Top 10 Rules of Cornhole

cornhole rules and scoring

One of the classic lawn games in America, cornhole is commonly seen as a casual, easy-to-play game for everybody. Though most people understand the scoring of the game and the overall objective, not everybody is aware of just how many rules professional cornhole can involve. Read more below to learn about the ten most important rules of cornhole.


What are the most important rules of cornhole?

  1. Game Setup
  2. Equipment
  3. Singles Play
  4. Doubles Play
  5. Foul Lines
  6. Foul Bags
  7. Scoring Rules
  8. Throwing Order
  9. Length of Game
  10. House Rules

1. Game Setup

cornhole game setup

The most important part of setting up a game of cornhole is the distance between the two boards. As defined by The American Cornhole Association, the boards should be placed 27 feet apart from each other in order to comply with official rules for adult play. The boards should be anywhere between 12 and 15 feet apart for junior play. There is also a designated pitcher’s box on both sides of the boards where players must toss their bags from. The box is defined as a 4x3 foot rectangle, and players must remain in this box at all times when it is their turn to throw.

2. Equipment

cornhole equipment

While everyone is aware that bean bags are used in cornhole, several specifications come with official play. Each bag should be 6x6 inches and weigh between 14 and 16 ounces. The boards in cornhole are also heavily regulated. They must measure 48x24 inches and should be made of plywood that is at least half an inch thick. The hole in the board should be six inches in diameter, and the back of the board should be raised approximately one foot from the ground. Boards should also be sanded and smoothed to allow bags to slide and can be finished with a gloss, but cannot be too slippery, or else bags will slide off and not stay put.

3. Singles Play

Cornhole Singles Play

In cornhole, each match is divided into innings of play, with each inning ending after both players have thrown all four of their bags. In singles play, both players must stay in the same throwing lane for the whole match. After both toss their four bags, players switch boards, staying in the same lane (allowing them to alternate what side of the board they are throwing from). Each player takes turns throwing, with one throwing all four of their bags, followed by the opponent throwing all four of theirs.

4. Doubles Play

cornhole doubles play

Doubles play in cornhole is also divided into innings, but the way in which the bags are thrown is different. Both teams have a pair, and each member of that pair throws two of their team’s four bags. This is done in an alternating fashion, and a team throws all four of their bags at once before the opponent throws theirs. Like singles play, players stay in the same throwing lane the entire game, meaning each player will alternate what side of the board they are throwing from. This is done to ensure an even playing field where one team or player cannot take advantage of being better from a particular side of the board.

5. Foul Lines

Cornhole Foul Lines

The foul line in cornhole is an imaginary line between the two boards that represents foul territory for play. If a bag lands in this area, it does not earn any points. If a player steps in this area while throwing, the resulting throw will not count, as players are not allowed to step outside the pitcher’s box when throwing. While players are not allowed to cross the foul line with their feet, leaning over into the foul area while throwing is permitted. In adult play, the foul line is set officially at 27 feet, and in junior play it can range from 12-15 feet.

6. Foul Bags

Foul bags can happen as the result of numerous things during a game of cornhole. If a player steps outside the pitcher’s box while throwing, it is a foul bag. A foul bag can also happen if the bag hits the ground or some other surrounding object before resting on the board. Finally, in professional play, a foul bag can happen if the throw is not delivered within the 20-second time limit. If a foul bag is put into play, it must be removed before the game can continue. Foul bags can be called by players or official judges and can never be counted for points. 

7. Scoring Rules

cornhole scoring

Scoring in cornhole is very simple, as there are only two ways to score. A player earns one point for each bag that comes to rest on the board and can earn three points for each bag landed in the hole. At the end of each inning, both sides tally up how many points they have accumulated. Only the team with the higher score can actually earn points for that inning in competitive play. The team with more points subtracts the amount of points earned by the other team to get their total for the inning. So, if one team scores eight points and the other scores six, then the resulting score would be 2-0.

8. Throwing Order

At the start of the game, the team designated as the home side will throw first. After the first inning, whichever team scores more points earns ‘honors’ and gets to throw first in the next inning. This rule applies to the rest of the game, so whichever team wins the previous inning throws first in the next. If both sides tie in a given inning, whichever team threw first in that inning retains their honors and throws first again until the other team wins an inning.

9. Length of Game

In professional settings, cornhole is played until one side reaches a score of 21. The game is over when one team reaches or exceeds 21 points total. This process can last for either a very short time or a very long time. If one player or team is much better than the other, they will consistently win innings and rack up points very quickly. However, if the match is especially competitive, then teams may tie a number of innings or only gain one or two points at a time. Competitive matches can take a while to finish if both players are landing or holing all their bags as neither side will gain an advantage.

10. House Rules

However, for those who wish to play a relaxed game of cornhole in their backyard, house rules are much more commonly applied. Under these rules, scoring does not cancel out, meaning both teams earn points in every inning rather than only the winning team taking home the difference. House rules games are also played to 21, though there are two different sets of endings. In one version, the ending is played exactly like a professional game, where the winner is whoever gets to or past 21 points first. In the other version, a player or team must get to exactly 21 points and cannot go over that mark (or they reset to a lower, predetermined amount of points).