Join the bocce ball craze: build your own court

“It goes along with a gen­eral trend of peo­ple per­son­al­iz­ing their out­door spa­ces”

The Hamilton Spectator - - STYLE - MELISSA KOSSLER DUT­TON

John Paul Vy­borny and his fam­ily dis­cov­ered bocce ball while va­ca­tion­ing in the Ba­hamas many years ago.

When they re­turned home, they looked for bocce courts near their house in Tuc­son, Ari­zona. They lo­cated some near rel­a­tives in Michi­gan and at a favourite restau­rant in Cal­i­for­nia, but noth­ing con­ve­nient to home.

So, af­ter re­cently mov­ing into a house with a large back­yard, Vy­borny and his wife, Anna, now empty nesters, de­cided to in­stall their own bocce court for en­ter­tain­ing friends and fam­ily. He de­vel­oped the plans and found a con­trac­tor to help build it.

“It’s a re­ally nice so­cial ac­tiv­ity,” he said. “It’s in­ter­ac­tive. It’s very easy to play.”

Land­scaper Greg Row­land says he has seen a steady in­crease in cus­tomers ask­ing for bocce courts.

“I have in­stalled them from one end of Phoenix to the other. In the last six months, I’ve done more res­i­den­tial courts than in the last year and half,” said the owner of Grow Land land­scap­ing firm. “A 4-yearold and an 84-year-old can play this game. It’s a great in­ter­gen­er­a­tional ac­tiv­ity.”

Bocce in­volves two teams and nine balls. One player throws a small ball, called a pallino, down the court. Play­ers then al­ter­nate toss­ing the other eight balls, which are about the size of a soft­ball, try­ing to get as close as pos­si­ble to the smaller ball.

The per­son who throws the clos­est ball and his or her team­mates whose balls are closer than their op­po­nents earn points. The game, a pop­u­lar past-time in Italy, has roots in an­cient Egypt and the Ro­man Em­pire.

Bocce is catch­ing on rapidly, said Mario Pagnoni, au­thor of “The Joy of Bocce” (Masters Press, 1995).

“It is a won­der­ful game full of skill and strat­egy, one that re­quires fi­nesse at times,” Pagnoni said.

He noted that bocce courts are be­ing added “in parks, re­tire­ment homes, condo com­plexes and in schools.”

The game’s ap­pear­ance in pub­lic spa­ces, in­clud­ing restau­rants and bars, has driven in­ter­est among doit-your­selfers, said Feli­cia Feaster, man­ag­ing ed­i­tor at HGTV. Build­ing a bocce court is “harder than a corn hole game but eas­ier than a back­yard bowl­ing al­ley,” she said.

Nu­mer­ous web­sites, in­clud­ing, Pop­u­larMe­chan­ and HomeDe­, of­fer tu­to­ri­als. Courts must be con­structed on a level area and re­quire three lay­ers of ma­te­rial — usu­ally a com­bi­na­tion of rocks and a top coat made of crushed oys­ter shells, ten­nis court clay, sand, crushed stone or turf. Courts of­ten have a drainage sys­tem and some sort of perime­ter.

Tom McNutt, owner of Boc­ce­mon, a com­pany that sells the crushed-oys­ter sur­face ma­te­rial, typ­i­cally rec­om­mends build­ing bocce courts about 10 by 60 feet.

A do-it-your­self court can cost any­where from $7 a square foot to twice that, depend­ing on ma­te­ri­als and how much site prepa­ra­tion is re­quired, McNutt said. He of­fers con­struc­tion plans on his web­site, www.boc­ce­, Land­sca­pers and other pro­fes­sional in­stall­ers can charge up to $25 a square foot, he said.

Missy Hen­rik­sen, a spokesper­son for the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Land­scape Pro­fes­sion­als, in Hern­don, Vir­ginia, says land­sca­pers can in­cor­po­rate ev­ery­thing from plants and benches to cus­tom score­boards and spe­cialty light­ing into the de­signs.

“They are start­ing to get more queries. It goes along with a gen­eral trend of peo­ple per­son­al­iz­ing their out­door spa­ces,” she said.

Dos and don’ts

Do dou­ble- and triple-check all mea­sure­ments.

Do con­sider adding drainage if rain could cre­ate a per­pet­ual bocce pud­dle.

Do make sure you are build­ing on a flat sur­face, and check lev­els pe­ri­od­i­cally as you add ma­te­ri­als.

Do make sure the paver base and decomposed gran­ite lay­ers are deep enough to form a thick, solid base (three to four inches).

Don’t at­tempt a reg­u­la­tion bocce ball court, which is fairly enor­mous at 91 by 13 feet. Aim for a smaller court mod­i­fied for a home set­ting. Courts can be any size.

Don’t skip lin­ing the court with weed cloth. It’s es­sen­tial to en­sure your court doesn’t be­come a weed gar­den.

Don’t for­get to seal wood with deck sealant for longevity.

Source: Feli­cia Feaster, man­ag­ing ed­i­tor, HGTV


Jer­rod and Paige Combs play bocce at a back­yard party in Omaha, Neb.


A Bocce ball court at John Paul Vy­borny’s home in Tus­con, Ariz.


Jer­rod and Paige Combs play bocce at a back­yard party. The court is made from decomposed gran­ite and edged with re­claimed cedar side boards.

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