Cornhole can be a great way to pass the time and get competitive with friends. As one of the most popular backyard games, cornhole is fairly simple, but incredibly addictive, making it a wonderful addition to your own garden.

With its straightforward mechanics and interesting gameplay, cornhole lets you practice your accuracy, gross motor skills, and your tossing technique. This is a game best played with friends, allowing endless hours of fun and enjoyment right in the comfort of your backyard.

If you were wondering how you can play cornhole, then this complete guide on the rules, the proper set-up, and some variations of the game can be a great place to start.

The Proper Cornhole Set-Up

The Proper Cornhole Set-Up

The American Cornhole Association has developed specific rules and regulations for the proper set-up for a standard game of cornhole. The purpose of the set-up is to level the playing field and to make sure that you can enjoy the same playing experience no matter where you go to play the game.

The court layout refers to the measurements of the playing area, and the placement of specific features relative to one another. Here are the standard measurements of a cornhole play area:

  • 10 feet in width
  • 45 feet in length
  • 27 feet between cornhole boards
  • 33 feet between holes on the board

There should be two cornhole boards on either end of the playing field. On both sides of the cornhole board are designated pitcher’s boxes. These measure 4 feet by 3 feet, and designate where the players will stand as they attempt to pitch into the hole.

If there are multiple cornhole courts in one area, the ACA recommends that there should be at least 10 feet of distance between them to minimize distractions and improve on the safety of the game.

As a general rule, cornhole courts should be positioned at a north-south orientation to eliminate the variable of sunlight variations across the playing area. If you’re setting up your court in an indoor facility or if your yard is fenced in, then you should make sure there’s 12 feet of space between all borders of your court and the nearest obstruction.

Lastly, the designated foul lines on the play field will be measured relative to the hole on the opposite cornhole board. For adult play, the foul line will be 30 feet from the beginning of the opposite hole, usually parallel to the front of the cornhole board on the player’s side. For junior play, the foul line will be 21 feet from the beginning of the hole on the opposite side of the court.

Equipment Needed

The proper cornhole court requires a few essential pieces of equipment for proper play. This includes the cornhole boards and the bags.

A cornhole board that follows the ACA guidelines should have the following qualities:

  • 48 inches by 24 inches
  • At least 1/2 of an inch in thickness
  • Ideally made from plywood or other types of wood
  • Single hole 9 inches from the top of the board and 12 inches from either side
  • The hole should be 6 inches in diameter

On the other hand, the cornhole bags should ideally follow these specifications:

  • Made from 2 pieces of 6 1/4 inch squares of 10 oz/sq yard of duck canvas
  • All sides should have a quarter inch of double stitched seam
  • They should be filled with at least two cups of either feedcorn or ACA approved plastic pellets
  • A single cornhole bag should weigh 14 to 16 ounces
  • The final measurement for a cornhole bag should be 6 inches by 6 inches

The Basics of Play

Essentially, the players’ goal is to get the cornhole bags to fall into the hole in the corhole board. This entails tossing the bags from the pitcher’s box following specific rules and regulations to qualify as a proper pitch.

  • For singles play – Two competitors aim to out-score each other. Both players stand on one side of the court on either side of the cornhole board. Their objective is to toss their bags into the hole on the opposite side of the court.
  • For doubles play – Two teams of two players each compete against each other. Members of each team will be positioned at opposing boards so that the two players on the same side of the court represent different teams.

The game will follow a turn-taking format using these standard rules:

  • For singles play, each player will take turns tossing their bags. After the first player tosses his bag, the second player tosses theirs. Players take turns tossing their bags until both players have pitched all four of their bags.
  • For doubles play, players on one side of the court are to toss their bags first following the same format as mentioned above. After both players on the same side of the court have tossed all four of their bags, the other players on the opposite side of the court get to toss their own.

Some other rules involving pitching include the following:

  • A player should take no more than 20 seconds tossing a single bag.
  • Players must use the same hand to toss all 4 pitches throughout the inning.
  • Players can toss from either the left or right pitchers box, but must toss from the same box for all 4 bags.

Scoring the Cornhole Pitches

Scoring the Cornhole Pitches

Cornhole is scored based on where on the court the bags fall. The objective is to collect the most amount of points to win the game.

  • In-the-hole – A bag is declared ‘in-the-hole’ if it falls in through and comes to rest in the cornhole board’s hole. These are worth 3 points.
  • In-the-count – If a bag doesn’t fall in the hole but comes to rest on any part of the board, without any of its parts making contact with the ground or any other part of the court, then it’s considered in-the-count. These are worth 1 point.
    If another player tosses an in-the-court pitch hitting another bag that’s sitting on the board and causing it to fall into the hole, then the player who tossed that bag will be given the corresponding score for an in-the-hole shot. The same applies for acts of God.
  • Out-of-the-count – If a bag falls anywhere other than the board or hole, or if the bag falls on the board but touches any other surface at rest or before rest, then it is not counted and must be removed from the playing area.

