After fielding 5 to 20 inquiries about bocce court construction per day, 7 days a week for the past dozen years, I feel the right to weigh in on some things. When I set out in 2001 to build a recreational bocce court there were few resources and those were regionally specific. We have oyster farms in Washington State, and I thought from what I read that oyster shell would make a good component in my surface. Turns out the last person to build an oyster shell court from scratch died about 200 years ago and didn’t leave notes. Resources like the US Bocce Federation; The Joy of Bocce; David Brewer; and Playaboule were the most helpful. In recent years great players from our US Bocce Team like Michael Grasser and Benji Tosi have created sites. Mario “Striker” Pagnoni has completed the 4th edition of his “must have for every bocce player” book the Joy of Bocce. The DIY network has filmed several episodes on various ways to construct a bocce court.
Boccemon on Bocce Courts
It has been said that of the people who play bocce in this country, 90% play either on a beach or a lawn. That being said if one wants to include people from all abilities and ages in the game a court is the best venue to do this. Once the decision has been made to build a court the budget should start with the surface. All the rest can be done cheaper with less impact on the overall enjoyment of the game. The surfaces are listed in order from the most expensive to least expensive.
I am not big on synthetic anything. It’s not my thing. I know that Del Web has built many synthetic "bent grass" courts. In most environments, they need replacing about every 7 or 8 years. If you choose this option, however, don’t install it in a shady area as moss will cause you to replace it quicker than destruction by UV rays. When Campo di Bocce opened a second location in Livermore, CA they shifted to a new self-leveling “rubber-like” material. Now the Palazzo di Bocce in Orion, MI; the Italian-American Athletic Club, of Stockton, CA, the Marin Bocce Federation of San Rafael, CA, the Italia America Bocce Club of St. Louis, MO, and Pinstripes, which has locations in Northbrook and South Barrington, IL, are using this same surface concept. It does very well indoors. This surface is mostly for restaurants or indoor venues, used for Punta-Raffa-Volo. It is expensive, but virtually maintenance free. This surface is very fast and more for the sport of bocce than recreation.
There is a ton of information on building an oyster shell court but little contributed by people with actual trade skills or bocce experience. The main reason an “oyster court” is low maintenance is due to the small particle size. It is much easier to fix court defects with fine oyster particles than with grit like decomposed granite, infield clay, or even stone fines for that matter. A well-blended oyster shell court can self-level in heavy rains eliminating the need to do anything but play on many days in many parts of the world.
Watch this video clip showing what we consider a worse case scenario maintenance. We restored the court in less than 10 minutes. Most weeks we spend less than 5 minutes to keep our court ready for play. The beauty of a Boccemon oyster court is that it can play fast or slow by adding or denying water. Besides playability people love that there is significantly less maintenance with Rain Country Blend. The old style California oyster courts required court owners to have a ready supply of oyster flour on hand for frequent reapplication. That just isn’t practical in most parts of the country and besides… …where does the stuff go? One of the first large-scale “pay to play” public venues in the United States came in the form of 8 oyster shell courts at the Campo di Bocce in Los Gatos, California. We have helped thousands of people seeking information about bocce court construction around the country.
Clay is a premium surface when kept in level condition. However, it really was meant for lighter balls, not 2 lbs bocce balls. Personally, I believe these are great for clubs with a maintenance staff but not so much for recreational backyard courts. There are 4 clay courts in Vancouver B.C. that are immaculate and a privilege to play on. We were informed the volunteer spends between 20 and 30 hours a week to keep them playable for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday use. For that, I would rather have a Zen Garden and play bocce at the neighbors.
For bocce court tools - no company compares with the quality and value of the Lee Tennis products which we feel honored to be able to supply our clients. Rollers – Get a steel one rather than plastic if you get one at all. Most of the tools we list on our website are competitively priced. The roller you might want to search the Internet for. Many court owners build their own tools. Some are very intent on a level court, like this retirees:
If you're going to own bocce balls, they should be Italian-made. For a further understanding of how we came to this opinion, consider these experiments by Bede Kortegast of Playaboule. Jason Del Vicario, of Bocce.ca, also sells Perfetta bocce balls, shipping out of Vancouver, B.C.