How To Play Cornhole: A Complete Step By Step Guide


Cornhole has become a popular game for backyard cookouts and parties, sometimes referred to as corn toss, bag toss, or bean bag toss. Cornhole is a fun, inexpensive, yard game that can be setup and played rather quickly.

To play cornhole, set up the cornhole boards 27 feet apart facing each other. One or two players per cornhole board will take turns tossing a bean bag in an attempt to score points. Teams earn points by landing a bean bag on the cornhole board or by landing a bean bag in the circle cut-out of the board.

Cornhole is fun game and once you learn some of the rules and field layout, you’ll be up and playing yourself in no time. Also, later on, I will give you some pointers for you to gain an edge against your opponent.

Cornhole Boards

The first thing you will need is a good pair of cornhole boards. These are pretty easy to make and yourself. But you can find them online for a decent price as well. I recommend the Solid Wood Premium Cornhole SetOpens in a new tab. on Amazon, I like the plain solid wood set because it’s regulation size and it comes with everything you need to start playing right away. Also, you can paint it or add your own decals as you like.

There actually is a standard for the size, length, angle, and even the size of the hole in the board set by the American Cornhole Association. It’s generally more fun to use a cornhole board built to the right specifications, but some players make smaller, easier to handle boards for young kids to play on.

cornhole board dimensions

The board face is to be 2 feet wide and 4 feet long with a 6″ hole cut into it. The center of the hole is to be 9″ from the top of the board and 12″ from the side of the board. The end of the board with the hole cut into it is to be elevated 12″ from the ground. The board face is typically made out of 1/2″ plywood and the frame is made of 2×4’s.

Cornhole Bags

A standard cornhole bag will be a square 6″ by 6″ bag with a stitched seam on all four sides. Each bag should be filled with approximately 2 cups of feed corn and weigh 14 to 16 ounces (1 pound). The bags will be made from durable fabric, according to the ACA (American Cornhole Association).

Since the bags are made to be 6″ by 6″, it’s best to use 6 1/4″ pieces of cloth and stitch them together with the extra 1/4″. If you buy a Cornhole Board, you probably won’t need to worry about this, because the good sets will come with regulation cornhole bags.

Cornhole Layout

You have the boards, you have the bags, now you need to setup up the cornhole field. A regulation cornhole field will be a flat area at least 40′ long and 10′ wide. If you’re playing in your backyard, there’s no need to get to hung up on the details. We play on bumpy patch in our backyard and still have loads of fun.

One thing that is important to get right though, is the distance the boards are from each other. When we have kids playing with us, we just let them move closer to make their throw, but we leave the boards where they are.

cornhole field layout

The regulation distance the cornhole boards need to be from each other is 27 feet from front of board to front of board. The front of the board also acts as a foul line for both players. Youth foul line distance can be moved closer, up to 12 feet away.

The pitchers box is typically the same size as the cornhole board, 2′ by 4′ and is located on either side of both cornhole boards. Most times I’ve played cornhole, no one has ever even mentioned a pitchers box. People will get upset about the foul line though, not even your hand is allowed to cross it.

How To Play Cornhole

Typically, cornhole has 4 total players, two teams with 2 people per team will play. You can play with 1 player per team (1 on 1) with some slight adjustment. If you can play with 4 players, try to, it makes the game more fun. Because of the setup I’ll explain below, playing with 4 players gives you the chance to knock your opponents bags off the board.

Player Position

One player from each team will stand to the side of each cornhole board. If you remember the cornhole field layout from above, each cornhole board had 2 pitchers boxes, one on each side. So each cornhole board will have two players, who are opponents, standing one on each side.

cornhole player position

The standard player position requires that team mates stand on the same side of the cornhole boards facing each other. For example, the team mates will not be diagonal across the field from one another. This is so that no team gets an advantage over the other based on placement. We have a house rule that every match we switch sides, something to consider if you have any left handed players.

Bag Distribution

Each team will have 4 bags, all the same color. The total game should have 8 bags, 4 for one team, and 4 for the other. Your cornhole set will usually come with 8 bags, for example, 4 red and 4 blue bags. All 8 cornhole bags start on one cornhole board.

