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Ladder Golf, AKA Rat King: The Game

March 4th, 2008 by Conor Lastowka · 33 Comments

I have played quite a bit of “Ladder Golf” since the weather turned permanently nice here a week or so ago. Ladder Golf belongs to the horseshoes, bocce ball, beanbag toss family of games, which all have in common the fact that they are easily played, and some said only made tolerable, with a beer in hand.

ladder golf

You toss the bolos at the ladder, and each rung is assigned a different point. A major strategy thus becomes knocking off your opponents bolos with your own, which occasionally results in a twisting together of the bolos, that anyone in the know can’t help but compare to a Rat King.


A Rat King is when a bunch of rats get their tails twisted together and start to exist as a single unit.  I was informed about Rat King’s in an episode of “30 Rock” but nobody else I’ve asked seems to have heard about them. Evidently, despite the amazing photographic evidence above, they are not confirmed to be a real thing, but rather part of the fascinating world of cryptozoology, which also encapsulates the Yeti, Jackalope, Chupacabra and Axl Rose. My favorite sentence of the wikipedia article about them is: “Historically, rat kings were seen as an extremely bad omen,” as if seeing one of these writhing masses on your way to work in the morning was bad because of what it might be predicting, instead of just the completely natural feeling of utter revulsion it causes.

I also wonder if anyone back in that time willfully tried to embrace them as a good omen, like kids who pick number 13 for their sports teams on purpose. “Hey Bob, there was a Rat King on my porch today when I got the paper. I knew it was gonna be a good day when I got out of bed today! Even bought a lottery ticket!”

Anyways, Ladder Golf is really fun, and I’d recommend it to anyone as a entertaining game for the approaching summer. Just thought I’d share.

Tags: Creepitometry · RiffTrax · silly

33 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Cam on Mar 4, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    You might find it interesting to know that when we played that game at school we called it Dingleberry.

  • 2 Jacobi on Mar 4, 2008 at 2:41 pm

    Yep, this game is quite popular at my family reunions. We call it “Hillbilly Golf” though. I don’t know why golf is in the name. The “Hillbilly” part seems accurate, though.

  • 3 Bill Corbett on Mar 4, 2008 at 2:55 pm

    Conor, sounds like a fun and beer-friendly game.

    At our last family vacation, my brother-in-law brought along a Cornhole set. Yup, that IS the name of the game, and they’re sticking with it. (Not to be confused with Beavis’ alter-ego Cornholio.)

    It’s essentially a beanbag toss game. But it was a lot of fun. Especially with a beer in your hand, and a bunch of trash-talking siblings razzing each other.

    For more info on (giggle) Cornhole…

  • 4 Mike Nelson on Mar 4, 2008 at 3:02 pm

    Is there such thing as a Furry king? They seem to come in contact with each other in ways that I would expect causes a lot of tangling.

    Seeing a Furry king would come as an extremely bad omen for anyone (with the possible exception of Lowtax.)

  • 5 Riff-Martian on Mar 4, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    I love that game!
    …and yes, it has been given many names.

    I’ve even thought of buying all the parts and creating my own… that is until I found that all the parts cost as much as just buying a pre-constructed version from someone else.

    It’s quite addictive!

  • 6 Riff-Martian on Mar 4, 2008 at 3:10 pm

    The “golf” part comes from the fact that the bolos are commonly constructed using cord and golf balls.

  • 7 Bill Corbett on Mar 4, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    Also a terrible omen: seeing a Furry Larry King.

  • 8 WildRebel on Mar 4, 2008 at 3:24 pm

    Sounds interesting if however somewhat less deadly than “Jarts”.

  • 9 Rob T Firefly on Mar 4, 2008 at 3:43 pm

    The closest modern cryptozoology has come to that is the Don King.

  • 10 Conor Lastowka on Mar 4, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    Yes, some girl approached me on the beach and was going on about the game she knew as “Cow Balls” and the many clever scoring variations included in her version of the game.

  • 11 Conor Lastowka on Mar 4, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    Yeah, this may be my favorite of the games, probably mainly because I don’t have one so whenever I see one I want to play it. I wasn’t sure if Corn Hole was a local expression or not.

  • 12 Conor Lastowka on Mar 4, 2008 at 3:48 pm

    Yeah, I imagine someone in the know would be able to do it based on one Home Depot run. Making the golf ball bolos might be difficult though. I downloaded a set of Corn hole plans once, and the PDF sat on my desktop for months before I deleted it and vowed to just buy a set.

