Cornhole Rules: What You Need to Know to Play This Summer BBQ Favorite

If games didn't have rules, fun competitions would quickly turn into heated arguments — something we all want to avoid! Even non-traditional games (like one of our favorite summer activities — cornhole) should have rules and regulations clearly defined prior to beginning play.

Cornhole can be a super fun summer game, but you should make sure you know the rules before you start tossing your beanbags around! (Image: DavidPrahl/iStock/GettyImages)

But cornhole isn't as simple as throwing a beanbag into a board with a hole cut out. Before you start gathering your friends together for a heated match, it's crucial that you know and understand cornhole rules. Follow these few simple guidelines and you and your friends and family can enjoy this game together, without any risk of any disagreement!

The Set-Up: Cornhole Court Dimensions

The American Cornhole Association (ACA) provides details on official cornhole court dimensions. It should be a level, rectangular area eight to 10 feet wide and a minimum of 40 to 45 feet long. The court should have two cornhole boards, designated pitcher's boxes (four by three feet at each end of the court) and foul lines.

There are two sets of foul lines: open adult-play and junior-play for children 12 and under. The adult foul lines are imaginary lines 27 feet between the front of each board. The junior-play foul lines are imaginary lines 12 to 15 feet between the front of each board. The foul line should be parallel to the front of the opposite board to meet ACA guidelines.

The Set-Up: Cornhole Boards and Bags

Cornhole boards are made from standard plywood. Official rules from the ACA state that cornhole boards need to be 48 inches long by 24 inches wide and at least a a half an inch thick. The board's hole is six inches in diameter and centered nine inches from the top of the board and 12 inches from each side.

Legs on the back of the board lift it up so the top of the board is 12 inches off the ground. All boards are smooth on top and finished with a latex paint to allow the bean bag to slide up the board's surface.

The bean bags you play with consist only of stitched fabric and hard corn kernels. The dimensions for the bag's fabric is 6.25 by 6.25 inches, and they weigh between 14 and 16 ounces.

Let's Play: Scoring and Game Rules

Singles or Doubles

Like tennis, cornhole games are played between two teams of one (singles) or two players each (doubles). When playing two against two, teammates stand at opposite playing boards while singles games have the two competitors throwing from the same side as each other.

Players from one board alternate throwing their four bean bags at the board on the opposite end of the court. After each player throws all four bags, scores are added up and the players on the opposite side of the court toss the cornhole bags.

Scoring

The ACA's approved method of scoring for the sport of cornhole is "cancellation" or "net" scoring. With cancellation scoring, the points of one player cancel out the points of their opponent, meaning only one player or team can score in each inning. A bag that goes through the hole in the board is worth three points, while a bag on the board scores one point.

As an example, if team A had five points worth of bags on the board and team B had three points on the board, team A would score only two points for that round. Games are played until a team reaches 21 total points.

Pitching Rotation

Whichever player or team scored in the previous inning gets to pitch first in the next inning. If neither scores, the player who pitched last in the preceding inning gets to pitch first in the next inning.

Position of Players During Pitching

Cornhole rules for pitchers are very specific, but also simple and easy to follow. The pitcher must be within the pitcher's box or behind the foul line at the time they release the bag, they must pitch the bag with an under-hand release, and pitch all four bags from their designated pitcher's box.

Foul Bags

It's very important to understand the definition of a foul bag in order to prevent scoring debates. Luckily, the ACA outlines these cornhole rules in detail.

A foul bag is defined as: "Any bag pitched when the player has (1) made contact with or crossed over the foul line, or (2) started or stepped completely outside the pitcher's box before the bag is released." It's also:

  • Any bag not delivered within the 20-second time limit
  • A bag pitched from a different pitcher's box than the first bag
  • Any bag that contacted the court or the ground before coming to rest on the board
  • Any bag that struck a previously defined object such as a tree limb, wire, indoor court ceiling, etc.
  • Any bag removed from the board before scoring has been agreed upon for that bag
  • A bag that leaves a player's hand once the final forward swing of the delivery process has started shall count as a pitched bag
  • A bag that's accidentally dropped by a player before the final forward swing has started shall not be considered foul and may be picked up and pitched.
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