You may think of bocce ball as a fun picnic game, but it’s actually the third largest sport worldwide based on participation. With that level of participation, equipment starts to become important. But what is the difference between a shoddy bocce ball and a champions tool? No matter how you plan on playing bocce ball, this guide will show you how to pick the right set.
There are three major factors that determine a quality bocce ball set: material, size, and weight. A quality set will be well balanced and will last for many years. While there are regulation sizes and weights, good bocce balls will range in measurement depending on age and level of skill.
While there are certain characteristics that go along with any bocce ball that is considered quality, there is a level of personal preference that goes with selecting the right set for you. Here are some of the ways bocce ball varies and what that might mean to your bocce ball game.
High Quality Bocce Balls: How They are Priced
Price is NOT an indicator of quality. There are plenty of lower-priced bocce ball sets that are well constructed. The price of a set can tell you a lot about the set, though. The key is to match price up to purpose or use.
Here are some price ranges and the audience they are aimed at:
- $100 and up : Anything in the $100 or higher range is aimed at the bocce ball enthusiasts. These are the sets that are usually the regulation size and made of materials meant to last years, if not decades. They will come in sturdy carrying cases and can be used for a family gathering or a weekend tournament. The quality here is typically high, but if you are just looking to play once in awhile, it’s probably not worth the cost.
- $40-$100: This is the most common price range where you will find the biggest variation in quality. These sets are usually targeted towards the casual bocce ballplayer. There is a lot of quality in this price range but you are going to have to shop around. What may look like a good deal might prove to be poor quality once you know what to look for.
- $40 or less: Most sets in this price range are not going to be very good quality. If you are looking for a cheap set just to have for an upcoming picnic, feel free to grab a set at this price range, but most of these sets will not last.
The best overall set out of all the sets we’ve compared, is the St. Pierre Sports Professional Bocce Set (link to Amazon). If you just want to know what the best set is for playing in the backyard with your family and friends, that’s it. That’s what we use, it’s priced right, and we love it. But, keep reading to learn more about bocce sets, and to get help finding a set to fit your needs.
Understanding Bocce Ball Material
Probably the most important factor in determining the quality of a bocce ball set is the material that the balls are made of. There is a level of construction that goes with each type of material used. Some just don’t hold up to others, but your level of play and the amount of time spent on the court will affect which material is right for you.
Here are the materials most used in making bocce balls and how they might affect your game.
The first modern bocce balls were made of wood. Boxwood, beech, and elm were the most common woods used in the production of bocce balls until the mid 19th century. These balls though would get deformed and worn out easily when played on rough rocky ground. Because of this, when other materials became viable alternatives, wood fell out of favor as a bocce ball material.
Today, you can find many wood bocce ball sets, but they are better used as decorative sets than in an actual game. Some wood sets today are cheaply produced since when used to play, they do not last long. If you are looking for a set more as decoration and less for gameplay, wood may be the best choice.
Since wooden balls were so quick to wear out, players started to put nails into them in an attempt to fortify the balls. When nails started to be produced in factories, bocce balls began to be made covered in nails. People turned them into works of art by using nails of different colors and creating various designs.
As metal technology became more prevalent, the bocce balls began to be made of things like bronze. They were custom made in varied weights and size to fit the hands of the people throwing them. They were either hollow or filled with non-liquid substances to prevent bouncing and increase the longevity of the bocce ball.
Today, the best metal to make bocce balls out of is stainless steel. Stainless steel will not rust, so you can use your bocce balls in any type of weather conditions.
Metal bocce balls will last longer than wood. They also tend to handle better and have a better balance.
As plastic became a cheap popular alternative to metal, bocce balls began to be produced in that manner as well. Plastic bocce balls tend to have less balance than many of the other materials, but they are lightweight and easy for new players to handle.
A quality plastic bocce ball will not be a great choice for a veteran player or anyone who plays competitively, but if you are looking for a set of bocce balls for a young child, plastic is the way to go.
The lightweight design makes them easy for children to handle. It gives them a chance to figure out the intricacies of the game without having to fight the heaviness of the balls.
Plastic bocce balls are not very durable, however. They tend to be made cheaper, which leads to them not lasting all that long. What you may also find is that the paint will fade or chip. This shouldn’t affect your gameplay, but if you don’t want your bocce balls to look well worn, plastic might not be the best material for you.
Double polymer feels like hard plastic but is much stronger and durable. They are less common than resin and stainless steel, and because of this, tend to cost more.
The durability is great if you play in rough outdoor areas, like your backyard, a gravel driveway, or the beach. Bocce balls made of this material will take the beating without showing much wear and tear. If you play grass or turf courts, however, the extra cost is probably not worth it for you.
Resin is the newest material that bocce balls are made out of. This is the material that many tournaments and competitive players prefer. The material gives the ball a heaviness that veteran players look for. The heavy ball gives the player more control. They also tend to be more balanced than other balls and are as durable as stainless steel and double polymer.
Different Bocce Ball Sizes
The size of bocce balls varies greatly, and in all honesty, has very little to do with the quality of the ball. There are small balls that are cheaply made and there are small balls that are expertly made. The way size affects the buyer is in the intended use of the balls. A small ball will not be of quality for a tournament player but might be the right quality for a young child learning to play.
Here are some of the common sizes and the type of player they may be good for…
- 74mm to 100mm: These balls are on the small size. Because of the small size, they are easy to grasp and handle, which makes them perfect for children learning to play, people with weak hand strength, and players just learning to play the game.
- 100mm to 115mm: If you want a set of bocce balls that falls under what is considered tournament grade, this is what you should be looking for. They are the right choice for people looking to give their backyard game more credibility.
