Summer’s warm, sunny days have many people in search of fun things to do outside. Whether you are camping, picnicking or just hanging out at home, lawn games are making a resurgence as affordable outdoor fun.
Lisa Westfall and Susan Blackwell are lawn game aficionados. They play everything from cornhole to croquet, from ladder golf to Jarts (lawn darts), and they recently shared their love of games, the rules and some of the more obscure trivia surrounding one of their favorites.
“It wasn’t planned,” Blackwell said of their large collection. “It just kind of happened.” The couple likes outdoor sports and competition, and they also host an annual Jarts tournament.
The women said the tournament they now call the Wing Jart Fling first came about as an excuse to socialize and to eat good food. But the Consumer Product Safety Commission banned the sale of Jarts in 1987, and that taboo has added to the game’s popularity.
Describing the inception of the tournament, Westfall said, “We were really into wings. People would bring them from different restaurants around the area; we would eat and then we’d play Jarts.”
The interest in Jarts grew until a backyard party turned into a highly competitive tournament. The tournament grew so large, the couple has had to institute time limits and ban double elimination.
“People really look forward to it every year. They always ask about it,” Blackwell said.
In fact, it has been so popular and well attended that in some years they have moved the game to a public park to accommodate everyone.
The couple plays lots of other games and have been collecting and playing lawn games for years. They own some of the more popular games like cornhole (a grown-up competitive version of a beanbag toss) and croquet, a game played with mallets, wooden or plastic balls and hoops called wickets.
They also own a somewhat obscure game called ladder golf. Ladder golf is gaining popularity, in part because it can be easily and inexpensively assembled by do-it-yourselfers.
Westfall said, “My parents’ neighbor made the ladder golf game for us for Christmas one year. We take it when we go camping.”
The ladder is made of PVC pipe, and the throwing pieces, called bolas, are made from two golf balls strung together. The ladder has three rungs, and the object of the game is to toss the bolas onto the rungs. Each rung has a different point value.
Another of the couple’s favorite outdoor games is disc golf. Although disc golf is usually played on a course, Westfall said, “I wanted a disc golf basket, but they were expensive. So we Googled how to make one, and my dad made two different baskets for me. We keep it out back all year-round.”
Here are the rules and equipment needed to play some of Westfall’s and Blackwell’s favorite games in your own backyard:
Jarts (lawn darts)
l 2 hoop targets
l 4 lawn darts
Rules of play:
Place the hoops 35 feet apart and divide players into two teams of two. One member of each team stands to the side of each target. The players toss the darts toward the opposing target. Points are scored if the dart lands inside the target. The first team to reach a score of 21 points wins.
In a variant of the game called Handly Cup Style, points are scored for darts landed inside the target and also for darts that land near the target. In this style, the scoring is more complex and based on the distance of each team’s dart from the target.
There are several versions of croquet, but the most common version played in the U.S. is called American Six Wicket Croquet.
l 4 or 6 mallets, depending on the number of players
l 4 or 6 balls
l 6 wickets
l 2 scoring stakes
Rules of play:
The object of the game is to be the first to use your mallet to hit your ball through the wickets and into the stake. Croquet is played in teams, with two or three people to a side. The order of play is always blue, red, black and yellow, followed by green and orange if there are six players. In team play, blue-black-green goes against red-yellow-orange; for four players, teams are blue/black and red/yellow.
Players take one shot per turn. Extra shots can be earned by knocking the ball through a wicket or by striking another player’s ball; this is called a roquet. Clearing a wicket earns one bonus shot. Striking another player’s ball earns two bonus shots.
Additional and more detailed rules, including the layout of the wickets and stakes, can be found online by searching “American Croquet.”
l 3 golf-ball bolas per player
l 1 or 2 ladders, or goals, with three rungs each
Rules of play:
There must be at least two players but there is no limit to how many can play.
A toss line is established 15 feet from the ladder. Each player steps to the line, one at a time, and tosses the bolas, one at a time, trying to secure them on the rungs.
Once everyone has tossed their bolas, scoring is as follows: Every bola attached to the top rung earns 3 points, middle rung 2 points, bottom rung 1 point. The highest scorer wins.
There are also some more complicated scoring methods that can be found online at www.laddergolf.com. Also instructions on assembling your own ladder golf game can be found there.