Cornhole Rules: How to Play Cornhole (Official Regulations in 2020)

Cornhole is the most popular bag toss game in the United States.

Although it’s often played in backyards and tailgating parties, you can also compete in national tournaments. Championships are organized each year.

Before buying your first kit of cornhole boards and bags, it’s important to learn cornhole rules and how to play it properly. At the bottom of this page, you can download a print-ready PDF checklist with a list of the most important cornhole rules.

So let’s start…

First, let’s divide the rules into 4 smaller parts.

1 Part – Cornhole equipment

2 Part – Cornhole gameplay

3 Part – Scoring rules

4 Part – Cornhole court layout and place

1 – Cornhole rules for equipment

In order to play cornhole, you’ll need:

  • 8 cornhole bags (4 bags for each team – each team must have different bag colours)
  • 2 cornhole boards

There are many manufacturers of cornhole equipment, so first we must get familiar with standard size and dimensions of boards and bags.

This way you will know exactly which equipment is good. Especially if you want to attend official tournaments. You want to practice on standardized equipment that is going to be used in championships.

Off course, if you play only with your friends at tailgating parties then you can choose step away from these standards.

For example famous manufacturer of cornhole boards, Baggo has feet shorter boards. Although the quality and practicality of their boards is fantastic, that minor flaw makes their boards inappropriate for championships. So you don’t want to practice on Baggo boards if you attend cornhole tournaments.

Bean bags – Dimension of each bag is about 6 x 6 inches and it weighs about 15-16 ounces (~450 grams). If you are creating a bag by yourself using some DIY tutorial, you can get corn feed at any tractor supply or local feed shop. Insert 1 pound of whole kernel corn into each bag – which is about 2 cups. However if you want it to be water-resistant then put recycled plastic resin pellets, this will also extend the lifetime of the bags.

Bean bags

Cornhole bag dimensions – 6″ x 6″

Bags need to be made out of durable materials such as synthetic suede, twill or canvas.

Each team must have different bag colours. So make sure that 4 bags are made out of one colour and other 4 out of different colour. You can use any colour that is easy to spot. We suggest that bag colours are opposite of board colour. That way it will be much easier to see the exact spot of the bag on the board.

Also, make sure that double-stitched seams is used to connect the front and back fabric of a bag.

Different colors and types of bean bags

Boards – the standard board measurement is 24 x 48 inches with a rectangle shape.

Cornhole board length and width

For tournament purposes, the wood type of the board should be 0.5-inch plywood. If you practice for championships and want to play by traditional rules, then ONLY use wooden boards. There is a significant performance difference between wooden boards and boards that are made out of other materials such as plastic.

The position of the hole should be width centred 9 inches from the top and 12 inches away from each side edge. The hole size should be 6 inches in diameter.

Cornhole board's hole position

The front side of the board should be 4 inches high from the ground while the backside should be 12 inches high. The board should be placed on a flat surface. The angle of the board surface and back leg should be 90 degrees.

Heights of the board on both sides

It’s suggested, but not mandatory, that boards have closed each side of the board. So the only opening should be the hole on the surface. This is important especially at night when it’s hard to determine if a bag was thrown into the hole from the air or it came from the left or right side when jumped from the ground.

The surface of the board needs to be smooth without any defects or faults. Once thrown on the board, the bag needs to glide perfectly without any obstacles.

Cornhole boards in multi-shades

Painting cornhole boards is a crucial part! If you are creating a board by yourself make sure that you are using latex paint with a high gloss effect. The reason is that you want bags to slide up the board very easily, but you don’t want the surface to be too slippery for bags to slide down if the bag was not pitched in the hole.

As for the colour combination, you can use any color or artwork you want. But for tournament purposes make sure that the board is painted in white or any easy-to-see color combination.

2 – How to play cornhole instructions

Like in many sports, cornhole can be played in singles or doubles.

Singles – one player competes against another player. Both players pitch bags from the same platform, but each player stands on a different side of the cornhole board. In next round players walk to the opposite platform, maintaining the same lane in which they started the first round. Each player should have 4 bags – each opponent needs to have a different bag colour.