  • 13 Onil on Mar 4, 2008 at 4:45 pm

    Having been a NYC subway rider since gradeschool, I’ve always loved stories about rat kings, packs of feral dogs, dog-sized rats, pigeons that ride the train, and mole people.

  • 14 Riff-Martian on Mar 4, 2008 at 5:26 pm

    I purchased what I thought was the “Ladder Golf” aka “Hillbilly Golf” aka “Dingle Berry” aka…. game on ebay for $1 then found out they were only selling a pdf of how to make it.

    I was a little pissed… I know how to make one, I just didn’t want to pay $40 for parts and then put it together myself. I should have guessed that no one would sell it for $1.

  • 15 bob the hog on Mar 4, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    You can make a King Leonidas King of Pain king by opening multiple instances of this video. My king seized after only three videos due to low bandwidth and memory issues (sigh).

  • 16 Tork_110 on Mar 4, 2008 at 6:50 pm

    There was a rat king in a Terry Pratchett novel.

    I probably just spoiled the novel. Well tough!

  • 17 Natalie on Mar 4, 2008 at 10:21 pm

    Huh. I grew up in downstate, tiny-town Illinois and I thought I had seen all the backyard BBQ games, but this one is new. ‘Washers’ is quite popular with my grandpa’s crowd; you might know this one, but they dig 2 little holes at each end of the playing field and place a piece of PVC pipe in each, then stand at each end and toss washers with the aim of hitting the hole. It’s thrilling.

    Also, thank you, I think, for the ‘rat king’ explanation. I love ‘30 Rock’ and when I caught that episode I too wondered if it had any basis in reality. Apparently, it does. Yipes.

  • 18 BassBone on Mar 5, 2008 at 1:39 am

    The latest album from the band Ebola Music Orchestra is called “The Rat King” and features a rat king on the cover. (Yes, I play in the band.)

  • 19 Jacobi on Mar 5, 2008 at 6:49 am

    Yeah, that makes sense. Never thought of it like that.

  • 20 Chris D. on Mar 5, 2008 at 8:18 am

    I wonder what Pontius Feeb would have to say about all of this?

  • 21 Mike Nelson on Mar 5, 2008 at 9:44 am

    Well referenced! I salute you.

  • 22 MikeP on Mar 5, 2008 at 11:29 am

    21 comments and not a single reference to testicles? For shame, Rifftraxians.

  • 23 Bill Corbett on Mar 5, 2008 at 1:20 pm

    I salute you too!

    But mostly because I assumed you were about to rock. Am I right? My instincts are pretty uncanny in these matters.

    (And glad you read Mike’s excellent book, too.)

  • 24 Cam on Mar 5, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    Yeah the whole cornhole name scares me. When I was a freshman in school and was walking around on my first couple of weeks I was terrified to see signs for Cornhole tournaments. Good god what kind of weirdos did they have on campus.

  • 25 Seismic on Mar 5, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    which makes me think cow bells,..hee hee!!

  • 26 Seismic on Mar 5, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    What about Lorax (sorry w/ that lowtax that is the first thing that came to my insane mind!)

  • 27 Seismic on Mar 5, 2008 at 2:05 pm

    We kept them all inside!

  • 28 R.A. Roth on Mar 5, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    Jarts, how I miss it! We used to stand RIGHT NEXT to the little hoop as our friends rained spiky, Jarty death on our heads. And by some miracle, no one died. I think it had to do with our getting out of the way before the Jart impaled our eyes, or the fact that all kids in the 1970s had a government appointed angel. But who can say for sure.


  • 29 R.A. Roth on Mar 6, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    Chris D.:

    Don’t ever mention that accursed name in our presence!


    Stig and Gus Bromstad

  • 30 Ladder Golf AKA Rat King The Game | bean bag chairs on Jun 13, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    [...] Ladder Golf AKA Rat King The Game Posted by root 15 minutes ago ( Ladder golf belongs to the horseshoes bocce ball beanbag toss family of games which all have in common the fact that they are easily Discuss  |  Bury |  News | Ladder Golf AKA Rat King The Game [...]

  • 31 LadderGolfFan on Jul 28, 2009 at 6:58 am

    Thank you for sharing the history of Ladder golf and explaining from where it really got originated..I am fan of ladder golf..I love to play the game..hope u too enjoyed it playing

  • 32 koolaidwino on Sep 21, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    KING ME!

  • 33 steve swass on Mar 7, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    Ladder Ball Is the best yard ever we play inside and outside. But it is more fun when you play outside gives you a lot more space for tossing.