Once considered a game for old men, bocce is now a game for every age, and it's rolling across yards from coast to coast.
The bocce mania that struck California in the early 1990s has rolled across the country. Family and friends gather to play. Home and garden stores carry bocce equipment, and there are more than 100 bocce-related sites on the Internet.
To play bocce, players roll 2-1/2-pound grapefruit-size balls toward a small ball called a pallino. Using maneuvers such as bouncing the ball off the short railing, knocking other balls away, or tossing a sweet and steady roll, players try to end their turns with one of their balls landing closest to the pallino to accumulate points.
Finding equipment is easy. Good bocce sets, which include eight large balls and one pallino, are sold through most sporting goods stores, home or garden catalogs, and online. Bocce balls are made of the same thermoset resin as bowling balls, and sets start around $45 but can cost more than $150.
A regulation bocce court is 90 x 10 feet, but a professional-style court is not necessary for a backyard game. Most standard backyard courts are 60 x 12 feet; are made of a hard surface, such as concrete, packed dirt, clay, or short grass; and have four 1/2-inch-tall wooden sideboards to play off.
Bocce federations are forming to standardize the rules of the game, but the details vary. For instance, some teams allow lobbing the ball while others do not. Court sizes can vary, too, but the basics are the same. Bocce can be played on a court or on any hard surface where the ball can easily roll.