4 Classic Lawn Games and How to Play Them

Just because the festive fun of the Fourth of July is behind us doesn’t mean there aren’t ample opportunities to gather with friends in a backyard or park, crack open a few cold cans of Jack’s Hard Cider, dish up tasty cider friendly snacks and have some good, old-fashioned summer fun. While bean bag toss games are all the rage these days, why not take a cue from generations past and try classic lawn games at your next BBQ or park hang? You can enjoy a leisurely afternoon just as your grandparents did (but with far more excellent beverages to sip)!

Here are four of our favorites:

  1. Badminton: Why is it so satisfying to whack a shuttlecock with a tiny racquet? We can’t say for sure, but it’s a time-honored fact. It takes a lot of swings and misses to really connect with the shuttlecock, but when you can get a good rally going, badminton is a fun and thrilling game. You need equipment, but sets can be inexpensive if purchased online, or (if you’re lucky) scooped up from a thrift store or yard sale.

Set up a court approximately 44 feet long by 20 feet wide with the net right in the middle.

The rules:

  • Teams may be made up of one or two people per side (called “singles” and “doubles,” just as in tennis).
  • Games consist of three matches, each played to 21 points.
  • Each round of play begins with a serve, and the sides go back and forth serving. When the server’s score is even, he or she serves from the right of the court, and from the left when the server’s score is odd.
  • Points are scored just as in tennis: when the shuttlecock isn’t successfully returned back over the net, or if a serve faults more than two times.

Fun fact: A shuttlecock is sometimes called a “bird” or a “birdie.”

  1. Croquet: There is possibly no game more synonymous with the term “lawn games” than croquet. The object of this game, with roots in the Victorian era (when modern-day leisure was defined), is for players to hit balls through a course of wire hoops called wickets and finish by hitting them against the peg placed in the center. The balls must be hit in the correct sequence in each direction, and the side that completes the course first wins.

Croquet doesn’t have to be played on freshly mown grass, but shorter grass is definitely better for game play. A regulation-size court measures 100 feet long by 50 feet wide. However, for backyard play, these dimensions can be tailored to fit whatever space you have.

The rules:

  • Croquet teams can be made up of two, four or six players.
  • Most backyard croquet consists of nine wickets.
  • Set up the wickets in a zigzag pattern (here is a good guide), with at least three feet between each wicket. Feel free to use yard items, like trees or bushes, to add some challenge to the court.
  • For game play, follow the colors on the stakes.
    • In a four-ball game, it’s blue, red, black, and yellow (the sides are blue/black against red/yellow)
    • In a six-ball game, it’s blue, red, black, yellow, green, and orange (the sides are blue/black/green against red/yellow/orange)
  • When a player makes a wicket in order or hits the turn stake, he or she is given an extra shot. If a player hits another ball, the bonus is two strokes.
  • To make a wicket, the ball must fully pass through.
  • See more croquet rules here, but remember: Too many rules can be a drag. The whole point is to whack a ball with a stick and have fun!
  1. Potato sack race: Talk about old-fashioned fun (with a little exercise, to boot)! Ask someone at your local farmer’s market or grocery store produce department to bring you a few potato sacks, or order a few burlap sacks online and get ready for lots of laughter and embarrassing videos on social media.

There is no official size for sack-race courses. Again, use what you’ve got, just making sure that the starting and ending lines are clearly marked. In smaller yards or spaces, create a relay race, where teams of players must traverse the course a few times.

One of the best things about sack races is that there are so few rules! But here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • A player’s full body must cross the finish line to consider the race complete. A hand flung out in desperation doesn’t count!
  • The sack must stay on the participant’s body at all times! If the bag falls off, the participant must stop and climb back in before restarting.
  • More participants equals more fun. Though, a (good-natured) grudge match between two extra competitive friends or relatives can also make for an exciting race.
  • Make it a three-legged race: pair up, with each team of two holding one sack between them. Standing side-by-side, each player’s closest leg goes into the bag, with the outside leg unencumbered. This method takes lots of teamwork!
  1. Horseshoes: Another game to find at yard sales! This game seems invented specifically for lazy afternoons of sun-drenched, cider-sipping fun. The game itself has a lazy pace that can be paused anytime, so you won’t have to miss the magic moment when the burgers come off the grill. This probably goes without saying, but just in case: Beware of children, animals and adults who aren’t paying attention. Flinging heavy metal objects through the air is fun, but should be handled with an appropriate degree of caution.

A standard horseshoe pit is 40 feet long by 6 feet wide. The “pitcher’s box,” where the horseshoes are thrown from, measures 6 feet by 6 feet. The “pits,” where the stakes are located, are commonly filled with clay, sand or sawdust to minimize bouncing of the shoe. If you don’t have those materials at your disposal, that’s OK.

Especially if you’ve never played before, try a few practice throws before beginning the game. If you’re right-handed, stand to the left of the stake. Swing as you throw, following through in the direction that you want to horseshoe to go.

The rules:

  • The game is generally played by two people, or two teams of two people, using four horseshoes and two stakes, hammered into the pit.
  • One player tosses both of his or her rings, followed by the other player. This is called an “inning.”
  • Players are hoping for a “ringer,” when the shoe full encircles the stake. This counts for 3 points. A shoe within 6 inches of the stake (any part of the shoe to the nearest part of the stake) counts for 1 point, and a “leaner,” a shoe leaning against the stake, counts for 2. If each player scores a ringer, the points are canceled out.
  • Games are typically played to 21 points, though the winning number can be customized.
  • A game can only be won by a player tossing his or her own shoe. The final point of a game can’t be scored from an opposing player’s toss bumping an opponent’s shoe.

What are your favorite lawn games? Let us know in the comments, and enjoy the height of the summer with Jack’s Hard Cider in hand!

Jack’s Hard Cider — Produced from Pennsylvania Apples. Pressed On-Site. Never from Concentrate.

Emily Kovach

Photos, top to bottom: Pexels, Anna Miron