It’s that time of year. Families across the country are anticipating warmer weather so they can bring out all the yard games that have been gathering dust over the winter. Every family has their favorite spring-weather pastime, and some games can stand the test of time.
I remember the excitement that came around Easter time every year when my dad would pull out the croquet set that had belonged to my great grandparents. It was an old and unusual game that was unlike anything else we ever played at school or at home. Seeing the budding grass outside always brings that old-school game to mind.
Maybe your family has their own favorite game. Just maybe, it is time you investigate some others that you can add to your repertoire. Here is a list of old school games that simply never go out of style.
Bocce, or some version of the game, has been around for hundreds of years. In Italian, Bocce simply means “balls.” The game can be played with 2 players or 2 teams with around 3 or 4 players. Setting up your own Bocce court is simple to create in your own backyard.
Most commonly, it is set up on natural grass at 10 feet in width and 60 feet in length. Both players or teams have a set of four balls in their team’s color. The opposing team will have their own set of four balls and unique color. A smaller ball, called the pallina or jack, is tossed into the bocce court by the team that wins a coin toss.
Balls are thrown underhanded. The team that has the “in” ball or the ball closest to the jack wins. It is legal to try to knock out opposing team’s balls. Balls that fall outside of foul boundaries are considered dead and no longer playable. Only one team can score per frame that is played. Usually, the first team that makes it to 16 wins!
Bocce is still so popular in backyards that garden designer, Wendy Lindquist, says that she has a side business just for creating Bocce courts in people’s landscape. Noting the importance of a level court, Lindquist suggests that many people enjoy maintaining the game in their yards for social gatherings and even for fundraising.
Cornhole, which has become popularized and made more portable in recent years, is either German or Native American in origin. No matter who invented it in the first place, we know it has been around for at least a couple of hundred years. You may remember the popularity of tossing beanbags around as a kid. In 2017, the game is as popular as ever.
In fact, The National Cornhole Association was established in 2005 to meet the demands of those who wanted organized national cornhole tournaments and established rules.
Either two people or two teams can play cornhole with their team’s color beanbag. Each beanbag should be about 6” by 6” and weigh about a pound. There are two game boards, each weighing less than 25 lbs. Some are made from wood, but more updated and portable game boards are made from plastic. The surface of the game board is smooth so that beanbags can slide toward the circular hole that is a few inches from the top of the game board.
The cornhole court is about 8 feet wide and 40 feet in length. Game boxes are placed 27 feet apart from each other, measuring beginning at the bottom edge of the box. Cones or flags can be used to mark off the court. Players score by standing in their team’s pitching box and tossing the bag into the hole of the game board on the other side of the court. All players pitch four beanbags underhanded for the score to count.
Cornhole ranks as one of the best old-school games that will never go out of style. Knoxville has sponsored the American Cornhole Tournament for the past two years, even meriting coverage by ESPN.
“With the growth of cornhole popularity around the world … we are proud to host this event for American Cornhole for a second year in a row. We even were fortunate enough to have ESPN in town last year for this event,” said Steve Winfree of Visit Knoxville. “Visit Knoxville will be encouraging locals and tourists alike to become sponsors, look to enter or just come out to be spectators.”
Croquet originated in the British Isles during the mid-19th Century. By 1856, Wimbledon had formed the All England Croquet Club due to its popularity. A more lightweight version of the game made its way to the U.S. and really took off between 1920 and 1940. Around 1970, Americans decided to create better lawns and equipment to foster a better version of the game.
The United State Croquet Association supports a variety of versions of the game, whether that is the historical 9-wicket form or the more modern 6-wicket form. Wickets are typically rounded pieces of metal that are placed on the lawn to make “goals” throughout the croquet court.
Equipment needed for typical backyard or 9-wicket croquet: 2 mallets, 6 balls, and 9 wickets. Each team or player has a mallet and 3 balls with their team’s color. The court does not have to be completely level, but it is good to have the grass cut low. The court is typically 50 feet in width and 100 feet in length. Official court sizes are not always necessary when you’re setting up for a family day in the back yard.
“Not everyone, however, has the budget for a first-class lawn, including myself. Or the space. Moreover, not everyone has the time or the inclination to deal with the maintenance ordeal that follows building of a full-sized grass court,” writes Dr. Carl Mabee, a National USCA Singles Champion and expert on creating courts and greens.
Mabee suggests that creating a court has much more to do with the uniformity of the wickets than it does with the shape of the court or the smoothness of the course. A proper court has wickets placed in two sets of diamonds. They should all be placed parallel to one another. Typical colors associated with croquet are blue, red, black, and yellow.
Scoring takes place when each player sends his ball through the wicket course. Points are earned when they run through the course in the correct order, using a mallet to do so. Moving a ball out of order is not a penalty. The player who scores the most wickets and reaches the end of the course is the winner.