OBJECTIVE OF NORWEGIAN GOLF/LADDER GOLF: The objective of Norwegian Golf is to be the first player or team to score exactly 21 points after a finished round (after all bolas are thrown).

NUMBER OF PLAYERS: 2 players or teams

MATERIALS: 1 or 2 ladders, 2 sets of bolas (1 set = 3 bolas)

TYPE OF GAME: Strategy lawn/outdoor game

AUDIENCE: Family players


Norwegian Golf is an all-ages outdoor game that seemingly has nothing to do with Norway. Known colloquially by its other names, such as Ladder Toss, Ladder Golf, Goofy Balls, Hillbilly Golf, Snake Toss, and Cowboy Golf, the name “Cowboy Golf” is likely the most accurate to its origins. Formally discovered around campgrounds in the 1990s, it is speculated that the game developed from one that American Cowboys and Mexican Caballeros once played. Instead of throwing snakes at branches for points, in Norwegian Golf players throw bolas, or golf balls attached by a string, at a ladder. 

The ladders used in the game, which give it some of its names, can be easily constructed at home with PVC pipe. While there are many methods of construction, the three steps of the ladder must be spaced 13 inches apart. The bolas, as well, can be easily constructed at home with golf bowls and string to space the balls 13 inches apart. 


Before starting the game, the ladders must be set up and the toss line determined. If you are playing with one ladder, the toss line must be 15 feet from the ladder or about five paces. However, if you are playing with two ladders, the second ladder can be placed at the toss line. Players or teams must then stand beside their opponent’s ladder when they toss their bolas. 

Taking Turns

To get the game started, players or teams must toss a coin, and the winner starts. That player then throws all three of their bolas at their ladder to collect points. Players must throw all their bolas individually, but in any way they please, before the next player or team can take a turn. 


After all players and teams have thrown their bolas, the round ends and scoring commences. Your score is determined by the bolas left hanging on the ladder, with each rung of the ladder denoting a different point value. The ladder, which has three rungs, has the following values: top rung is 3 points, middle rung is 2 points, and the bottom rung is 1 point. If a player or team has three bolas on the same step or a single bola on each, they earn an extra point. 

If players are sharing a ladder during gameplay, they are encouraged to knock off the hanging bolas of their opponents. Bolas knocked off by opponents do not accumulate into anyone’s score. A player can earn up to 10 points in a round by hanging all three strands on the top rung. 

Reminder: points accumulate with each round. The game continues until a team or player scores exactly 21 points. 


The first player or team to earn precisely 21 points is the winner. For instance, a player with 17 points must earn exactly 4 points on their turn to win. If that player, after throwing all three bolas, earns 5 points, they do not win the game and start again at 17 points in the next round. 

In the event of a tie, the game continues until one player or team has a 2-point lead over the other. 

Nakoa Davis