The Best Damn Tailgate Preview in the Land!

From the September 2010 edition

CORNHOLE: HOW TO DOMINATE

Robert Bennett sees it happen all the time. Some college kid skunks a bunch of his buddies on game day and thinks he’s a pretty good cornhole player. Then he enters one of Bennett’s tournaments and suffers a rude awakening. “There are people out practicing, playing cornhole day in, day out,” says Bennett, who organizes two to three amateur and semiprofessional tournaments a month in the Columbus area. “It’s muscle memory, like anything else.”

That said, typical tailgaters can get better quickly if they embrace some basic principles, says Bennett, the Columbus-based representative for the American Cornhole Organization (the PGA of bag tossing, if you will). Here are a few helpful hints:

Stance: Keep your feet planted, minimizing movement and the possibility you could screw up your mechanics. Matt Guy, the best cornhole player in the world, takes a step when he throws, but Bennett doesn’t recommend imitating him. Most of the top pros (yes, you can make money playing cornhole) just lean a little.

Grip: Hold the bag with your thumb on top and four fingers underneath. Common mistakes are to “wad” or “pinch” the bag, both of which give you less control.

Toss: End your follow-through with your arm and hand pointing at the target, like a dart player. Also, try to keep the bag flat as it flies through the air instead of flipping end over end (a flat bag has a better chance of staying on the board when it lands). Then, as you get better, add a spin with a flick-of-the-wrist release, like you’re throwing a ninja star or a Frisbee. Some top players can spin their bags around blockers or even push them out of the way. “That’s how good these guys are getting,” Bennett says.

Equipment: Avoid flimsy cornhole sets. Via the website americancornhole.com, the American Cornhole Organization sells 30-pound solid wood boards (made by a professional furniture maker in Minnesota) and standard 450-gram bags with sticky and slick sides that add an element of strategy to the game.

Booze: A few beers might loosen you up, but don’t overdo it. “Some people, between one and five, they’re decent,” says Bennett with a laugh. “But six to 12, things change real quick—and I’m one of them.”