Criteria for a Foul Pitch

There are cases when a pitch will be considered a foul, and must thus be removed from the playing area. These tosses do not constitute a score.

  • Any bag that’s released from the player’s hand after they made contact with or crossed over the foul line
  • Any bag that isn’t pitched after the 20 second time limit
  • Any bag that is pitched from a different pitcher’s box than the previous ones from the same inning
  • Any bag that is pitched using a different hand than the previous ones from the same inning
  • Any bag that hits an object in the court, such as a tree branch, a wire, or the ceiling.
  • Any bag that is removed from the play area before the judges are able to decide on the proper score for that specific bag.

If a player drops the bag before their arm reaches the full forward swing, they can pick up that bag and toss it without penalties.

How to Score a Game of Cornhole?

There are two ways to score a game of cornhole – simple scoring and cancellation scoring.

  • Simple scoring – Both players or teams have their scores totaled at the end of an inning. The team or player with the smaller score has their points subtracted from the score of the opponent. The difference of the points is then awarded to the team with more points.
    In this scoring format, only one team or player will be awarded points at the end of every inning.
  • Cancellation scoring – Cancellation scoring works by canceling out similar tosses served by opposing teams. For instance, if player one tossed an in-the-hole bag, and the second player tossed one as well, then their tosses cancel each other out and do not qualify for points.
    In cancellation scoring, only the tosses that are not matched by the opposing team will be granted points.

The game ends when one of the players or teams is able to reach 21 points. The game can end in the middle of an inning as long as one of the competitors is able to accumulate 21 points. So if the final score is reached or exceeded before the end of an inning, the game is completed and the inning does not need to be completed.

If the teams match at 21 points at the end of an inning, then they must continue playing until one of the teams or competitors achieves a higher score at the end of an inning.

If one of the teams accumulates 7 points before the opposing team can score any points, the game is called a skunk at the team with points is instantly named the winner.

Cornhole Variations

Cornhole Variations

The varieties of cornhole mainly revolve around the scoring system, but there are some fun tweaks that people have thought of to change up the official rules of the game. These variations can make the game even more exciting, changing up the mechanics and style to better suit your preference.

  • Go Long!
    This variation basically tests who can toss the most accurate shot from the longest distance. Take turns tossing your cornhole bag from increasing distances. The points don’t really matter and neither does the technique. Purely for fun, this format can also serve as some well-deserved practice for your next official game.
  • Horse
    You might have played this one when you were a little kid with a budding interest in basketball. Horse entails tossing your bag over to the target hole, hoping to get a hole in one. If it goes in, then the next player needs to toss their bag exactly the way you tossed yours
    If their bag goes into the hole, then you earn one letter. Then it’s your opponent’s turn to attempt a hole in one using any tossing style they want. If they shoot the bag into the hole, then you have to do exactly as they did. If you’re able to imitate their shot and sink the bag, then they earn one letter. But if your bag doesn’t make it into the hole or if you use a different toss style, then you earn a letter.
    The first player to earn enough letters to spell the word ‘horse’ will be declared the loser of the game.
  • Exactly 21
    The Exactly 21 format can be a real challenge because it incorporates the need to calculate scores mid-game and strategize your tosses so that you get exactly the number of points you need to score 21 points – no more, no less.
    If a team or player exceeds 21 points, then they have to return to their score from the previous inning. A team or player can only be declared the winner if they score exactly 21 points.
  • Trick Shots
    It doesn’t really matter what the scores are. Just try to serve up the most creative trick shots you can think of to win this game! Winners are decided by family and friends, and there really isn’t a time limit. Try tossing a bag facing backwards, from under your leg, or while blindfolded. The sky’s the limit, and it can definitely be a whole lot of fun and laughs to watch.
  • Win By 2
    It sounds pretty simple, but if you have two teams with similar skill levels and expertise, then it can make for a really long game of cornhole. Basically, Win By 2 means that if by the end of an inning, the team with more points doesn’t have at least 2 points more than the opposing team, then the play must go on.
    Throughout the game, players will follow the same rules and mechanics as the usual game of cornhole. Players or teams can only be declared the winner if they score 2 points more than their opponents. If you’re playing against similarly skilled players, then the game can go on for hours, and can get pretty heated, which is why the rule isn’t included in the standard cornhole mechanics.