Grill On? Then Game On

Schedule in playtime at your next summer bash to keep your guests on their toes


Ladder Golf and other lawn games can add a competitive dash to your outdoor bash.

If the only burn you’re feeling at your Fourth of July picnic is from forgetting to put on sunscreen, you’re doing it wrong. Instead of sitting around like a burger sizzling on the grill, get out of that deck chair and earn your next beer.

The activity doesn’t have to be strenuous, says Aimee Richardson, a group exercise instructor at Washington Sports Clubs. “Even things like cornhole burn 120 calories an hour versus doing nothing,” Richardson says. “And when people are excited about playing something, it’s not as much about eating.”

Some families are athletic enough to pull off actual sports, but if a softball game would never fly with your folks, Richardson suggests holding your own version of the Olympics with a series of silly contests. When you’re on a team for potato sack races and egg-on-a-spoon balance relays, it makes you more motivated, she says.

No equipment? Richardson says you can’t beat wheelbarrow races. One person puts his or her hands on the ground, a partner picks up his or her legs, and then the two move forward as quickly as they can.

“As a kid, it seems so easy,” she says. Adults, however, will quickly realize how much they’re taxing their core and upper-body strength.

Another option is lawn games, which are generally designed to keep you standing but not sweating — although there are always ways to take your game to the next level, says John Groth, co-founder of the D.C. Bocce League. He’s played on a court that’s double the typical length of 15 to 20 yards. “You have to use more exertion to get the balls farther, and you’re walking twice as far,” he says.

And it’s worth getting up-to-date on the other diversions that are out there, notes Groth, who’s a fan of bringing additional games to bocce events to make sure everyone’s occupied. Bear Pong, an oversized version of beer pong, is usually as popular as the main attraction.

Maybe that — or one of these other games — will be a hit with the guests at your next cookout, too.


Bear Pong ($65, Shop.bearpong.com)

When Eric Dankewicz was shopping for party supplies for a roof-deck bash at his place in Baltimore four summers ago, he spotted flower pots that he thought looked like Solo cups. With a little paint and a large white ball, he managed to set up the largest beer pong game ever. He had guests play just like the traditional college version, except there was no beer in the pots — just in their glasses — and he quickly realized he was on to something. Two years later, he started selling his Bear Pong sets, which have been surprisingly popular with families because you don’t have to drink. “It’s also more active because people are chasing balls. And it’s more sanitary than drinking out of cups with that ball that’s been on the ground,” Dankewicz says.


Rollors ($35, Rollors.net)

During his deployments to the Middle East, Air Force Major Matt Butler dreamed up Rollors, which combines elements of several lawn games. You play by rolling fat wooden discs toward the pyramid-shaped goals. The discs have numbers on each side (sort of like dice), and how and where they fall determine the scoring. Butler, who recently moved to Virginia Beach, figured he had a winner when he brought a prototype to a BBQ and someone offered to buy it off him. For two years, it’s been available through retail locations, including REI. “I think everybody’s always looking for something new,” Butler says.

Ladder Golf ($35, Laddergolf.com)

While camping with friends in San Diego a decade ago, Brent Doud saw some people playing a crude version of this game on the beach. Here’s the basic idea: Set up a ladder with three rungs. Throw a bolas — two balls connected with a string — toward the ladder so it wraps around a rung and you earn points. “The standard story of how this began was that cowboys used to throw snakes around live wire fences, but I don’t believe that,” says Doud, who was so taken by the game that he set out to make a sturdy commercial version that he’s been selling since 2003. It’s easy to pick up the basics, he says, and as you become more advanced, you can learn how to knock competitors off the ladder. Another bonus: You can play on virtually any surface, whether it’s a parking lot, a beach or your backyard.

Vicky Hallett is a MisFit columnists and the Fit editor for Express.
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