Quality bocce balls

The Real “Skinny’ On Those Rolling Spheres

Like other facets of this wonderful game, there’s confusion surrounding which bocce balls are the “correct” ones for use.  There’s an almost bewildering array of bocce balls for sale on the web and in department and sporting goods stores.  The sizes and weights of these bocce vary so much that it’s next to impossible for beginners to choose what’s right for them. {Yes, people use the word “bocce” in this manner…e.g. “Those bocce are really cool!”}

First off, don’t be misled by the claims.  One that we still see quite often is “Manufactured to International Bocce Association specifications.”  I hate to break the news, but the IBA has been defunct for many years.  The fellow that put that group together did a great job, but when he passed away, no one picked up the ball.  Although he named his organization the International Bocce Association, I could find no ties to any international groups.  Heck, when you establish an organization you can call it anything you want.  You can set up a bank checking account under the name World’s Greatest Bocce Association.  Print that name on your checks and you’ll be Doing Business As (DBA) World’s Greatest Bocce Association.

There’s a big annual tournament in Rome, NY that organizers call The World Series of Bocce.  It’s very successful and well run, drawing hundreds of teams from the USA and Canada. But teams are not flying in from Italy, Switzerland and other countries to make it a real “World” Series.

One fellow I know wanted to run an event even bigger than the World Series of Bocce, so he called it the Universal Bocce Bowl. Heck, the universe is bigger than the world. (He drew 12 teams and all the entrants were from planet earth.)

So, be cautious about placing too much faith in a claim, name or title. Here’s another: On Bocceballsets.com you’ll find Highest Quality! St. Pierre Official Tournament 107mm Bocce Set which the web site calls “The official ball of the United States Bocce Federation.” Years ago, when bocce was trying to gain a foothold, the president of the USBF got St. Pierre to produce a reasonably priced bocce set for sale in the USA.  This was a good thing for the sport, as it made bocce balls more readily available.  But the current USBF regime is not pleased that this set is still being touted as its “official ball.”

Bocce Colors:

The traditional colors for bocce balls are red and green, but there is no limit to the variation in color and design today.  Years ago I played in the IBA’s World Cup (there were quite a few teams from the USA, but I don’t think the rest of the world got the word on this event).  Held in the Imperial ballroom of Atlantic City’s Trump Plaza, tourney organizers got the American manufacturer EPCO to fabricate blue and white balls.  They’re still for sale and billed as the EPCO World Cup Bocce Set.

Note: if you will be playing with anyone who might be color-blind, you might want to opt for yellow bocce balls (if you can find them).  If you had, say four yellow and four of any other color, the color-blind person could readily distinguish one team’s bocce balls from the other.

Note #2: some bocce sets come with 8 balls, but of four different colors.  You might have two red, two green, two blue, and two yellow.   So, if you were playing doubles (two players vs. two players) for example, you’d roll two balls each.  You and your partner might have the red and green balls, and your opponents would have the blue and yellow.  I’m not crazy about the sets with four different colored balls.  If you really want the set, maybe you could find someone else who also wants them – purchase two sets, then divvy up the balls so that each set has eight balls, but four of each of two colors.


light-weight plastic set (Franklin)

Here’s an inexpensive light-weight plastic set (Franklin) that I found at a department store. Great for play on the beach.  I purchased two sets so I could do this…


2 color plastic set (Franklin)

What does a set of bocce balls consist of?

For most people, a set means eight bocce balls (four each of two different colors), a carry bag and a smaller target ball or “pallino”.  Most often this would be four red, four green, a white or yellow pallino, and a carry bag.

Sometimes the bags are sold separately – but look for a set that comes with a decent bag. Sometimes sets come with a printed set of rules (usually junk, circa 1970 IBA) or measuring devices (usually inexpensive, not great, but OK for starters)


Italian made Perfetta set

This high quality Italian-made Perfetta set comes with 4 red, 4 green, one pallino, and carry bag.  Click the image above for more details and to purchase.

Yikes! Stripes! Bocce’s Got ‘Em
Often, the four red and four green bocce balls in a traditional set have lines or engraved designs to further differentiate each group of four into two sets of two.  For example, in a doubles match you could tell which two bocce balls were yours and which two were your teammate’s.


Perfetta Club Pro set (solid)

One teammate would play the balls with the circles and the other the ones with the squares.

Careful – some of the more expensive European balls come four to a set instead of eight and don’t include a pallino (and metal balls are sold in sets of two).  Really competitive players cart their personal bocce balls wherever they play.  They want the consistency that using the same bocce balls every game brings.  You’ll see them use a cloth or chamois to wipe dust and debris from the ball before each toss.


Italian manufacturer, Super Martel.

Four-ball set from Italian manufacturer, Super Martel.

What are these balls made of anyway?

You can find inexpensive bocce ball sets in department stores that are made of wood or plastic.  Not plastic like in a Wiffle ball, but like in a bowling ball or pool ball.  The plastic is sometimes referred to as phenolic resin or partek resin.

Let’s face it – the market in America is for inexpensive recreation bocce balls.  Most Americans are nothing like the top European player who wants a new set of balls once his old set gets a nick or two.

Still, even if you are planning on occasional use in the backyard after cookouts, I’d opt for a quality set that will last a lifetime over a bargain basement set.

I’ve heard many horror stories about poorly made, out of balance balls that practically make a U-turn when rolling. I have heard, but cannot verify, that some department stores/retailers are purchasing cheap sets from China, then putting their brand on them and marking up the price to consumers.  My advice – Pony Up and get a quality set. Suggestions below…

To purchase some bocce balls:

Click for Perfetta Club Pro set – solid colors red and green, 8-ball set, pallino and carry bag.

Click for Perfetta Club Pro set – speckled colors red and green, 8-ball set, pallino and carry bag.

Click to view Italian-made Super Martel 4-ball sets (carry bag and pallino sold separately) at Michael Grasser’s DaVinciBocce.com. Says Grasser, “They are calibrated to be perfectly round and balanced. In pointing, they start straight and finish straight. When shooting, they have the anti-rebound characteristics that the professionals demand.”

Have Fun!
The Bocce Guy

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