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The Neat Retreat: Game On! Lawn Games That Never Grow Old

Suzanne Oliver
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For thousands of years, man has been tossing the ball around, swinging the mallet, batting the birdie.

Think about your own outdoor parties. You gather a few friends on the lawn and inevitably a competition of some kind will develop. It’s just in our blood.

This love of lawn games usually originates in our childhood, and we each have our favorites. But one thing remains the same — we never outgrow them.

When I was a whippersnapper in North Carolina, my game of choice was badminton. We’d spend hours battling it out, playing one tournament after another. (My specialty was a “power shot, which is just my intimidating name for a scary, hard, fast hit. I remember relishing the fear in my opponent’s eyes. Score!)

But badminton is just one of many fun lawn games. Here’s a quick list of some others, and a few interesting facts about each:

*Badminton: The best shuttles are made of 16 feathers from the left wings of geese. And they can fly off a racket at the speed of 186 mph, which is faster than the fastest tennis serve. Badminton became an Olympic sport in 1992.

*Bocce: Similar to bowls and pétanque, bocce stems from ancient games played in the Roman Empire. The Italian word is boccia, which means “to bowl.” It’s the third most popular sport in the world, next to golf and soccer.

*Cornhole:This pastime, also known as bean bag toss, is all the rage. Two opposing boards on a slant are placed 30 feet apart. Teams then take turns trying to throw bags of corn into a hole in the wood. Simple as that. Its origin is mostly unknown, but it became popular at universities such as Ohio and Michigan State in the late ’90s. (In fact, Martha Stewart gives step-by-step instructions on how to build your own board here!)

You can personalize your board with your favorite sports team or any picture that strikes your fancy. They even sell versions now that light up for nighttime play.


*Croquet: In the American six-wicket version, balls are played in a sequence: blue, red, black then yellow. It was the first outdoor sport to embrace equality, allowing both men and women to play on equal footing. And it was once an Olympic sport in 1900!

*Horseshoes: The stakes are placed 40 feet apart. It’s a descendant of the ancient Greek sport of discus throw. In America, horseshoes might as well be called “muleshoes”, since Union soldiers used discarded shoes of mules.

*Ladder Golf: Throw two golf balls connected by a rope at a ladder. The top rung is worth three points, the middle two and the bottom one. The goal is to get exactly, not more than, 21 points. Discovered on campgrounds in the early ’90s, ladder golf is also called “hillbilly horseshoes.”

*Lawn Darts: They’re back! The old Jarts with the sharp tips, popular in the ’80s, were responsible for three deaths and thousands of injuries. In 1988, the originals were banned, but safer darts with round, rubber tips were introduced in 2009.

*Washers: Similar to cornhole, but you throw flat, metal washers. Also known as “Texas Horseshoes.” The winner is the first to get 21 points.

 Tip: We especially like the new combo packs that feature three lawn games in one — cornhole, ladder golf and washers. They’re sold with a duffle bag and simply require you to add/subtract ladders or flip over the platform to change games. Perfect for camping and tailgating, too.

Images: Shutterstock

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