If you’ve never heard of ladder golf before, you are probably wondering how in the world you could play golf on a ladder. Fortunately, you don’t have to stand on the ladder to play. Ladder golf, also known as Hillbilly Golf, has a hazy history. Some “legends” speculate that the game originated from cowboys in the western United States who threw live snakes at barbed wire fences and kept score. Or it came as a way to entertain while camping with some items lying around. We may never know.
But neither history really explains the reason for the name. That actually comes from the play pieces. A golf ball is attached to each end of a piece of rope, known as a bola. Although some variations have found safer end pieces than a hard golf ball. The bolas are then thrown at a structure with rungs like a ladder. Thus, we have “Ladder Golf”.
Normally, the game is played with four players, two per team. One player from each team stands by one of the two ladders, which are set up 15 feet apart. All bolas start on one side. One player throws all three, trying to land them on the rungs of the opposing ladder. Then the other player throws their three. Players must stand beside the ladder and stay behind the toss line (equivalent to the middle of the ladder) when throwing. There is no set way to throw a bola. It can even bounce off the ground (although this is a very tricky shot). It just has to wrap around or hang on the rung.
Each rung on the ladder is worth a different amount. The top is worth 3 points, middle 2 points, and bottom 1 point. Landing all three on one rung or one on each results in an extra point. The first team to exactly 21 is the winner. Only the remaining bolas on the rungs are counted. If one falls to the ground before the round is over, it no longer counts as any points.