Start The Game

The team with honors is the team that tosses the first throw. To get honors, the teams will typically flip a coin. Sometimes we have multiple teams, so we will give honors to the winning team that holds the title. The winning team plays the next team waiting their turn and so on.

To start, the team with honors will toss a bag, then their opponent will toss a bag. This continues back and forth until all 8 bags are tossed. Then, the team with honors tosses the first bag back to the original starting board, alternating with their opponent for all 8 bags again.

End The Game

All 8 bags moving from one cornhole board to the other is called a round. There isn’t a limited number of rounds that can be played, but at the end of a round is when the points are tallied. The game ends when one team reaches 21 points or more. Some popular house rules include winning by 2, or going over 21 resets your score to 17, or something similar.

Cornhole Rules

This is where cornhole gets interesting. Players love to add house rules or change existing rules up a bit. Everywhere I’ve played cornhole, the rules have always been a bit different. If it’s not your field, you have to just roll with it, those are the rules.

Let’s go over the regulation cornhole rules first, and then I’ll share some popular house rules I’ve seen over the years. I’ll also add a print out of the rules for you below.

Cornhole Regulation Rules:

  • Player must stay within the pitchers box while making a throw
  • Players hand may not cross the foul line when making a throw
  • If a bag hits the ground and bounces onto the board, the bag is out and must be removed from the board
  • Players may not throw out of turn
  • Players foot may not cross the foul line
  • If a foul occurs during a throw, the player looses the bag and it is removed the board

The most common foul is when someones foot crosses in front of the cornhole board while they’re tossing a bag. In this case, the throw doesn’t count and if the bag landed on the board, you remove it.

Popular Cornhole House Rules:

  • If team score exceeds 21, score is reset to 17
  • Younger players may cross the foul line
  • Younger players use a different foul line all together
  • Winning team must win by 2 points (doesn’t work with the score reset rule)
  • Players may shoot from any side of the board they wish
  • Knocking an opponents bag off the board awards extra points (or takes away points from other team)

There are so many more house rules than I’ve listed here, but that’s the fun part, you can make your own rules too! Here’s a print out of the cornhole rules, we sometimes have this posted somewhere near the cornhole field if we have a big tournament going on, especially if we have some interesting house rules everyone needs to know about.

Cornhole rules

Cornhole Scoring

The score is taken after all 8 cornhole bags have been thrown for that round. This gives a unique opportunity to players to knock their opponents bags off the board during the round. Be careful though, many times I’ve tried to do just that and instead knocked their bag into the hole giving them more points. Here are how the point are tallied.

Cornhole Scoring Tally:

ConditionPoint Value
Bag goes into hole3 points
Bag ends round on board surface1 point
Bag on board and hanging into hole1 point
Bag hanging off edge of board but not touching ground1 point

If a cornhole bag is on the playing surface, but hanging off and also touching the ground, that bag doesn’t count. If a bag is hanging off the board surface and resting on another bag that is touching the ground, the point only counts if you can remove the bag that is touching the ground and the bag on the board still doesn’t touch the ground.

To award points for the round, tally up all the points for both teams and subtract the low score from the high score. The team with the high score adds those points to their total and gets honors for the next round. If both teams have the same points tallied for that round (a tie), the score stays the same and honors stays with the same team.

We don’t usually have any house rules for the scoring, the scoring makes sense the way it is. Sometimes we’ll play with people who count bags hanging into the hole as 2 points, or stacked bags count as 2 points, and stuff like that. If you do have house rules over points, put it on the rules print out, or at least make sure every player knows them before the game starts.

Cornhole, 1 On 1 Games

If you only have two people that want to play cornhole, you can still play a 1 on 1 game. There are a couple popular ways to play 1 on 1 cornhole. The first way to play, is that one player will throw all 8 cornhole bags per round. The tally and scoring stays the same. This method is best if you don’t feel like walking back and forth between cornhole boards every round, but eliminates the possibility of knocking opponent bags off the board.

