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Grant clients’ wishes this summer by building a bocce ball court
Jill Odom | June 21, 2017
tropical bocce ball court

Photo: WineCountry Media/

It’s the first day of summer, and nothing says summer quite like outdoor gatherings of games and fun.

The popular trend for how homeowners are having fun right now is with bocce ball courts. This social game was introduced to Americans by Italian immigrants over 200 years ago and now they are popping up in public spaces like parks, restaurants and bars.

Yet for some this is not enough and they are wanting their own personal bocce ball court to enjoy along with whatever other amenities their landscape offers. While your clients are welcome to try the DIYers path, if they choose to hire you to do the job here’s the basic factors to consider.

Size

The dimensions of a bocce court can vary from 60 to 91 feet long and 8 to 14 feet wide, but going on the smaller side will make the game feel cramped so at the minimum advise a court size of 60 feet by 10 feet.

The United States Bocce Federation says that a regulation size court is 91 feet by 13 feet, so if your customer is looking for that authentic tournament feel (and they have the space to spare) this is the size you need to go with.

Location

When selecting where the court should go, you need to discuss with the client exactly how much they plan to use this feature of the landscape. If it’s going to be a casual activity that they only play when guests are over, it may be better to place it off in a corner, where it can be overlooked.

Another location it can be placed is in the side yard, if it is big enough. This design kills two birds with one stone by having it in a more secluded area while giving a purpose to the often-forgotten side yard. For those who are seriously devoted to playing bocce, the court can be more of a focal point in the yard.

Perimeter

The border of a bocce ball court is permanent curbing that should be at least 6 inches above the finished playing surface. A number of materials can be used for the border, whether it be concrete, weather resistant wood or steel, but it is important that it is anchored to the ground so that no movement occurs when struck with a bocce ball.

Concrete is a popular option and when this is selected, a bumper board should also be added to the inside concrete wall to protect the balls from scarring. The bumper board can be constructed from weather resistant wood like cedar, or a plastic or hard rubber material.

Surface

Bocce courts require a flat and level playing surface, so when it comes to site preparation grading is critical. The court consists of three layers. The sub-base level should be cleared of all organic matter. All top soil should be excavated and then this area should be compacted.

The base level should be constructed with a hard, angular crushed stone that is a minimum of 3 inches deep after compaction. The leveling course is constructed from a hard, angular crushed stone screening and is placed on top of the base level. This should be at least one inch thick after compaction

The playing surface can be constructed out of several materials, including sand, gravel, tennis court clay and crushed oyster shells. Most bocce players swear by the crushed oyster shells, so if your customer is wanting an authentic Italian feel, this is the material to choose.

Drainage

Making sure that your client’s bocce court doesn’t turn into a basin after every downpour is important, so having proper drainage installed is critical to prevent rainwater from pooling. French drains can be installed below the ground using perforated pipe, a canvas sleeve and crushed gravel.

You can also choose to install a series of “weep holes,” which would be 1 inch in diameter and placed 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch above the finished playing surface. Weep holes should be placed every 6 to 10 feet around the entire perimeter.

Additional features

To encourage use of the bocce ball court, be sure to discuss with your client seating areas and shade structures as these will help enhance the space and make the place more enjoyable for those who want to watch the players.

Certain courts are designed with indentations on the perimeter to place the bocce balls when they are not in use, and others can include score towers or special score boards for the competitive individuals, and special lighting for those who want to play even after the sun has set.

Just like any other landscaping job, bocce courts can be as simple or extravagant as a client is willing to pay.

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