If you’re looking for a good lawn game to add to your next barbecue get-together party, check out this DIY Ladder Toss Game I made from 2x4s. It takes only a few hours to build it. If you haven’t yet discovered the world of ladder toss, you are certainly missing out.
Ladder toss is a simple game to understand but requires skill to master. These features make ladder toss the perfect yard game for some fun with friends and family.
How the Game of Ladder Toss Began
Also known as ladder golf, ladder toss was first discovered in the 1990s. There is no clear history of the game. Ladder golf was likely an evolution of several types of games, including real golf, corn toss, and horseshoes.
A man named Harold Furry is said to have discovered the game in campgrounds; however, the first inventor of the game isn’t clear.
Some suggest that ladder toss was born when cowboys threw snakes at fence poles. Cowboys needed to entertain themselves too . . .
How to Play Ladder Toss
One of the great things about ladder toss is how simple it is to play. Let’s go over the basics of the game.
Here’s what you need to know to play ladder toss:
- Equipment and set-up
- Rules of the game
- Techniques to win
Alright, let’s go over these in more depth.
Equipment for Ladder Toss
Ladder toss has two fundamental pieces of equipment—first, the ladder. The ladder has three rungs and is set on legs for stability.
Then we have the bolas. The bola consists of two golf balls attached to a string.
The object of the game is to whirl the bolas at the ladder and try to land them on the rungs.
Simple right? Here’s how you set the game up.
How to Set-up Ladder Toss
Find an open area outside that is away from buildings. Set up your ladder in a safe area and then walk five paces, or 15 feet, away from the ladder.
This 15-foot mark will be your “toss line.” When throwing the bolas at the ladder, you will not cross the toss line.
Rules of Ladder Toss
Each rung of the ladder is worth points. The top rung is worth three points, the middle rung is worth two, and the bottom rung is worth one.
If you land all three of your bolas on the same rung, you get an extra point.
The goal of the game is to reach 21 points. You play against your opponent in rounds. Each round, you both get to throw three bolas of your color. Once the round is over, you tally up the points based on the bolas remaining on the ladder.
Whoever loses the round goes first in the next round.
You can try to knock the other team’s bolas off their rung. This will remove those points from that round.
Also, you must hit 21 exactly. This means that if you have 19 points, and if you score 4 points in the final round, those points are not counted, and you must play another round.
Techniques to Improve at Ladder Toss
Of course, practice makes perfect. Just like shooting a free throw in basketball or kicking a football goal, the more you do it, the better you will get.
With that said, here are a few techniques to improve your play:
- Stand with a fixed and athletic stance.
- Swing the bolas with an even motion. Try to keep the line as the bola twirls through the air; this will give you the best chance to score.
- Throw the bola with an arc. If you toss them straight at the ladder, your bola may just land in the dirt.
Etiquette of Ladder Toss
Ladder toss takes some skill to play well. It’s a great game to play on the beach, in the backyard, and at the campground.
Part of what makes this game fun is the customs of the game. Many people will try to distract their opponent by jumping around and making goofy remarks. Definitely a campground game!
However, if you prefer a more quiet game, in sync with traditional golf, that’s fine too. Either way, ladder toss is sure to entertain.
Time to Complete
Download Printable Plans in PDF Format
Tools for this project
Note: Lumber dimensions are listed as nominal size. See lumber sizes for actual dimensions vs nominal.
Disclosure: Some of the links on this page as well as links in “tools for this project” and “material list” sections are affiliate links.
Step 1 – Measure and Cut Two Vertical Rail Boards
This project is made largely from 2x4s and very simple to make. You could buy 2x4s at your local hardware store in the construction lumber section.
This tutorial, from step 1 to step 9, explains how to build only one ladder. Since you need two ladders for this game, you will need to repeat the steps to build the second ladder.
Take 2×4 and cut two pieces to 44 1/2″ in length. These two pieces will be used as rails to hold the dowel rod.
Next, rotate your miter saw blade to 45 degrees. Then at the top of the rail boards, trim off 1″ on both corners at 45 degrees. Cutting off 1″ is just for esthetics, you don’t have to do it if you choose not to.
Step 2 – Cut Four Horizontal Boards for the Base of the Ladder Game
Then cut four more pieces to 42″ in length at 45-degree miter cut on both ends of each board. Again, the 45-degree cut is just for looks. You could cut it at a different angle or just leave it straight.