To stick closer to the original cornhole rules, with only 2 players, each player would throw 4 bags each round alternating between the two from the same side of the field. Then you would walk to the other cornhole board and repeat. You will still follow the rule of honors and the level of competition remains, but you will be doing a lot of walking back and forth.

Here’s a fun video of a professional cornhole player trying to teach someone how to play. He offers some good tips on the game.

How To Throw A Cornhole Bag

Throwing a cornhole bag properly is what decides who will win or lose the game. This is mostly overlooked, but there’s a science to the perfect cornhole toss. Consistency is key, if you can get a good toss perfected, you simply need to do the same throw over and over.

Here are the steps for a perfect cornhole bag toss:

  • Holding the bag
  • Forward step
  • Arm swing
  • Bag Release
  • Follow through

I go into a lot more detail about the perfect cornhole toss in another article on this site, and how to master the throw. So for this article I’ll just give a quick rundown. But keep in mind, the toss is important, and it will make or brake your team.

Rundown Of A Cornhole Toss:

  • Hole the bag with your thumb in the center of the bag with an index finger along the side
  • Use your other fingers to hold the bottom of the bag for support
  • Take a step forward as you are about to release the bag
  • Swing your arm in the direction of the board
  • Use your legs to propel the bag further
  • Release the bag at the optimal time
  • Put some spin on the bag to help it glide on the board
  • Maintain focus on your follow through

This is the method that most players use because it’s easiest to perfect. The goal is to get into a rhythm where you will make the same movements and release every time. There are other ways to throw a bag though For example, the overhand toss, the sling toss, the folded toss, and so on.

Find what works best for you and stick to it. It will take some practice to nail the perfect throw, but once you’ve got it down, it’s easy to repeat over and over every throw.

Common Cornhole Terms

There is a wild assortment of cornhole terms used when playing the game. Some are made up on the spot, but others are important to know so you can follow along in the game. I thought I’d put a list together of some of the most popular cornhole terms I’ve heard to give you a head start.

  • Toss: Throwing the cornhole bag
  • Honors: The team that tosses first
  • Boarder, Woody, Pointer: A bag that lands on the board for 1 point
  • Slider: A bag that slides across the board
  • Backstop: A bag that lands on the board past the hole, acting a a backstop for incoming sliders
  • Blocker: A bag that lands in front of the hole blocking any sliders
  • Dirty Bag: A bag that does not count for points because it is touching the ground
  • Nothin But Corn, Airmail: A bag thrown through the hole without touching the sides
  • Holer, Cornhole: A bag that ends up in the hole
  • Double Cornhole, Dos Cornhole: Throwing two bags in the hole in a row
  • Triple Cornhole, Tres Cornhole: Throwing three bags into the hole in a row
  • The Great Cornholio: Throwing all four bags into the hole during a round, everyone must bow to this player (even people just watching and bystanders) Player may sign the board and receive a ceremony in their honor.
  • Corn On The Cob: Player lands every bag on the board
  • Cornfusion: When the teams can’t agree on scoring for a round
  • Wash: Team points are the same cancelling out and adding no points to either score for the round

There are many other terms you may hear, and feel free to make up your own, but these are some of the most popular I’ve heard on more than one cornhole field.

Cornhole History

The first ever mention of the game was in an 1883 patent for ‘Parlor Quoits’ but that game does not resemble cornhole as we know it today. Parlor Quoits was to be played in doors and did use bean bags, but the setup and rules were different.

In 1974 Popular Mechanics Magazine did a story about a new upcoming game called ‘Bean Bag Bulls Eye’ which was more closely related to the cornhole we know today. It used different size boards and the players only threw two bags each weighing about half of what a cornhole bag weighs.

The version named ‘Cornhole’ and the one we play now, became popular in the early 1980’s. Since then, it has swept across the United States, much of the credit has been given to the Midwest states for this explosion of cornhole as a backyard, cookout, lawn, and barbecue game.

Robert Sampson

I'm Robert Sampson and I live in Colorado where I spend a lot of time in the backyard with my family either grilling, playing games and sports, or working on a project to make our backyard a better place to be.

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