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Bocce Balls

The Real "Skinny' On Those Rolling Spheres

Like other facets of this wonderful game, there's confusion surrounding which bocce balls are the "correct" ones for use. There's an almost bewildering array of bocce balls for sale on the web and in department and sporting goods stores. The sizes and weights of these bocce vary so much that it's next to impossible for beginners to choose what's right for them. {Yes, people use the word "bocce" in this manner...e.g. "Those bocce are really cool!"}

First off, don't be misled by the claims. One that we still see quite often is "Manufactured to International Bocce Association specifications." I hate to break the news, but the IBA has been defunct for many years. The fellow that put that group together did a great job, but when he passed away, no one picked up the ball. Although he named his organization the International Bocce Association, I could find no ties to any international groups. Heck, when you establish an organization you can call it anything you want. You can set up a bank checking account under the name World's Greatest Bocce Association. Print that name on your checks and you'll be Doing Business As (DBA) World's Greatest Bocce Association.

There's a big annual tournament in Rome, NY that organizers call The World Series of Bocce. It's very successful and well run, drawing hundreds of teams from the USA and Canada. But teams are not flying in from Italy, Switzerland and other countries to make it a real "World" Series.

One fellow I know wanted to run an event even bigger than the World Series of Bocce, so he called it the Universal Bocce Bowl. Heck, the universe is bigger than the world. (He drew 12 teams and all the entrants were from planet earth.)

So, be cautious about placing too much faith in a claim, name or title. Here's another: On you'll find Highest Quality! St. Pierre Official Tournament 107mm Bocce Set which the web site calls "The official ball of the United States Bocce Federation." Years ago, when bocce was trying to gain a foothold, the president of the USBF got St. Pierre to produce a reasonably priced bocce set for sale in the USA. This was a good thing for the sport, as it made bocce balls more readily available. But the current USBF regime is not pleased that this set is still being touted as its "official ball."

Before we go ought to know that the best information on bocce is in my best-selling bocce book, The Joy of Bocce. It has everything you want to know about the game but were afraid to ask. The most economical way to get it is via e-book which costs $4.95 (you download it - thus no shipping charge). A bonus to the e-book version is that the photos are in full color. Click here to order the e-book or the soft cover version - features 300 pages and 300 photos and diagrams from around the country and the world.

The next good way to stay informed about all things bocce is to sign up for my weekly ezine, The Joy of Bocce Weekly. Here's what an ezine industry leader had to say about it...

Janet Roberts, who writes a popular column for electronic newsletter publishers (, made reference to "Mario Pagnoni, who publishes an infectiously enthusiastic email newsletter called the Joy of Bocce Weekly..." Writing in Best Ezines Issue #115 - June 5, 2002, Ms. Roberts said...

"If you don't play bocce, you'll want to run out and find the nearest court after reading this enthusiastic ezine. Mario Pagnoni claims not to be a bocce pro, but you wouldn't know it from his devotion to the sport. Each issue of the HTML ezine (with graphics and colors) features his personal comment on some aspect of the game and its players, highlights of coming tournaments and detailed evaluations of new bocce products. The ezine also fosters a feeling of community in the bocce world by including reader comments and a photo section each week. Whether you learned to play in your Uncle Joe's backyard court or you're looking for a new sport to master, Joy of Bocce will point you in the right direction."

Sign up for the weekly newsletter here:

Enter your email to join The Joy of Bocce Weekly today!


Bocce Colors

The traditional colors for bocce balls are red and green, but there is no limit to the variation in color and design today. Years ago I played in the IBA's World Cup (there were quite a few teams from the USA, but I don't think the rest of the world got the word on this event). Held in the Imperial ballroom of Atlantic City's Trump Plaza, tourney organizers got the American manufacturer EPCO to fabricate blue and white balls. They're still for sale and billed as the EPCO World Cup Bocce Set.

Note: if you will be playing with anyone who might be color-blind, you might want to opt for yellow bocce balls (if you can find them). If you had, say four yellow and four of any other color, the color-blind person could readily distinguish one team's bocce balls from the other.

Note #2: some bocce sets come with 8 balls, but of four different colors. You might have two red, two green, two blue, and two yellow. So, if you were playing doubles (two players vs. two players) for example, you'd roll two balls each. You and your partner might have the red and green balls, and your opponents would have the blue and yellow.

I'm not crazy about the sets with four different colored balls. If you really want the set, maybe you could find someone else who also wants them - purchase two sets, then divvy up the balls so that each set has eight balls, but four of each of two colors.

Beach Bocce
Here's an inexpensive light-weight plastic set (Franklin) that I found at a department store. Great for play on the beach.

