The Cornhole Game: History, Rules, Building Instructions and Fun Accessories!
So What Is This Cornhole Game Everyone Is Talking About?
Cornhole is a fun outdoor lawn game that can be played by people of all ages and skill levels. Cornhole can be played as singles or doubles and the only equipment required is two boards, eight bags, some open space and a few people ready for some fun!
To play, each player or team takes turns tossing their bags at the board opposite of them. When a player gets a bag in the hole they score three points and any bags that land (and remain) on the board receive one point. Play continues until the first player or team reaches 21.
There are many strategies to the corn hole game and with practice players can achieve the envious repeat "ringers" or "swishes" (consecutive bags through the hole). Cornhole is easy to learn, yet it can become very competitive as well with many leagues and tournaments popping up all over the world.
"Tricking Out" Your Cornhole Board
In addition to playing the game itself, a lot of people/families also have fun "tricking out" their boards with fun paint jobs and decals or adding unique accessories like cup holders, light rings, embroidered bags and/or scoreboards—making it more than just a game but a personality statement as well.
All-around cornhole is a great outdoor social game that produces a lot of fun and laughter. The portability of corn hole makes it great for family reunions, beach trips, camping trips, birthday parties, tailgating, company outings, church functions, fundraisers, restaurants, schools, parks, community events, tournaments, holiday picnics and plain 'ole everyday backyard fun!
The History of Cornhole
There is a lot of debate surrounding the history and origins of cornhole. Some people will tell you that the game was invented by ancient civilizations who tossed rocks at holes in the ground. Others say the game was invented by Native Americans (particularly the Blackhawk tribe in Illinois) who filled pigs' bladders with dried beans and tossed them for competitive sport. Still others will declare that the Germans really invented the game, specifically Matthias Kuepermann.
As the story goes, Kueppermann was in the fields one day and saw several boys tossing rocks at a hole. Being concerned for their safety (apparently their aim wasn't the greatest), Kueppermann filled burlap bags with a pound of corn each and gave them to the boys to toss at a 6" square wood box he built. However, corn prices rose in Europe over time and it is said that the popularity of the game all but died out until German immigrants began playing it again here in America (specifically Cincinnati) during the 1800's when corn was once again available in abundance.
However, before you believe the Kuepermann story too soon, there are those who will tell you that it was not he who invented corn hole at all, but rather Jebediah McGillicuddy, a Kentucky farmer from the 1800's. As this story goes, McGillicuddy invented cornhole as a fun game to play on the farm with friends and family. Corn was available cheap and the idea spread like wildfire.
And so the stories go... Yet, there is no denying the fact that cornhole (regardless of how it was created or by whom) is a fun, family friendly game that is great for all ages - tots to grandparents all over the world!
Think You Heard This Called Another Name? You're Right!
Today the game of cornhole is known by many different names depending on what part of the country or world you are in.
Besides "Cornhole" (or corn hole), here are some of the most common alternative names used:
Baggo, Bags (Bagz), Backyard Toss, Beanbags, The Beanbag Game, Beanbag Toss, Chuck-O, Corn Toss, Lawn Toss, Hillbilly Horseshoes, Soft Horseshoes and Tailgate Toss.
Standard Rules of Play
Just as there are many different names for the game depending on what part of the country you are in, so there are also many different "house rules" or forms of play. Be sure to always check exactly that the rules are going to be before beginnng a game with a new player. Below we have listed the most common cornhole rules used around the world based on the American Cornhole Association (ACA) guidelines for tournament play:
For Singles Play:
Ensure that the two boards are facing each other with 27 feet measured out between the front of both boards. Place 4 beanbags of one color with one board and the other 4 beanbags of another color with the other board. After deciding which player will toss first (via coin toss, etc), that player will toss one of their four bags at the cornhole board opposite them. (Players may toss from anywhere behind the front of the board on their side.) The player on the opposite side reciprocates by tossing one of their bags at the board opposite them and so it goes until all 8 bags have been tossed.
Once all 8 bags have been tossed, the round is completed and scores are tallied. 3 points are given for every beanbag that passed through the hole. 1 point is given for each bag the landed (and staid on) the board. The player with the highest score subtracts their opponents score for that round from their own and moves forward into the next round with the remaining points (i.e. player one got 5 points and player two got 8 points, so player two moves forward with 3 points for round one).
The player with the most points from the previous round tosses first in the next round. New points earned for each round are added to the points earned in previous rounds and so it goes until the first player reaches 21.
For Doubles Play:
As with singles play, first ensure that the two boards are facing each other with 27 feet measured out between the front of both boards. However, in this case you will place all 8 beanbags (4 of each of the two colors) with just one of the boards. After deciding which team will toss first (via coin toss, etc), player “A” on side “1” will toss one of their two bags at the cornhole board opposite them. (Players may toss from anywhere behind the front of the board on their side.) Next, player "B" from side "1" also tosses a bag at the same board. (This varies from singles play in that one team can literally knock another team’s bag off of the board). Player “A” and “B” from side “1” continuing alternating turns until all 8 bags have been thrown.