Doubles – team competes against other teams where each team has two players, also known as team partners. So in doubles, there are 4 players in total – 2 versus 2. Each player of a team pitches bags from opposite platform, but on the same side. So at one cornhole platform, on each side, there is a player from a different team. Like in singles, each cornhole team should have 4 bags in one colour.

Take a look at how cornhole is played on tournaments:

Each team must stay in the same lane in which they started the first round. They can not change lanes during the whole game.

You are allowed to throw a beanbag underhand in cornhole. Every overhand, above the head or two hand release is considered to be a foul.

If there are too many bags already inside the hole making it impossible for another bag to fall into the hole, a player may ask for bags to be raked out of the board, so that other bags can fall into the hole as well. It’s important that during a rake neither of the bags that are currently on the board surface is moved. Even those that are hanging in the hole edge can not be moved. If the bag accidentally falls into the hole during a rake, it’s calculated as a 3 point strike.

Who throws first in the first round? Well, a coin flip will decide. For each next round, the winner of the previous round has the honour to throw first.

The bag is thrown alternately until players have thrown all 8 bags (4 per each player).

In doubles, first, the players at one platform alternately throw bags while players on the opposite platform keep the score. In the next round, they switch sides. Now the ones that were keeping the score throw bags, and the others that were throwing the bags now keep the score.

Every other rule is the same for single or double plays!

Game is divided into rounds. Each round ends once all available bags are thrown. After each round, scoring is calculated and added to the overall scoring board.

The player must throw using the same arm during the whole game unless it’s a medical injury so he/she needs to switch hands.

Each contestant has a maximum of 20 seconds to throw a bag. The time starts once a player has entered the pitching box.

Each player must remain in their pitcher box when pitching a bag. If a player steps out of the pitching box while throwing a bag it’s considered as a foul. In that case team of the player who caused the foul gets 0 points for that bag pitch and if the bag landed onboard it should be immediately removed.

If you are playing on a cornhole tournament, a common-sense rule is that you can not vocally disturb opponents or distract them in any way. If it happens, you will receive a warning from the tournament judge. If you continue to distract opponents, you will be disqualified.

Violation of rules of the game

This is the list of rule violations that should result in the bag being removed from the court. Off course any bag that is removed doesn’t carry any points. Tournament judge or contestant can report any of the following rule violations:

  • Player stepped on or crossed the foul line before tossing a bag
  • Corn bag was thrown 20 seconds after stepping into the pitching box or when it was players turn. It results in the player being out of turn
  • Player changed pitching box in the same round
  • Bag on the board surface that is touching the ground is a foul bag and carries 0 points
  • If a corn bag ends anywhere but on the cornhole board (example: tree, lawn or on other objects) it’s considered to be a foul bag and also carries 0 points
  • If a corn bag accidentally falls out of player’s hand when a bag wasn’t being tossed then it’s not considered to be a foul. However, if a bag was dropped after the swing then it’s a foul bag. Again, the foul bag carries zero points and should be removed immediately
  • If a bag hits the ground first and then jumps onto the cornhole board it’s considered to be a foul bag

Essential cornhole terminology

Ace / Woody – Bag that landed on the board surface. This is the wort 1 point.

Cornholer  – cornhole player.

Cornhole – a bag that went into the hole. This is worth 3 points.

Cornholio / 12 pack – the player who scored all four bags in a single round. This is worth 12 points, hence the name 12 pack.

Nothing but hole – a bag that went straight into the hole without touching the hole rim.

Penny – the synonym for a bag that is worth 1 point.

Faultin – when a player crosses the foul line while tossing a bag. This is considered to be a foul bag and doesn’t carry any points.

You can find more conrhole terms here.

3 – Scoring rules

According to traditional rules, the game is played until one team reaches or exceeds 21 points. The team who first reaches 21 points wins.

Scoreboard in the game

Scoring is calculated at the end of each round.

Round (or frame) is considered to be completed once all conrhole bags are thrown.

Scoring breakdown:

  • Bag goes directly in the hole = 3 points
  • Bag was on the surface and ended in the hole after being hit by another bag = 3 points
  • Bag stays on cornhole board surface  = 1 point
  • Bag is almost in the hole (hanging a bit in) = 1 point
  • Bag hanging on the edge of a cornhole board but not touching the ground = 1 point
  • Bag is on the board but is touching the ground (this bag needs to be removed before continuing the game) = 0 points
  • Also if a bag is on the board but is touching a bag that is already off the surface = 0 points
    But there is one exception to this. If a bag that is off the surface can be removed with another bag then the bag that was previously touching the bag that was on the surface is not touching it anymore. So 1 point goes to the hanging bag.

