How to Build Your Own Portable Wood Ladderball Game

Summer is for relaxing in the backyard, grilling, and enjoying time with friends. Horseshoes and washers are classic backyard games with cornhole and ladderball gaining popularity. You can buy a commercial version that is made from floppy PVC or spend an afternoon to build your own with our easy to follow illustrated instructions with dimensions.

You probably have many of the materials laying around, but even if you buy everything new the the cost is about the same as the retail product, but you will have a much better quality game that will last you for years.  The wood frame is lightweight and portable but still rigid for good gameplay and the PVC rungs are friction-fit for easy disassembly and storage. 

This is a perfect project to involve your kids because it is not too long or complicated and there are many steps that even the youngest can help with. You can even pick your colors and paint scheme to match your favorite sports team – perfect for tailgating or that backyard BBQ on game day!

Be sure to take proper safety precautions at all times, including wearing eye protection.

Material List for Two Ladders

  • (2) 8-foot board of 1×4 wood
  • (2) 6-foot board of 1×4 wood
  • (8) rigid corner braces
  • (1) 35-piece box of Spax 8 by 3/4in pan head screws
  • (12) 3/4 PVC caps (slip caps, not threaded)
  • (6) 2 foot sections of 3/4″ Schedule 40 PVC (either buy pre-cut sections or buy a long section and cut it)
  • (12) 1/4 x 1-1/4 carriage bolts and matching lock nuts
  • Spray paint
Dimensions of ladderball frame

Material List for two sets of bolos

  • (6) golf balls of the same color
  • (6) golf balls of a different color
  • (2) 5-foot sections of paracord

Tool List

  • Wood saw
  • Drill
  • 1/4-inch drill bit
  • 7/32-inch drill bit
  • Phillips screw driver
  • Large pliers or channel locks
  • Socket wrench and socket
  • Knife or scissors
  • Lighter

Build the Ladderball Uprights

  1. Cut the 6-foot 1×4 in half – these 3-foot sections are the base for the ladder
  2. Cut the 8-foot 1×4 in half – these 4-foot sections are the vertical frame for the ladder.
  3. Use 2 corner braces and the Spax screws to attach the 4-foot sections to the center of the 3-foot sections.
    • We first used Spax screws in 2008 and now use them on all of our projects. Their patented 4CUT™ point means no pre-drilling and no splitting because the square end divides the fibers (and no stripped screw heads). We can’t recommend them enough – they go in easily and hold tight in wood, sheet metal, plastics and even masonry.
  4. Measure from the top of the vertical frames and mark the center of the board at 1-1/2-inches, 13-1/2-inches, and 25-1/2-inches. Drill 1/4-inch holes in the vertical frames at your marked locations.
  5. Drill 1/4-inch holes in the center of the 3/4-inch PVC caps. Use caution – the caps are small and the drill bit may grab and cause the cap to spin. Use a large pliers or channel locks to hold them securely while drilling – wrap the caps with a cloth rag or piece of rubber to prevent the teeth on the pliers from gouging the PVC.
  6. Thread the carriage bolts thru the wood and then the PVC cap and attach with the lock nuts. The smooth head of the carriage bolt should be at the wood, and the lock nut inside the PVC cap.
Assemble the PVC caps and carriage bolts to hold the rungs
  1. Paint the ladder frames your color of choice, try to minimize the overspray and not get a lot of paint inside the PVC caps.
  2. Now put a 2-foot section of PVC pipe in each of the caps and tap the entire assembly together with your hand or a rubber mallet.  The PVC caps should be snug enough for playing but still make for easy disassembly for moving and storage.

Why Wood Ladder Frames are Better for Ladderball

Some DIY sites will tell you to use nothing but PVC pipe and fittings to make the entire frame. We’ve played on ladders made entirely from PVC and it wasn’t a good experience. The frame was wobbly and sometimes tipped over after a toss until we weighed it down. Then we priced out the cost to build our own from PVC and it was a no-brainer – the PVC parts add up quickly! It would cost almost double to build from all PVC to end up with a substandard game.

We use wood for the ladder frame because it is rigid and still light. The Simpson strong ties hold the base securely and we’ve never had our ladder fall over during normal games (the guys will get rowdy after a few beers some nights so its still possible to knock them over with a very hard toss).

Technically our plans do not match the self-described ‘official’ dimensions from Ladder Golf that have 13 inch spacing from rung to rung and rung to ground. We like the taller ladder and our design is very efficient – lumber is easy to find in 8-ft and 6-ft lengths and then simply cut in half with no waste. If you want to build the official ladders then simply adjust your dimensions for 13″ spacing.

We used PVC pipe on the rungs for 2 reasons: the PVC pipe fits snugly into the PVC caps because they are made to mate and PVC rungs make for more difficult gameplay. You can also use 1″ wood dowels for the rungs but the wood has more texture and so bolas stay on the rungs better – paracord slides on the smooth PVC and more bolas fall off.

The outside diameter of 3/4″ PVC is 1.05″ so a 1″ wood dowel will fit but may not be tight in the PVC caps. Painting the dowel is usually enough to make it snug, but if it loosens over time you can add a bit of tape or even cross pin it with a thumbscrew through the side of the cap.

Build the Ladderball Bolas

  1. Drill 7/32-inch holes thru the center of the golf balls.  
    • The golf balls are even more difficult to drill than the PVC caps, so use the same channel lock pliers to hold the golf balls.  
    • Be sure to use a cloth rag or piece of rubber on the pliers to protect the surface to prevent them from digging into the golf ball – you do not want sharp edges on your bolas.
  2. Cut the paracord into 3 pieces each 20-inches long.  Singe the cut end of the paracord with a lighter to stop it from fraying.
  3. Put an overhand knot into the paracord about 1/4-inch from one end.
  4.  Thread a golf ball onto the paracord and push it against the knot, lock it in place with an overhand knot
  5. Put another overhand knot in the cord, and position it 10.5-inches from the inside knot next to the golf first golf ball.
  6. Thread a matching golf ball onto the end of the paracord and lock it in place with an overhand knot.
  7. Trim the excess paracord and singe the end with a lighter.

Wrap the end of the paracord with masking tape to make it easier to pull thru the golf balls, you can also use a short piece of wire to push the cord thru if needed.

Make your knots snug but don’t pull them tight until all 6 bolas are finished. Make final adjustments so that all bolas have the same length and spacing – you want each bola to measure 11-inches between the golf balls.

Regular Schedule 40 white PVC will last for many years, even if you leave your ladderball frames outside in the sun, but if you want them to be truly rugged use gray conduit PVC that has UV inhibitors or upgrade to Schedule 80.

Learn how to play ladderball – in this post we cover all the details you need to know: how to setup the distance between ladders, scoring rules, and how to throw the bolas so you win.

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