Let’s Play Bocce

August 30 2015

One day this week, we happily left the studio after a long day to play a rousing few rounds of what we thought was bocce in a nearby park. One of us had a sturdy, highly polished old set of Playaboule balls in his garage and so, with faded instruction booklet in hand, we commandeered a section of lawn and began to toss away. Our two teams ended up with a nice friendly tie, and we were on our way.

The next day, Need Supply Co.’s resident French guy looked on incredulously at our photos from the all-star tournament. Vous savez que c’est pas bocce ça, non? I.e. that is not bocce at all, bro. Turns out we had used a pétanque set (metal balls) to play something only shabbily related to an actual sanctioned game on the wrong turf (lawn). We even drew up the court incorrectly, awesome leafy pétanque circle notwithstanding. Long live art school.

Less intrepid teams might consider this a fail, but we are generally a little less encumbered by, um, semantics. (In other words, we felt pretty silly, but we had a nice time anyway.)

Moreover, the fact that we didn’t actually play a sanctioned game didn’t change our core reasons for wanting to celebrate bocce and its close cousins (pétanque, lawn bowling, et. al.) as the definitive Sunday games: they are cathartic, open air, a fine canvas for good conversation with friends, and the ideal forums in which to drink quality negroni, pastis or good weissbier.


According to Pétanque America, these are the major differences between bocce and pétanque.

  • – Traditional bocce is more of a bowling game, whereas petanque is more of a tossing game, like horseshoes.
    – Bocce players take steps before throwing, petanque players stand still.
    – Bocce balls are usually rolled palm up, petanque balls tossed palm down, so they get backspin upon release.
    – Pétanque balls are the size of an orange, hollow, and always made of metal.
    – Bocce balls are larger and solid, about the size of a grapefruit, colored (green & red are popular), and generally made of resin or wood.
    – Bocce has different variations as to court size and layout. The court should be smooth and flat; some rules call for wooden sideboards to make it an enclosed area.
    – Petanque can be played on almost any terrain; most players actually prefer an uneven terrain to make it more challenging.


Though we botched our bocce, we think you should get out and play your own version today.

For further (reliable) information, including court layout, turf, throwing style, and scoring, Playaboules provides some nice handy references, including concise yet comprehensive simple bocce rules and simple pétanque rules.

Happy #MomentsWithSunday, everyone.