Foul bags – the cancellation of scoring when a player breaks a rule. Foul bags simply don’t carry any points. Basically, if a bag is not in the hole or on the board (while not touching the ground) it is considered to be foul bag and gets 0 points. If a bag is touching the ground but still on the surface board, if it’s not on the board at all and if the players have stepped on a foul line the bag is considered to be foul! If a foul bag moved non-foul bag into a foul zone (for example, off the board), the bag that was previously non-foul should be returned to the original position and the foul bag needs to be removed.

Once all the bags are thrown, the round ends.

Round score = Score of the highest-scoring team – Score of the lowest-scoring team

Example: Team A scores 7 – Team B scores 5 = Team A adds 2 points to the overall score.

Team with the highest score adds the point difference to the total game score.

Round winner has the honour to throw first in the next round.

If the round score is equal, then the team who was previously throwing first continues to do so in the next round.

Let’s look at an example: 

Cornhole game rules

 

Team A scores 1 bag directly in the hole, 1 bag stays on the surface and 1 is almost in the hole = 5 Points

Team B scores 1 bag hanging on the surface, 1 bag stays on the surface and 1 is almost in the hole = 1 points

Team A won this round and got 4 points (the difference between 5 and 1), which is added to total game scoring. Team B doesn’t get any points since it’s the lowest scoring contestant in this round.

Now Team A has the honour to throw first in the next round.

This type of scoring method is called cancellation scoring. Which means that in each round only one player/team can get points added to the overall game score. Points of one team cancel the points of opponents score. So only the difference is added to the overall game score.

It’s suggested that scoring board is always visible to both teams and that score is updated after each throw and round. You should keep an eye on the scoreboard, especially on tournaments.

If a player spots irregularities during a tournament, the player can approach the scorer to resolve an issue. Otherwise, if the scoring issue can’t be resolved so that both teams are satisfied, a tournament judge must be called to give the final decision.

4 – Cornhole court regulations

You can play it anywhere as long as the distance between cornhole boards is 27 feet (front to the front of a board) and it can be placed on a flat surface. For kids (juniors), the distance between boards can be lowered to 15 feet.

However, if you intend to play conrhole indoor make sure that the distance between the roof and board is at least 12 feet. Indoor cornhole rules and regulations are the same as when played outside.

If there are two or more cornhole games played at the same area or yard, make sure that each cornhole court is separated from others by at least 10 feet. This is to ensure safety and that bags don’t go into other courts.

Cornhole rules for playing field, team sides and pitching boxes

 

Also, you need to clearly mark pitch boxes for each of the 4 players. The front end of a pitch box is called foul line.

Players can not cross the foul line when tossing a bag.

Foul lines
Foul lines of each pitching box

So make sure that the place where you are playing cornhole has enough width so that two players can stand on the left and right side of the board. That area is called pitcher box. It has the same dimension as cornhole board (4 x 3 feet) and it’s located on the left and right side next to the board. Pitcher box is the place in which player should stand when tossing a bag. Take a look at the image below:

Cornhole pitching boxes scheme for each player
Pitching boxes for doubles

Players should not make changes to cornhole court during a match without permission of the opponent’s team. This is to ensure distraction-free playing.

Every other accessory, such as scoreboard or drink holders, should be placed behind players and boards outside the court in order to ensure maximum concentration of the players without any distractions.

Finally, make sure to take a look at the most frequent cornhole terminology.

We have prepared a printable version of cornhole rules. It will come handy when you are out playing and don’t have access to computer or internet.

Download the PDF rules checklist

Remember, the whole purpose of conrhole is to have a blast with your friends! 🙂

Do you have any comments, suggestions or strategy on how to play cornhole? Please feel free to share them in the comment section below…

58 thoughts on “Cornhole Rules: How to Play Cornhole (Official Regulations in 2020)”

  1. FYI – The picture used in the scoring example appears to be from a washer toss as it’s not possible to score a 2 pointer in cornhole

    Reply

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