The Game of Washers Is Fun for All Generations

grandson playing washers
Photo © S. Adcox

A great pastime for all generations, the game of washers has many variations and different conventions. The sequence of play and the scoring are quite similar to horseshoes or bean bag toss.

What follows is a broad outline of the rules. Chances are that some member of your family grew up playing washers and can teach the youngsters the traditional way to play in your family or region. No matter which version you play, washers deserves a place in any list of games that are good for all generations. It's especially fun to play at family reunions.


Washers is fun for all ages. Younger players can be allowed to throw from closer to the cup to even up the competition a bit.

Where to Play

The game of washers is played outdoors. You need two washer pits with a cup in the middle of each. The cups should be about four inches wide, and the cups should be 25 feet apart. Real pits are nice, but many games have been played with holes dug in the dirt or cans sunk into the dirt.

Another possibility is to build your own washer boxes.


You don't have to buy washers at a sporting goods store; you can get them at the hardware store. Buy the 1" washers, which are actually 2 ½ inches wide with a 1" hole. Some washer players prefer the 3" size, but they are hard to find. Buy a bunch, because they are cheap. You'll need to spray paint some of them. Leave four of them silver and spray paint the others different colors in groups of four.

Rules for the Game of Washers

In washers, players stand in front of one cup and throw at the other cup. The number of washers thrown varies regionally from two to four. It really doesn't matter as long as you are consistent. Scoring also varies. Here's one scoring method.

  • The best throw is one that goes in the cup. Called a "cupper," it scores five points. If a player's "cupper" is matched by an opponent, no points are scored.
  • The next best throw is one that hangs half over the cup. In order for it to count, there must be air below the hole in the washer. This "hanger" scores three points. Some serious washer players don't count hangers at all.
  • The last way to score is to have a washer that is closer to the hole than your opponent's washer. That usually counts as one point.

Games are played to 21 points and must be won by a two-point margin. The washer players in your family may introduce everyone to some other colorful washer terms, like "skunk," which is when one player gets to a score of 11 before the other scores a point, prematurely ending the game. A "whitewash" is when one player reaches 17 when the other has only one point and it also ends the game.

Players throw one washer at the hole to start the game, and the player who gets closest goes first. It is an advantage to go first, because the second player's throws may push you closer to the hole. After each round, the player who won the round goes first for the next round.


Besides the other variations in play and scoring, team play is a possible variation. Split the four washers between two players.