Games of Summer

Lesser-Known Games to Play on the Sandy Beaches

Ladder Golf
Paul Wellman

Don’t let this vicious run of fog fool you, sports fans—the summer season is here, and good old-fashioned gaming is ripe for the plucking. Everyone knows surfing sucks in Santa Babylon during the dry months, and science has given us way too much info to allow for any more guilt-free sunbathing, so when next you hit the sandy shores of our beloved seaside hamlet, try one of the following activities to enhance your long and lovely summer days with a little bit of friendly competition.

Bocce Ball
Paul Wellman


With an Italian lineage that stretches back to the Roman Empire, the great game of bocce isn’t just for lawns or the back patio at Arnoldi’s anymore. Take your balls to the beach, find a nice open stretch of sand, and let the jack (the smaller ball that is tossed out first and becomes the target of each round) fly. On harder-packed, low-tide sand, the game plays much like the traditional inland version, but should you take it onto the soft sand, the strategy changes drastically, as your balls don’t roll very much at all after impact. Also of note, bocce is a fantastic game to play when adult beverages are on the menu, as victory is quite possible without ever having to put your libation down.


Given to us by the forward-thinking minds of the American Midwest, Cornhole, also known as bean-bag toss, corn toss, or soft horse shoes, is a wonderful all-ages game that combines the tenets of horseshoes and skee-ball into something entirely brand new. Cornhole platforms—angled wooden structures with a smaller “cornhole” in the middle of each—are set up about 30 feet apart from one another as teams, armed with four mini bean-bags, line up behind their platforms and take turns pitching their bags at their opponents target. The underhand-only tosses get you 1 point for landing on the platform, 3 points for draining the cornhole. The team or individual who reaches 21 first is the winner. This is a particularly sweet game for the kiddies, as the soft bean-bags will cause no harm should they end up hitting a stranger in the face.

Testicle Toss

One of the more unfortunately named games in the world, Testicle Toss (aka ladder golf or monkey balls), involves two golf balls joined together by a short piece of rope; targets that look like mini, three-rung ladders; and people throwing their “bolos”—the conjoined golf balls—at an opponent’s target in hopes of landing it on one of the rungs of the ladder in such a way that it stays put, dangling ever-so-testicle-like across the bar. You get two points for the bottom rung, three points for the middle one, and a full four points for going top-shelf. Generally considered a parking lot or back yard game, Testicle Toss is fun on the beach, too, though it’s not advised for sandy adventures that involve lots of walking, as the ladders themselves can be quite bulky and somewhat of a pain to schlep long distances.


One of the lesser-known, though perhaps greatest, summer games of all, Kubb was given to the world by the Vikings. Though today’s version does not involve throwing axes like they did back in the day, it does allow you to skillfully toss wooden batons at opponents’ “kubbs”( wooden blocks set up on an end line about 20 feet away) and, once you have knocked down all the kubbs, going on to topple a castle in the middle of the playing field. A full-blown mixture of bowling, bocce, horseshoes, and, in a weird way, croquet, the various twists and turns of a typical kubb match—caused by a set of rather layered rules that take a bit of time to digest—make it fun for participants and spectators alike. Much like bocce on the beach, Kubb changes depending on the type of sand you choose to toss on. Hard pack equals crazy bouncing and rolling action while the soft stuff requires more aim.


It isn’t summer without a few good tosses of everyone’s favorite flying saucer. Whether you simply play catch, make your friends dive into the water to catch it, do cool tricks to impress strangers, or invent your own way of scoring, the Frisbee has a fun factor that is off the charts. Novices beware, though, as an improperly thrown disk has been known to bloody noses, blacken eyes, or bust lips of unsuspecting people sitting on the sidelines. And, if all else fails—and you happen to be 21 or older—the Frisbee also provides a unique drinking challenge should you decide to turn it upside down and fill it with beer. Not giving away any secrets, all I will say is that it holds way more than you think, and way more than you should probably drink before driving home from your day at the beach.


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