The 10 Best Bocce Ball Sets
This wiki has been updated 22 times since it was first published in September of 2015. No, you don't have to be an elderly Italian man in a park in New Jersey to enjoy a game of bocce ball. Get your family and friends outside in the fresh air, whether at the beach, the park, or in your back garden, and join in the fun with one of these sets that we've rated by their durability, portability, value, and adherence to international standards of size and weight. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. If you'd like to contribute your own research to the Wiki, please get started by reviewing this introductory video.
March 26, 2020:
It's fair to say I've played an inordinate amount of Bocce ball for an American, though I did grow up in an ethnocentrically Italian community in NJ, so that might have something to do with it. In fact, the only time the courts were free when the weather was nice was on Sunday afternoons, when the old Italian men who practically lived at them from sunup to sundown went home for the big family Sunday dinner. That might also be why when I see Made in Italy stamped on a set like the Perfetta Club Pro 107, I immediately assume superiority, and in the case of this set, my assumptions were correct. At 107mm in diameter, this set's balls are dead on for the International Bocce standard, and the company's proprietary blend of resin creates an undeniably even roll with great control and a flecked pattern that's easy on the eyes.
But this is a game, however, and games are supposed to be fun, so some players might prefer a set with a bit more whimsy, especially one that also manages to maintain its playability. The Viva Sol Premium, Trademark Games AB7400-BL, and Franklin Soft Kit are all good examples of this, even if the squishy build of the last one on that list makes them better for open court play than for the bank shots that a traditional walled surface can provide. Just be careful showing up to my local park with any of those whimsical sets in tow, as you might suffer the ridicule of some very ancient Italianos.
One last word on scoring: some of these sets come with scoring aids in the form of string like the tool in the Park & Sun Sports Pro Elite or measuring tape like the one that comes with the Amazon Basics BBSet. A lot of casual players will merely eyeball it to figure out who wins, but if you're serious about competing (as I can be), you'll want an exacting tool like one of these.
Classic Outdoor Enjoyment With A Bocce Ball Set
If you are having trouble deciding between two similar bocce sets, don't overlook the importance of carrying case design.
The game of bocce enjoys a long history, tracing it roots back to the days of the Ancient Roman Empire, and it has remained popular, in one form or another, throughout the many centuries from that era to today. Obviously the rules have changed, as have the materials used to produce the balls, but the idea remains the same.
In every bocce set, you can expect to find at least four spheres of at least three inches in diameter, and heavy, and one smaller target ball, often referred to as the "jack". Premier quality bocce sets generally feature balls of two traditional colors: green and red. Balls in these sets usually measure around four inches in diameter, are usually made from solid resin, and usually weigh a little more than two pounds each. If you are a serious player, you need a gift for a bocce devotee, or you want to look the part of the competitor regardless of your skill and expedience, these are the sets to choose among.
On the other end of the spectrum, you can find many bocce sets that feature balls in much more playful, pastel colors. While bright yellow, red, and blue bocce balls might be a turn off to a purist, they will catch the attention of younger players. And if you are playing a non traditional game of bocce on a grassy field or on a sandy beach, the bright colors of these balls may be necessary to help you spot the balls in the first place. These balls can be made from metal, or plastic.
If you are having trouble deciding between two similar bocce sets, don't overlook the importance of carrying case design. Those eight bocce balls and that jack can add up to more than eighteen pounds of gear to tote, so choose a bag that will make carrying all that weight as comfortable as possible for you.
The Rules Of Bocce
Bocce can be played in many ways, and is a great game for making up your own "house rules" (or for putting a spin on the traditional regulations). But it's always a good idea to have an understanding of the actual rules of this and any game before you begin to alter them.
They score a point for each of their balls that is the closest to the jack; any balls lying farther away than the closest ball of an opponent is not counted.
Assuming you are playing with four balls per team, you may play with two teams consisting of one, two, or four players. As logic dictates, a single player will roll all four balls, doubles will each get two, and in teams of four, each player gets one roll per turn (or frame as it is often known).
A standard bocce court measures 60 feet in length; each end of the court is marked at both the 4-foot line and the 14-foot line, thus defining an area ten feet in length that is slightly offset from the end of the court. Into this area the first team (selected randomly) pitches the target ball, known as the jack (and, in some countries, the pallino) from the far side of the court. If the team fails to land the jack in this area in two tries, the jack switches to the other team.
Once the jack is placed, the same team that placed it first rolls a bocce ball at the jack. Teams then alternate rolls, jockeying to get their balls as close as possible to the jack and to knock opponents' balls away (or to move the jack through a strike). At the end of the turn, only the team with a bocce ball closest to the jack scores points. They score a point for each of their balls that is the closest to the jack; any balls lying farther away than the closest ball of an opponent is not counted. The length of the game varies from place to place, and usually ends when a team as scored anywhere from seven to 13 points.
The History Of Bocce
As noted, the game of bocce as we know it today traces its roots to Ancient Rome. But indeed even the Romans were relatively late adopters of the pastime. Archeologists have uncovered graphics that seem to depict a bowling game quite like bocce being played in Egypt as far back as 5,000 years before the common era (or well over 7,000 years ago, for clarity).
As noted, the game of bocce as we know it today traces its roots to Ancient Rome.
It seems this truly ancient Egyptian game was adopted by Ancient Greeks sometime in the early centuries of the 1st millennium B.C.E., and from there, several hundred years later, it made its way to Rome, as did so many aspects of Grecian life during the Hellenization of the Roman civilization. The mighty spread of the Roman Empire (not to mention its centuries of primacy in the ancient world) introduced bowling games to countless peoples of antiquity.
Lawn bowling games were popular throughout much of the Medieval Period and the Renaissance, though the sport was also often banned by various ecclesiastical authorities and secular nobles who saw it as, by turns, blasphemous gambling and a waste of time that could be devoted to labor. A 16th-century British passion for lawn games helped keep them in vogue, though, and by the Early Modern Period, bocce and similar games were widely accepted and popular.
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