Beach Bocce
I purchased two sets so I could do this...

What does a set of bocce balls consist of?

For most people, a set means eight bocce balls (four each of two different colors), a carry bag and a smaller target ball or "pallino". Most often this would be four red, four green, a white or yellow pallino, and a carry bag.

Sometimes the bags are sold separately - but look for a set that comes with a decent bag. Sometimes sets come with a printed set of rules (usually junk, circa 1970 IBA) or measuring devices (usually inexpensive, not great, but OK for starters)

bocce ball set
This high quality Italian-made Perfetta set comes with 4 red, 4 green, one pallino, and carry bag. Click the image above for more details.

Yikes! Stripes! Bocce's Got 'Em
Often, the four red and four green bocce balls in a traditional set have lines or engraved designs to further differentiate each group of four into two sets of two. For example, in a doubles match you could tell which two bocce balls were yours and which two were your teammate's.

One teammate would play the balls with the circles and the other the ones with the squares.

Careful - some of the more expensive European balls come four to a set instead of eight and don't include a pallino (and metal balls are sold in sets of two). Really competitive players cart their personal bocce balls wherever they play. They want the consistency that using the same bocce balls every game brings. You'll see them use a cloth or chamois to wipe dust and debris from the ball before each toss.

Four-ball set from Italian manufacturer, Super Martel.

Potential Pallino Problems {How's that for alliteration? And you thought I was just a dumb jock.}

If you are going to play exclusively on grass, try to avoid the smaller object balls. Small pallinos tend to be obscured even by closely cropped lawns. We often use a croquet or field hockey ball as the target ball when playing on grass. Sizes are usually metric and designate the ball's diameter. You'll see pallinos that are 40 mm to 60 mm in diameter (40 mm will be lost in the grass, 50 mm or larger is better for lawn play. A field hockey ball is about 70 mm).

Bocce Pallino
They come in all sizes - the one to the far right is a field hockey ball that we use on grass. You can usually see that one even if you don't mow the lawn.

One pallino that is catching on is made of stainless steel (second from the left in the photo above). Because it has a lot more mass than more traditional pallinos, the stainless steel target doesn't get knocked out of the court by a hard hit. This makes for a lot safer game for players and spectators. Visit for stainless steel pallinos.
Size Matters

As with object balls, you'll find bocce balls of varying sizes and weights. First off, the game is not originally an American one. The specs are generally metric. In international competitions, the standard is 107 mm and 920 g. The 107 refers to the diameter of a ball and the 920 is its weight (mass). From what I understand of the process, it takes high grade plastic to manufacture balls to these specifications. Top players tell me that they prefer Italian made balls, indicating their belief that they are manufactured to greater tolerances.

The 107 mm and 920 g specs are those observed in true World Cup and international play. Italian manufacturers like Perfetta, Super Martel, and Salf, almost always supply the balls for these events which may be held anywhere in the world. Recently, with the opening of fabulous venues like the Palazzo di Bocce in Michigan and Campo di Bocce in California, the USA has become an attractive site for world-class tournaments.

You'll find bocce that are anywhere from 80 mm (might be good for children) to 115 mm (cannonballs). The weights vary just as much, with some approaching hernia inducing proportions. It takes extremely high grade plastic to get balls to meet the size and weight specs of international standards while maintaining the requirements for balance and roundness.

These international specs (107 mm, 920 g) represent a good size and weight for most people. Small and light enough for even those with small hands to control, why shouldn't we use what the top players roll? I recommend that you purchase a set that is as close to these parameters as possible.

What are these balls made of anyway?

You can find inexpensive bocce ball sets in department stores that are made of wood or plastic. Not plastic like in a Wiffle ball, but like in a bowling ball or pool ball. The plastic is sometimes referred to as phenolic resin or partek resin.

Let's face it - the market in America is for inexpensive recreation bocce balls. Most Americans are nothing like the top European player who wants a new set of balls once his old set gets a nick or two.

Still, even if you are planning on occasional use in the backyard after cookouts, I'd opt for a quality set that will last a lifetime over a bargain basement set.

I've heard many horror stories about poorly made, out of balance balls that practically make a U-turn when rolling. I have heard, but cannot verify, that some department stores/retailers are purchasing cheap sets from China, then putting their brand on them and marking up the price to consumers. My advice - Pony Up and get a quality set. Suggestions below...

Petanque is a fast growing internet site that retails balls from various manufacturers. They mark up the prices, but often have shipping deals that can save you a couple bucks. You won't find the highest end Italian-made balls here, but you can get a good recreation set and might do OK with the following coupon. Good Luck!

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