Ladder Ball, as we call it, has been around for a number of decades now … although information on when it started is rather sketchy at best. Although mostly played in the USA, there are small pockets of dedicated fans all around the world – you would be surprised where the game in some form or another springs up. In particular, it’s always interesting to hear about the local variations. So even if your friends haven’t heard of it, many around the world have.
At is very basic level Ladder Ball, or often referred to as Ladder Golf or Hillbilly Golf, is a ball game played between teams with two or more players. The objective of the game is to throw a bola, which is a cord connecting two balls (often golf balls) together and wrapping the bola around one of three steps of the ladder, which is the target.
The ladder, as you can see in the picture, consists of 3 steps, being a top, middle and bottom.
How to Play the Game
Normally played as an outdoor game, Ladder Golf has two teams of as many players needed on the day. Before they start to throw the bolas at the ladder there must be a toss line established. A ladder ball court measurement is generally recognized as 15 feet, but a good 5 paces or so should be fine. The distance established is really more important for who is taking part rather than an exact measure. So for example for the young ones a much shorter distance is going to improve their enjoyment of the game rather than having them attempt the throw from the adults line.
The game is played in rounds, with each round made up of team members throwing each of their three bolas at the ladder. A coin toss is used to decide which player or team will throw first. The first player must throw all three bolas before the next player is able to throw their bolas.
Bolas can be thrown in any manner a team member player chooses, as long as they are thrown individually. The bola doesn’t need a direct hit, bounces off the ground are allowed. Although a variation to this we have played, to make it more of a challenge for those more proficient at the game, is to only allow direct hits to count.
The Allocation of Points
Points are determined by which step your bola wraps around. The top step is worth 3 points the middle step is worth 2 points and the bottom step is only worth 1 point. Players can score an optional bonus of 1 point by hanging all 3 bolas from the same step or by hanging a bola on all 3 (1-2-3) steps in one round. The highest amount of points available per player is 10. This is accomplished by hanging all 3 bolas on the top (3 point) step.
After all players have thrown all their bolas, scoring is determined by the bolas that are still hanging from the steps of the ladder. Team members can knock-off bolas during the course of the game, in fact knocking-off the opposition team members’ bolas is encouraged and a good way to play defensively. Bolas that are knocked off during play do not count as points.
The winner of a round earns the right to the first throw in the subsequent round. Games are played to a total round of 21 points, of which a team member must achieve exactly 21 points to win the round. If the 21 points are exceeded then that team members score does not count for the team in that round.