What Are The Rules of Cornhole?

Cornhole rules and scoring

Cornhole is a simple yet fun yard game that has been played for years in places such as backyards, the beach, tailgates, and even in official leagues. While the rules of the game lack complexity, cornhole matches can still become quite competitive.


Game Setup/Equipment

Cornhole equipment

The setup of a cornhole game is quite simple. All you need is two cornhole boards and eight cornhole bags. In a regulation match, the boards are set up with 27 feet between one another. For a game of doubles, one player from each team will stand on either side of the board. At the other end of the court, the other two players line up in the same fashion, directly across from their respective teammates. On each side of the board is a rectangle measuring four feet by three feet, also known as the pitcher’s box, which players must stand within when throwing.

Beginning the Game

The beginning of a cornhole match starts with a coin flip between the two teams. The team that wins the coin toss is given a choice to throw first or second. It is generally advantageous for a team to throw second so that they have the opportunity to knock the other team’s bags off of the board.

After the order is decided, the inning begins with the players on one side of the court throwing their bags towards the opposite board. Both players begin with four bags, and they will continue throwing until all eight bags are at the other end of the court. Once all the bags have been thrown, the score is tallied up, and the inning concludes. The two opposing players are now up to throw.

Scoring

Cornhole Scoring

Cornhole scoring is conditional on where the bags from each team land after all eight bags have been thrown. A bag that lands on the board is worth one point, while a bag that makes it through the hole on the board is worth three points.

After the inning is over (all bags have been thrown), the score is calculated based on the cancellation method. This means that a bag on the board for one team cancels a bag on the board of the other team. Also, a bag in the hole for one team cancels a bag in the hole of the opposing team. In other words, the team that scored more points in the inning is only awarded the number of points that exceeded the opposing team's score for that round.

For example, if team 1 landed four bags on the board while team 2 landed two bags on the board and two bags in the hole, team 2 would earn four points for that round. By landing two bags on the board and two in the hole, team 2 tallied eight points during the inning. However, since team 1 landed four bags on the board (tallying four points), team 2 is awarded the difference between the two scores of four points.

Throwing

​​cornhole throwing

The players in a cornhole match must throw the bags in an underhand fashion. They must also be standing in their designated pitcher’s box on the side of the board and behind the foul line (an imaginary line drawn extending from the front of the board). Even though the objective is to land the bags on the board and in the hole, players may also attempt to throw their bags to knock the opposing player’s bags off the board. If a bag is knocked off the board, it is worth zero points, while if it is knocked into the hole, it becomes worth three points.

Foul Bag Violations

When a cornhole bag is thrown illegally, a foul corn bag violation occurs, and the result of the throw is nullified. A foul bag violation occurs when:

  • A player steps on or over the foul line in the act of throwing
  • A bag hits the ground before landing on the opposite board
  • A bag makes contact with an outside object (such as the ceiling) before landing on the opposite board
  • A player takes longer than 20 seconds to throw a bag
  • A player throws from outside of the pitcher’s box
  • A player throws a bag from a different pitcher's box than the previous bag thrown

If a player drops a bag before they begin the forward motion of their throw, it is not counted and the player may throw again. If the bag is dropped during the forward motion of the throw, it is counted as a pitched bag.

A foul cornhole bag is to be removed before any other bags are pitched in the inning. If a foul bag knocks an existing bag off the board or into the hole, the existing bag is returned to its original position before any subsequent bags are thrown.

Winning the Match

A cornhole match is won by the first team to score (or exceed) 21 points. Since cornhole scoring is done on a cancellation basis, a game cannot be won until all eight bags have been thrown and the final score of the inning has been calculated. By utilizing this scoring method, a match should never conclude in a tie. A team is not required to lead by two or more points to win the match. 

Some leagues may require a team to score exactly 21 points to win the match. If a team has more than 21 points at the end of an inning, the team’s score returns back to only 13 points. The match concludes once one team ends an inning with exactly 21 points.

Singles Match

A singles cornhole match is very similar to a doubles match, except that there is only one player per team. The players from each team also take turns throwing their bags until all eight bags have been thrown to conclude the inning. At the end of the inning, the score is calculated in the same fashion as a doubles match, and the players move to the opposite side of the court to throw during the next inning.