws their bolas and scores 6 points we do... sigh ...math. My 5 points are canceled out, and get subtracted from my opponent's 6. The round ends with my opponent scoring 1 point. Get it? And if your bolas get knocked to the ground by an opponent's bolas; tough! Those points don't factor into the round, and so goes the hard-knock world of ladder ball. To win, be the first to 21 points total - and 21 points exactly. If you go over, then it doesn't count.
What's the Best Throwing Method?
As a tailgate sport, ladder ball enjoys a refreshingly low number of rules. Throwing technique is totally up to you; they can be lobbed, gunned, bounced, thrown granny-style, or anything else you can dream up. Just try and loop the rungs. And if you loop your ladder golf ball around two rungs, guess what? Add those two rungs together for an even better score!
... or Not
The rules of ladder ball are still debatable. If you don't want to add together two rungs wrapped up in one bola, there are other rules for bonus points. Try these: hang all 3 bolas from the same step or hang a bola from all three steps in one round for 1 bonus point. We usually play without bonus points but with multiple rung-adding; to each his own in ladder ball!
What If We Tie?
Why would you let that happen? You tied with them? It probably means your ladder ball trash talk needs a little work, but there's a solution. Head into overtime rounds; the winner will be the first team to go up by 2 points.
Ladder Ball Etiquette
Ladder ball is played in yard, at the tailgate, or at the beach; all places that lack a proper decorum. Take advantage of this! Be loud, be noisy, blow a bullhorn; do anything you can to win. The only thing you can't do is touch the ladder or the person throwing the bolas. Whoever won the previous round throws first in Round 2.
In short, ladder ball is fun, easy, and pretty much made up. It's great for anyone who likes a little serious or not-so-serious competition, and is a hit at pretty much at any tailgate, barbecue, party, get-together, or afternoon hang-out. Go forth, armed with your knowledge of ladder ball rules, bola-throwing techniques, and well-thought-out ladder ball smack talk. It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that fling.