North American Bowling News

Bocce: An Informal Version of Lawn Bowling

A relaxed game of bocce ball (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Bocce ball is a sport which originated in Italy, although many other nations play it as well. In bocce ball, sometimes called lawn bowling, players toss balls at a smaller target ball within the confines of a large court. The game is popular throughout Europe and in areas where there is a high concentration of Italian immigrants, including the United States.

Archaeological evidence suggests that some form of bocce ball has been played for centuries. Stone balls for lawn bowling have been found in Ancient Greek and Roman sites, along with frescos and paintings depicting people engaged in bocce ball games. The game has remained popular for centuries because it is simple to learn, fun to play, and playable by all ages. Adults and children can play together if they like, while older Italians can often be found whiling away an afternoon on the bocce ball court.

The court used for bocce ball can measure up to 98 feet (30 meters) by 14 feet (4 meters), and can be dirt, lawn, or crushed gravel. Sizes of the court can vary depending on the area: some players use half courts, due to space restrictions. The players divide into teams which can have one to four members, and each team is assigned four balls. One team is given the opportunity to throw out the target ball, called a jack, pallina, or boccino, depending on the area. Each team takes turns tossing their balls at the targets, and the team with balls closest to the target at the end of the round wins.

There are a few sneaky things that players can do in bocce ball. Players are permitted to use their balls to knock the boccino closer to other balls, or knock balls out of the way. In some variants of the game, extra points are awarded to players who do this. Bocce courts which have raised edges can also be used by players to their advantage: they can ricochet balls off the side of the court for better positioning, or to knock balls out of the way.

Players determing points scored in a bocce game (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

The organization recognized by the International Olympic Committee for bocce ball is the Confederation Mondiale des Sports de Boules, established in 1985 and based in France. This organization oversees other regional organizations, maintains a rulebook, sponsors competitions, and tries to advance the cause of bocce ball worldwide with tournaments and training sessions. People interested in playing bocce ball in their area can use their favorite search engine to find locally based bocce groups, who are always happy to introduce newcomers to the sport.

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The bocce variation of bowling is the most accommodating for creating your own home version. For info on building your own bocce court, see article Bocce, and More Bocce.

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