How to Keep Score in Ladder Ball: A Fun Guide for Everyone

Ladder ball, also known as ladder toss, ladder golf, or bolo toss, is a popular backyard game that has been entertaining friends and families for years. The game’s simplicity, combined with the skill required to master it, makes it a favorite at picnics, parties, and casual gatherings. But one question often arises among new players: “How do you keep score in ladder ball?”

In this blog post, we’ll dive deep into the rules and scoring system of ladder ball. We’ll cover everything from the basics to advanced tips and tricks, ensuring you can confidently keep score and enjoy the game to the fullest.

Understanding Ladder Ball Basics

Before we delve into the scoring system, let’s quickly review the basic setup and rules of ladder ball.


Ladder ball requires the following equipment:

  1. Ladder: A structure with three rungs, typically set up at about 15 feet apart.
  2. Bolas: Two sets of three bolas, which are balls connected by a string. Each team uses a different color for their bolas.


The main objective of ladder ball is to toss the bolas onto the rungs of the ladder. The higher the rung, the more points you score.

Setting Up the Game

To set up the game:

  1. Place the ladders: Set up the ladders about 15 feet apart from each other. You can adjust this distance based on the players’ skill levels or available space.
  2. Divide into teams: Ladder ball is typically played with two teams, each consisting of one or two players.
  3. Determine the order: Decide which team will go first. This can be done by a coin toss or any other fair method.

Scoring in Ladder Ball

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s get into the details of scoring in ladder ball.

The Rungs and Their Point Values

The ladder has three rungs, each with a different point value:

  1. Top rung: 3 points
  2. Middle rung: 2 points
  3. Bottom rung: 1 point

When a bola is successfully tossed and lands on a rung, the team earns the corresponding points.

Tossing the Bolas

Each player or team takes turns tossing all three of their bolas. The goal is to wrap the bolas around the rungs to score points. Here are some key rules for tossing:

  1. Feet behind the line: Players must stand behind the toss line (the front edge of the ladder) while throwing.
  2. Underhand toss: Bolas are typically tossed underhand, though overhand throws are also allowed.
  3. One at a time: Players must throw one bola at a time.

Scoring After Each Round

After each player has tossed their bolas, the round is scored. Points are calculated based on where the bolas have landed on the rungs. Here’s how to tally the points:

  1. Identify the rungs: Look at where each bola has landed and note the points for each rung.
  2. Calculate total points: Add up the points for all bolas on the rungs.
  3. Subtract opposing points: If playing with two teams, subtract the opposing team’s points from your team’s total. This means only one team scores per round, which is the difference in points between the two teams.

For example, if Team A scores 5 points (one bola on the top rung and one on the middle rung) and Team B scores 3 points (one bola on the top rung), Team A would score 2 points for the round (5 – 3 = 2).

Reaching the Winning Score

The game is typically played until a team reaches exactly 21 points. However, there are a few important rules to keep in mind regarding the winning score:

  1. Exact score: A team must reach exactly 21 points to win. If a team exceeds 21 points, their score for that round does not count, and they revert to their previous score.
  2. Final round: If both teams reach 21 points in the same round, the team with the higher score after subtracting the opponent’s points wins.

Advanced Scoring Strategies

Now that you understand the basic scoring system, let’s explore some advanced strategies to enhance your gameplay and scoring prowess.

Targeting High-Value Rungs

While it might be tempting to aim for the bottom rung for its ease, targeting the higher rungs (middle and top) can quickly boost your score. Developing a consistent underhand toss can help you accurately aim for these higher rungs.

Defensive Play

In addition to scoring points, you can play defensively by attempting to knock your opponent’s bolas off the rungs. This can be particularly useful when you and your opponent are close in score, and you need to prevent them from reaching 21 points.

Team Communication

If playing in teams, communication is key. Strategize with your partner about which rungs to target and how to maximize your points. Sometimes, it may be more beneficial for one player to aim for the top rung while the other targets the middle rung, ensuring a spread of points.

Tips for Keeping Score Efficiently

Keeping track of the score can be tricky, especially when the game gets intense. Here are some tips to help you maintain an accurate score:

  1. Designate a scorekeeper: Assign one person to keep track of the score. This person can use a notepad or a smartphone to record points.
  2. Use a scoreboard: If playing frequently, consider investing in a small dry-erase board or a portable scoreboard. This makes it easy for everyone to see the current score.
  3. Double-check scores: At the end of each round, both teams should agree on the points scored before moving on to the next round. This helps prevent disputes and ensures accuracy.

Fun Variations of Ladder Ball

To keep the game fresh and exciting, consider trying out some fun variations:

  1. Timed Rounds: Instead of playing to 21 points, set a timer for a specific duration (e.g., 15 minutes). The team with the highest score at the end of the time wins.
  2. Relay Style: If you have a larger group, play relay style where each player throws one bola before passing it to the next player. This adds an element of teamwork and speed.
  3. Obstacle Course: Add obstacles or challenges to the playing area, such as requiring players to toss from different angles or positions.

Final Thoughts …

Ladder ball is a fantastic game that combines skill, strategy, and a bit of luck. By understanding the scoring system and employing some advanced strategies, you can elevate your gameplay and enjoy the game even more. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned player, the tips and tricks shared in this post will help you keep score accurately and have a blast playing ladder ball. So grab your bolas, set up your ladders, and get ready for some competitive fun!

Remember, the most important part of ladder ball is to have fun and enjoy the company of friends and family. Happy tossing!