- 107mm: This is professional regulation-size bocce balls. A set at this size will give you the most authentic play possible. If you are looking to take your game to the highest level possible, you want to get a set of 107mm bocce balls.
The Weight of a Bocce Ball
Weight of bocce balls is another factor that doesn’t necessarily reflect the quality of the craftsmanship put into making the balls. It does very much suggest quality based on the player’s experience and needs.
The heavier the ball, the more control you have when you roll it. More weight makes the ball grip the ground better, so it tends to bounce and change direction less. But, lighter weights make the game easier for young participants to learn.
Make sure you are looking for a bocce ball set that fits the style and level of the game you play.
If you are looking to play league or tournament bocce ball, the regulation weight for the balls is 2 lbs. There are varying weights under 2 lbs that would be perfect for young and beginning players.
Best Bocce Ball Sets
Now that you know about the materials that bocce balls are made of, the size they come in, and how much they tend to weigh, what are the best sets out there? Here are a few options for different experience levels…
Best Professional Bocce Ball Sets
Perfetta Club Pro Set (link to Amazon): Italians take their bocce ball seriously, so you know you can trust the bocce ball sets they manufacture. Perfetta is the manufacturer of the bocce balls that have been used at the World Bocce Ball Championship for the last 20 years. It is THE set for tournament and league players. And, it comes with a ten-year warranty, so you know that it has to be a durable product.
St. Pierre Sports Professional Bocce Set (link to Amazon): This is a highly durable resin set of bocce balls. They are regulation size, so they are perfect for the experienced serious player. Because they are so durable, they are also great for weekend warriors and family reunions, but they are priced for the professionals.
Best Bocce Ball Sets for Families
Hey! Play! Family Bocce Set (link to Amazon): If you are looking for a quality set for your family, this is a solid choice. It is made of a polymer that is very durable making it great for family gatherings. It is NOT regulation size and weight, so it’s not for the pros.
Badden Bocce Ball Set (link to Amazon): Badden makes a great family set. These 90mm balls are smaller than regulation but are great for the casual player that shows up to family gatherings. Each ball has its own design, so the set works great for the big teams that tend to play at picnics.
Best Bocce Ball Set for Serious Players
EPCO 110mm Bocce Set (link to Amazon): EPCO is widely considered the best bocce ball manufacturer in the United States. You aren’t going to save money on their sets, but this resin set is as good as you are going to get. It is certainly for the serious bocce ball players.
Best Bocce Ball Set for Kids
GoSports Backyard Bocce Set (link to Amazon): This is an extremely popular set that you can get in either rubber or resin. The balls are 90mm, so they are not the regulation size but make a quality set for young children learning to play the game. The colors are more fun than standard sets and word is that the customer service from GoSports is amazing.
Best Bocce Ball Set for Beginners
73mm Metal Bocce/Petanque Set (link to Amazon): A small-sized set that looks really cool. The balls come in gold and silver. You aren’t going to buy this set if you are a pro, but it’s a flashy fun set for beginners to the game. This set is ideal for players with weak hands. If you’re a beginner, but plan on playing more often, I suggest getting a set with a standard sized ball.
A sign of quality that most do not think of, is the carrying case that comes with your set. How a set is packaged means a lot. Why spend a lot on a fancy regulation set if it is going to come in a flimsy bag that rips the first time you take them out?
Bocce ball sets come in various types of carrying cases. They are made out of a variety of materials including…
- Plastic: These are not the highest quality cases. They are easy to carry but do not offer much protection. They tend to break easily as well. One benefit of a plastic case is the sets that come in plastic tend to be very affordable.
- Nylon: Probably the most common carrying cases. They come with most of your mid-range sets. If done right, they can be very stylish and durable. Some people do complain that the bocce balls tend to bang against each other when carried though, and this can cause nicks and scratches on the balls.
- Wooden: Wooden cases provide the best protection for your bocce balls, but they tend to be pricey and aren’t the easiest to carry around. If you’re paying a lot for your set though, you are probably going to want the best protection and presentation possible.
Here are a few of the bocce ball sets that come in quality packaging that also end up being a lot of fun…
- EastPoint Sports Resin Bocce Ball Set: Eastpoint’s set comes in a ball rack with a handle that makes toting the set around easy. This case won’t protect your balls from the elements, but it keeps your set organized and easy to move from place to place.
- St. Pierre Tournament Bocce Ball Set: This is a set you can pass down from generation to generation. It’s a regulation size set that comes in a beautiful mahogany stained pine box. The sturdy handle makes this a great set to take anywhere, the local tournament, a family gathering, the beach, you want to impress people.
- Garden Games Premium 8 Metal Bocce Ball Set: Is that a bocce ball set or secret documents? This set comes in a unique metal case that both looks cool and protects your bocce ball set. The briefcase-style carrying case makes it easy to bring your set anywhere. The balls are on the small side, though, so this isn’t a set for professionals.
- BocceNation Complete Tournament Set: This set comes in a sturdy nylon bag with a cardboard frame to give it structure, but what makes this set special isn’t so much the packaging as it is what comes inside. With this set, you can get a tournament going wherever you want. Not only does it include a quality set of regulation bocce balls, but also pre-measured bocce ball court boundaries, measuring tape, and a drink holder.
What makes a quality bocce ball set depends on what you are looking for from your set. Bocce ball is such a popular game that there are a variety of uses for any given set. What quality means, will be affected by the level of play, the age of the player, the personality of the player, and the amount of use the set will get.
Quality to a frequent tournament player will be different than quality to a backyard picnic champion. It will also be different to a wily veteran as compared to a young beginner. Hopefully, this gave everyone an example of what makes a quality bocce set for them.