Forget Clover Lawns—Bocce Ball Is This Year's Ultimate Backyard Trend

Tired of mowing? It’s time to ditch the lawn and bring bocce ball to your backyard.

If warmer weather has you dreaming about backyard barbecues and badminton games, there’s a new trend you'll probably want to jump on this summer. Lately, savvy homeowners have been replacing their lawns with elegant (and easy-to-care-for) bocce ball courts—for reasons that are both functional and fun.

bocce ball in Poole garden
David Tsay

Truth be told, traditional lawns have been falling out of fashion for a while. They do, after all, require a lot of water and work to maintain. In their place, homeowners are opting for less thirsty landscapes—like clover lawnsbee lawns, xeriscaping, or drought-tolerant native plants. Bocce ball courts have additional advantages: They're an entertainer’s dream and can be installed in long, shallow places (like a side yard) where seating or gathering would be too cramped.

If you have a large area of unused, open space, adding a bocce ball court could not only turn that space into one of your favorite spots in the yard but also increase the value of your home. Bocce ball is one of the most popular ball sports in the world (along with soccer and golf). It’s simple to play and only requires one hand—which makes it ideal for playing while sipping summer cocktails or beer.

Upscale bocce ball court in park setting
JillianCain / Getty Images

The Logistics

Before you commit to this upgrade, you need to consider three factors: location, court size, and drainage. Bocce ball can be played on almost any long, smooth, surface, so when choosing your location, look for a spot with no slopes or dips that won’t interrupt the pathways through your garden.

Typical club court dimensions suggest a court that's 76 feet long and 13 feet wide, and most residential courts are built to be around 60 feet long and 10 feet wide. If your space is limited, you can opt for a compact court that measures out to 22 feet long and 6 feet wide.

Regulation bocce ball courts are typically made with raised barriers and a layer of concrete, rock, or gravel (3 inches thick) covered with several inches of court material. To make a smooth, playable surface at home, professionals recommend using crushed oyster shells, sand, or crushed stone for the top layer because they absorb bounce and allow for easy drainage.

The Importance of Drainage and Layering

Before you set down your frame, cement, and court material, prepare the ground by digging out a flat area and installing drainage if necessary. If you live in an area that gets a lot of rain (or rain tends to pool in your yard), you'll likely need to install a French drain or similar system to prevent your bocce court from turning into a wading pool. Even if you don’t get a lot of rain, drainage is key because water will erode the layers of your court over time, making it uneven and prone to puddling.

The next layer should consist of approximately 3 inches of rock or gravel followed by a layer of landscape fabric to prevent unwelcome weeds from sprouting up in your field of play. Check the level of each layer as you work and finish with your court material only when you are satisfied that the playing surface is smooth.  

How to Maintain Your Bocce Ball Court

If your bocce ball court is well-built, it will need little maintenance except for the occasional raking to smooth the surface and get rid of debris. Treat your frame as you would a deck and refinish it every few years to prevent wear and damage. You may also need to add a little extra sand, oyster shell, or crushed rock to the court occasionally to keep it full and level.

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