Bocce, a game that began during the reign of the Roman Empire, is a popular lawn sport throughout the world. It is sometimes referred to as pétanque, boules, lawn bowling, or bowls depending on which country you are playing in. It is fun for both kids and adults, and it's entertaining for backyard parties, picnics, or for playing in the park. All you need to play is a flat, open space and a set of bocce balls.
Because there is not a lot of equipment needed for playing bocce, it is a relatively inexpensive sport to play. Don't be fooled by its simplicity. True bocce fans are very adamant about the rules and about precision. So you will see below that there is a very in depth section in regards to buying balls. For occasional bocce playing public there are complete sets. Most recreational players will be best purchasing a convenient set that includes everything you need to start playing immediately.
What You Need To Play
'''Four Bocce Balls '''
* Bocce balls are what you throw towards the target.
* Bocce balls are usually made of either wood, brass, steel, or plastic. Wood and plastic balls will be lighter than metal balls, thus ideal for younger players. Make sure if you buy wood balls that they are kept in a cool, dry place when not in use so as to avoid rotting or molding.
* A set of eight balls of two different colors is enough for two players. You will need to purchase four balls more for each additional player.
* An individual replacement ball may cost anywhere from $5-$20.
* A multiplayer set (two to eight people) usually ranges from $50-$100.
'''One Marker Ball'''
*The marker is the target that you are trying to hit with the bocce balls.
* Markers, also known as jacks or pallinos, are typically included the small yellow or white ball included in a bocce set.
* If you buy balls separately, you will need to supply some sort of marker. Just make sure that it is a small, bright colored ball that contrasts the color of the other bocce balls.
* The professional bocce player will want a jack or a pallino suitable for tournament play.
** Wood or approved resin are the only acceptable materials in tournaments.
** The jack can be painted any color as long as it is a bright shade that stands out from a distance.
** It must be 1"to 1-3/8" in diameter.
'''A Measuring Tool'''
*This is what is used to measure the distance between the marker and the bocce balls to see which ball is the closest to the marker.
* This is not always included in a set, so be prepared to fashion one of your own. You can easily use a ruler or a measuring tape as a measuring tool.
* When precision is of the essence, you may prefer to invest in a measuring stick made for bocce pros.
Buying Bocce Balls
'''Size -- '''It's important to consider size when buying bocce balls because it will affect how you play. You want it to fit comfortably in your hand and you also want to have sufficient control over it. A ball that is too large will naturally be heavier, thus causing premature fatigue in your arm. For young players, or for those with small hands, opt for smaller balls, which are usually white. For more advanced players, small bocce balls will provide a greater challenge as they allow for less room for error.
* Bocce balls for professional and tournament use must be 70.5mm to 80mm in diameter. Other sizes will not be accepted in competition.
* Depending on your playing style, whether you are a pointer (someone who prefers heavy, hard balls), middle, or shooter (someone who prefers light, soft balls), you will want a particular ball size. This is a rough guideline.
** Pointer -- 71-73mm
** Middle -- 73-75mm
** Shooter -- 75-80mm
'''Weight '''-- Weight is as important as size, particularly because they go hand in hand. It affects the way you throw, how tired your arm gets, how accurately you can aim, and how ball impacts the playing terrain. The rule of thumb is that the heavier the ball, the faster you will tire. Heavy balls are very accurate for rolling, but for throwing, they can cause arm fatigue. Throwers, take advantage of lightweight balls, but not too light because then there is a chance of overthrowing.
* Tournament bocce balls usually weigh around 730 grams, but they can range from 680 to 800 grams. Balls that have lost 15 grams of weight from use are not suitable for competition. (They naturally wear out over time.)
* Playing style also affects how you choose bocce balls by weight. Here are some recommendations.
** Pointer -- 670-710g
** Middle -- 660-720g
** Shooter -- 700-800g
'''Grooves''' -- Groove patterns serve two purposes. They identify your ball and give it traction. For leisure players, the grooves on your balls will act as identifying marks, especially when you and another player have the same color balls. For tournament players and enthusiasts the grooves will be used for gripping the ground (more striations) if you are a pointer or a middle. If you are a thrower you will want a smoother ball.
'''Density''' -- This has to do with hardness. The harder the ball, the less likely it will be to wear out. Pointers usually prefer hard, dense balls, while shooters like softer ones. The softer a ball is, the more likely it will be to become scratched and worn out. This may be a concern if you play tournaments because the markings (size, weight, ID number, manufacturer, and/or player's initials) must be perfectly clear. Once they become worn or illegible, you must purchase new balls. If you are a roller, stick to a hard ball. The weight will help it go the distance and the density will keep it from becoming marred. The same goes for those who play on rough surfaces or for the average player who will want durable balls. Throwers, and those who typically play on grass or another soft surface can enjoy light balls.
'''Color''' -- Balls come in different colors. Mostly choosing a color is an aesthetic choice if you play recreationally. On the other hand, if you buy a set, you don't have a huge choice in color selection. Children's balls are usually white. Bigger bocce balls come in a variety of hues and for the French version of pétanque, the balls are typically silver. If you plan to play with certain bocce fans who you know already have ball sets, check to see what colors they have so that you don't confuse the opponent's balls with your own.