Just like in singles play, once all 8 bags have been tossed the round is completed and scores are tallied. 3 points are given for every bag through the hole and 1 point for every bag remaining on the board. The team with the highest score subtracts the other team’s score from their own and moves to the next round with the remaining points (i.e. team one got 8 points and team two got 10 points, so player two moves forward with 2 points for round one).
At this point the bags are all on the other side and it is now player “A” and “B”’s turn to toss from side “2”. The team with the most points from the previous round tosses first and alternates with the other player until all 8 bags have once again been tossed. Points are again tallied for round two and added to the points earned in the previous round and so it goes until the first team reaches 21.
Which do you prefer?
Building Cornhole Boards and Bags
Cornhole boards and bags are easy to make if you have the right equipment (sewing machine, saw, etc). Plan on spending about a day constructing two matching game boards and 8 beanbags (plus drying time for painted boards).
Beanbag Construction: Supplies
- 8 lbs of feed corn (or beans)
- A 1/2 yard of duck canvas in one color (sometimes called duck cloth)
- 1/2 yard in another color
- A spool of thread
- A ruler
- Fabric scissors
- Sewing machine
- First, cut your duck cloth into 8 rectangles that each measure 7 x 14 inches.
- Next, fold half of each rectangle over so you have a doubled 7 x 7 inch square with the fold side on the bottom.
- Next sew a line 1/2 inch in from the edge the entire way around except for a small 2 inch section at the top (the side opposite the fold).
- To best do this, begin sewing at the 'top' of your square, a 1/2 inch from the upper edge and approx. 2 inches from the right side.
- Go back and forth over your starting line to secure the hold and then continue sewing around the square clockwise.
- Once you have reached the 'top' of the opposite side, sew inwards approx. 2 inches so that a 2 inch gap remains.
- Now reverse your square and sew back around to your starting point by sewing on the 'outside' of your square, i.e. the space in-between the outside edge and your first sew line.
- Once you reach your starting point for this second line, reverse one more time and sew again on the 'outside' of your first line.
- At the end of the third line secure it at the top by going back and forth over your sew line before trimming to remove from the machine.
- Once the square has been removed from the machine, turn it inside out by pulling the 'inside' of the square out through the small hole you left at the top.
- Once it has been turned, use your fingers to push out the corners.
- When this has been done for all 8 beanbags, go ahead and fill them with the feed corn. The American Cornhole Association states that bags for tournament play must weigh between 14-16 oz.
- Once the bags have been filled, 'close' the opening and smooth it out nicely.
- To do this, use your sewing machine again and sew a line back and forth over the opening 5-6 times to really secure it.
- Make sure to really overlap the areas that have previously been sewn.
- Place your sew line as close to the edge as possible for the most professional looking bag.
- Once this step has been completed for all 8 bags, you are done!
Cornhole Board Construction
Regulation size boards vary depending on the association giving the rules/dimensions. Outlined here are the sizes recommended by the American Cornhole Association (ACA) as these are currently the most commonly used for tournament and backyard play.
- Two 1/2" pieces of plywood each 24” x 48” for the tops
- Wood glue
- Nails and/or screws
- A 6" hole saw, hammer
- A table saw, hand saw or skill saw, etc.
- Primer and paint supplies
- 4 8’ lengths of 1” x 3” clear pine for the sides and legs
- According to the ACA guidelines, each cornhole board top should be cut to 24 x 48 inches.
- Next cut a 6" diameter hole with a hole saw or band saw in the tops, sanding as needed. The center of the hole should be placed 9” down from the top of the board and 12" in from each side.
- Next create a “frame” to support the top by cutting the 1x3 pine into (2) 48” pieces for each board with (2) “connecting” pieces in between on the top and bottom of each board.
- These pieces should be glued in place with wood glue and either nailed or screwed from the top. As the back should be raised approx. 12" off of the ground, two legs are required on the back end of each board.
- These can also be cut from the 1x3 pine and may be glued and nailed for permanent attachment or bolted with a nut for fold-away legs.
- For best results, the platform should be sanded smoothly before priming or applying a decal. Once the paint has dried, you are done and can play!
Would you rather make or buy your boards and bags set?
Whether or not you make your boards and bags, cornhole is a super fun game to accessorize.
My Favorite Cornhole Accessories
- Cornhole Lights—These battery operated LED rings literally "light up" the hole and make for great night-time play, especially while tailgating, at the beach, park etc.
- Sound Machines—These battery operated and motion activated machines "sense" when a bag has passed through the hole and play a song or give a cheer. Fun!
- Tabletop Sets—Played just like regular cornhole but on mini boards with 1" square bags, these cute sets make great presents and are great fun for indoor play in offices and at parties, etc.
In addition to Amazon, we highly recommend JustGreatValues.com as a great one-stop-shop for all things cornhole. We want to thank Just Great Values for the use of their cornhole photos in this article.
Well, thats the basics on cornhole—the game, history, names, rules of play, building instructions and fun accessories. Now go have some fun playing the game!
Questions & Answers
What's the distance between boards?
Great question! Although there are some regional differences, the American Cornhole Association calls for 27 feet between boards (front edge to front edge). This is the general rule followed for most tournaments these days.