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To many fans, football is an all-American sport. Those who refer to soccer as football may find themselves on the outs very quickly at the next tailgate party. Broaden the culture of your crew with an outdoor game of Italian origin – bocce ball – with this step by step tutorial on building a portable bocce court for your game day festivities.

Bocce Ball is a popular outdoor game with a much larger following that you may realize. It is even an official sport in the Special Olympics. Having a portable bocce court can keep the area clear of obstructions during the chaos of flying footballs or frisbees. It is also an inviting way to include others to watch and learn. When they see how much fun can happen and that team participation is encouraged, you can expect requests to bring the bocce every weekend.

Let’s start with a little background for the rookies. Bocce uses eight large balls roughly four ¼ inches in diameter, and one smaller target ball called a pallino (or pallina). For bonus coolness points, refer to the target as a “jack” instead. Two teams play, each with one, two or four players. The teams use distinctly different colored balls, such as red or blue, and receive four balls in total. The purpose of the game is to score points by getting closest to the pallino, with the ultimate goal of 16 points to win.

How to Play

Italian inspired Bocce Ball

House rules may vary, but the basic instructions on how to play bocce are easy enough for even children to join in the fun.

  • Split players into two equal teams of one, two or four people.
  • Decide who goes first with a coin toss or a spirited game of paper-rock-scissors.
  • Winner chooses if they want to make the first pitch or the color of balls for their team.
  • A player tosses the pallino any distance as long as it passes the center line of the court and stays within the boundaries.
  • The “In” team has their bocce currently closest to the target ball.
  • Once “In”, that team stops rolling toward the pallino until the other team manages to get one of their bocce closer (think of the sport curling).
  • When both teams have used all four bocce, the frame is over and the “In” team earns points.
  • At the end of a frame, the “In” team with their ball(s) closest to the pallino receives one point for each ball that is closer than the closest ball of their opponent.
  • Only one team earns points after each frame.
  • It is legal to use your bocce to knock your rival’s ball away from the pallino or out of bounds.
  • First team to reach 16 total points WINS.

Additional Rules

  • There are no ties in bocce.
  • All throws must be underhand.
  • A ball out of bounds is a “dead” ball and does not count.
  • It is legal to hit or “spock” the pallino to move it away from your opponent’s bocce.

Recreational players may decide bocce requires a permanent court, or simply an open space outdoors. Since tailgating is a portable party, constructing a basic bocce court that can be broken down easily and stored is ideal. To get started on your DIY court, grab these items first.

Materials Needed

  • Hand saw or hacksaw
  • PVC
  • Approximately 42’ of pipe
  • Four corner connectors
  • Six straight connectors
  • Large Bag or Velcro straps
  • Two one-gallon zip-loc bags
  • DIY instruction manual
  • Permanent Marker

NOTE – Be sure to purchase straight and corner connections that fit the pipe!

How to Build

Determine how much space is available for your portable court first. The official bocce dimensions are 13’ x 90’ – which is not realistic for transporting to a friend’s house much less a parking lot. This example results in a court that measures about 7’ x 15’, with the option to shorten it when space is limited.

  • Cut the PVC pipe into sections or have the hardware store where you purchased the PVC cut to the measurements you need.
    • Two two-foot sections
    • Eight five-foot sections
  • Attach each of the two-foot sections of PVC to one five-foot section using the straight connector.
  • Attach three of the five-foot sections of PVC pipe using straight connectors.
    • This gives you two long strips of 15 feet
    • If the area is too tight, drop the size of the court down to ten feet (only two sections instead of three).
  • Lay the two short PVC sections parallel to each other, and the larger PVC sections down to make a large rectangle.
  • Attach the four corners using the PVC corner connectors
  • And you are ready to play!

Transportation and Storage

Some of the materials needed are for storage, not gameplay. After you build the bocce court for the first time, use the permanent marker to label the pieces with letters or numbers. Be extra creative and spell out a word as a way to also note this as your court. When breaking down the court, the straight connectors and corner pieces fit nicely in one of the gallon size sealable plastic bags. The other plastic bag is for the instructions to build the court and if desired, the rules of the game.

To secure the pieces of PVC together, long velcro straps are perfect for both transportation and to keep them together while sitting in the garage. If you can find a large bag able to take the length of the pipes and hold the bocce balls, travel becomes even easier.

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