LAWN GAMES help cram food, booze, and bragging rights into the last fair-weather weekend of the year, and these five stand above the rest for their combination of skill and entertainment value. We call it the Outside Backyard Pentathlon. To help you crush the competition, we drew up a cheat sheet of the techniques you’ll need to master. Some advice: stay loose with a beer or two, and keep the grill hot—time-outs can be called at any moment. There are no penalties for trash talking and no bonus points for being a good sport. Game on.
Use this handy scorecard to keep track.
MOVE: The Drooper
This variation on the drop shot is rarely seen in the backyard. When a shot is played high and near the net, fake a big overhand swing to dupe your opponent into backing up, then tap the shuttlecock with just enough force to clear the net.
MOVE: The Bombardier
When you score a croquet (allowing you to place your ball alongside an opponent’s), remove the second ball from play in three easy steps: Place your foot on your own ball. Aim for the nearest hazard, such as a mud slick or swimming pool. Strike your ball into your opponents’ with great force.
MOVE: The Pancake
Putting lateral spin on your toss will make it more accurate. Use it to thread your bags between your adversary’s.
MOVE: The Spear
Underhand throws are the most popular (and the safest), but overhand can be far more accurate. Hold the jart like a standard dart and release it like a paper airplane: high, with plenty of loft.
*Yes, steel-tipped jarts were banned from shelves years ago, but no thlon is complete without at least one implement that can impale you. Search eBay.
MOVE: The Blaster
When your opponent blocks the path to the pallino (the target ball) with a tight cluster of clutch shots, toss high and land directly atop the balls to smash them apart.
Assemble four teams of two and play a bracket-style tournament—winners and losers meet in a playoff round. Each sport is played according to its rules (for example, only one team scores during each round
in bocce and cornhole; you don’t need to be serving to score in badminton). Tally the events from both rounds as follows.
Event #1: Jarts. Teams earn one Pentathlon point for each jart that lands in the circle. First team to 21 wins.
Event #2: Badminton. One Pentathlon point for each point scored. First team to 21 wins.
Event #3: Croquet. One Pentathlon point for each wicket or stake. First team back to the beginning stake wins.
Event #4: Cornhole. One Pentathlon point for each point scored. First to 21 wins.
Event #5: Bocce. Three Pentathlon points for each point. (The king of yard games requires superior skill and thus is weighted higher in the overall competition.) First to nine bocce points wins.
PERFECT PENTATHLON SCORE: 212