These 42″ long pieces will be used for the base of the ladder game.
Step 3 – Cut Wooden Dowel Rods for the Ladder
Now take 1 1/4″ round wooden dowel rod and cut three pieces to 25″ in length. These wooden dowel rods are typically used in closets to hang close.
The dowel rods need to be 24” wide, but since it will be inserted into the ladder rail holes, the total length needs to be 25” (see step 5 for drilling holes). If you prefer not to drill the holes, then the dowel rod would need to be trimmed to 24″ in length.
Step 4 – Trim Support Blocks for Vertical Rail Boards
From the remaining 2×4 pieces cut four blocks to 8″ in length with a 45-degree miter cut only on one side. These small blocks will be used to hold the vertical rail boards.
Step 5 – Drill Holes for the Dowel Rod
Go back to the vertical rails boards that you’ve cut in Step 1. Measure and mark 2″ from the top of the rail to the center of the first hole. Then measure 13″ to the second hole and 13″ to the third hole. The holes need to be located in the center of the 2×4. They will be used to hold the dowel rods.
Take a 1 3/8″ Shank Forstner Drill Bit (that is typically used for drilling holes in the cabinet doors to install hinges) and drill the holes at each mark on both of the rails boards. These holes need to be only 1/2″ deep. If you don’t have this drill bit, you could attach the dowel rod directly to the rail boards with a screw. But having these holes will keep the dowels secured stronger.
Since all of the pieces for this project are cut, take the random orbital sander and sand the boards on all sides and edges.
Step 6 – Attach Ladder Rail Support Blocks
Now take one of the 42″ long base pieces and measure 20″ from one side and 18 1/2″ from the other. Then attach the 8″ long support blocks on both sides of the measurement as shown in the picture. Pre-drill pilot holes in these blocks before driving in 2 1/2″ wood screws to prevent the wood from splitting. Make sure that the vertical rail could slide in and out between the support blocks.
The purpose of these blocks is to keep the vertical ladder from falling down during the game. This ladder could be easily inserted or removed from the base for convenient storage.
Step 7 – Finish Assembling the Base
Finish the base by attaching another 42″ long piece to the 8″ long blocks with 2 1/2″ wood screws. Repeat the process to build a second horizontal base for the ladder game.
You could use the leftover small pieces of 2×4 and insert them between the 42″ long pieces to make the base stronger. See the photo on the website.
Step 8 – Attach Dowel Rods to the Rails
Take both of the vertical rail boards and insert the dowels into the holes making a ladder. Pre-drill a pilot hole through the rail board and into the dowel. Apply wood glue inside the hole and then drive in 2 ½” wood screws to hold the dowel in place.
Step 9 – Insert Ladder Rails Between the Support Blocks
Once the wood glue dries on the ladder, insert the rails between the support blocks of the base. If you prefer to have this ladder toss game as one piece, then you could secure the rails to the base with screws. Otherwise, once done playing with the game, you could easily slide out the ladder from the base and store it as separate pieces. Repeat steps 1 thru 9 to build the second ladder.
Step 10 – Drill Hole in Golf Balls to Make Bolas
To make a set of bolas, you need two golf balls attached together with a nylon rope. Balls need to be spaced 13” apart.
Take one golf ball and clamp it to your workbench. Then take a 3/8” drill bit and drill a 1” deep hole thru the ball. You could place a tape on the drill bit to know exactly where the 1” mark is, so that you don’t drill through the ball completely. Repeat the process by drilling holes in 12 balls.
Next, paint 6 balls one color and 6 balls another color. You could use a spray paint bottle to color the balls.
My kids wanted to paint the balls so I gave them a brush and some paint. Next time when friends come over, they will say that they helped to build the game.
Step 11 – Glue Rope to Golf Balls
Once the holes are drilled in all 12 golf balls, take a 3/8” nylon rope and cut 6 pieces to 15” in length. Then using a propane torch, slightly burn the tips of the rope. This will make the rope easier to insert into the golf ball holes. Next, take a hot glue gun and squeeze some glue into the golf ball hole and then insert the rope. Having 1” of rope inside both balls will give you a 13” rope length between the balls. Do the same for the remaining bola sets.
Step 12 – Paint the Ladder and the Gulf Balls
Now that you’re done with the project, paint each dowel a different color for easier scorekeeping. Then paint the rest of the ladder toss game with exterior paint to protect the wood. You’re done with a DIY ladder toss game. Have fun!