Private Bocce Court Construction
In this article I will share with readers how I constructed my very own bocce court. I am including photos and will also include dimensions and a material list for those who wish to construct their own court.
One thing to consider at the very beginning is your climate. Courts built in the mid-west have to be more weather resistant than those built in warmer climates. You also have to consider frost lines and the such to avoid winter damage to the court as well as maintenance issues in the spring and summer.
Sept 2012 - Update - the court has been in use for 3 seasons now and has fared well. the only thing I have done since original construction is to occasionally rake the top coat and roll with my lawn roller. Friends normally say I have the home court advantage but the truth is that every time I rake the Ag Lime I end up changing the characteristics of the court - where there was a low spot becomes leveled out and slight hills are recreated elsewhere on the surface so each time I rake and roll - I essentially change the court conditions - it keeps the game interesting and fresh. If I water & roll constantly the surface becomes harder and the play is faster. If I don't roll then more lime comes to the surface and the balls roll a little slower.
Picking your site
After considering the above issues - you have to consider where you will place your bocce court. It has to be accessible where you can gather with family and friends - yet you do not want to place it where it will interfere with other uses of your property. You should also consider things like - will it interfere with cutting the lawn - will my flower garden or vegetable garden get in the way of the court. Will leaves from trees become an issue and finally will water build up after a rain or poor drainage cause problems.
Preparing the Ground
Once that is decided, you have to determine the size of your court. There are many different courts in use. The official size, according to the USBF is 10 to 12 feet wide and 87 feet 6 inches long. Courts vary from 10 feet by 60 feet to 15 feet by 100 feet. There are various sites which list different standards around the world. The USBF - United States Bocce Federation has declared 10-12 feet by 87 feet 6 inches as official size.
My court was made before this size was published so it varies as it is 13½ feet by 80 feet. The size was actually determined using the standard length of lumber and to limit the number of cuts necessary to facilitate construction which resulted in longer runs and stronger side boards
Court boundaries were outlined with orange paint, then a power edger was used to cut the sod edges and two additional lengthwise cuts so the sod would be 4ft wide and easier to remove.
Once edging was finished a skid steer was used to cut the sod and remove it from the site. Some sod was placed on the north side as a temporary berm.
The sod was removed and the clay soil was cut 4 inches below ground level to create a natural edge for the side boards. The next step was to check level of the ground from side to side and end to end. When done it was not perfectly level but that would be corrected when the stone base would be added. To protect from weed grow through the soil was first treated with a generous spraying of RoundupR.
Then landscape fabric was laid over the clay and pinned to the soil to prevent movement when gravel was added. We used 6 ft x 80 ft rolls and overlapped the edges. At this point it is starting to look like a court rather than just a muddy strip in the backyard.
Stone & Wood
Here comes the gravel and boards
Now we were ready for the gravel. We used 10 tons of CA-6 gravel for the base so it would be solid and have good drainage. Luckily for us we were able to get the yard to deliver right to the site and even started at the far end and drop and run so we didn't have as much spreading to do.
To avoid a lot of manual labor in the heat I decided to use the yard tractor to drag and spread the gravel. It did a fairly good job and I was able to avoid getting sunstroke.
For the side boards we chose pressure treated 4x4's 16 ft long. Since the final length would be 80 ft it meant laying five 16 ft lengths end to end on each side. Then two 4x4s were cut to length to end up with a 14 ft inside length. By using the 16 ft boards we saved a lot of cutting time. This first row of board was placed on top of gravel and fabric to facilitate drainage under the boards.
The end boards were added to the end run on each side to keep the inside length to 80 ft.
To keep the boards properly in line with each other and straight we drilled starter holes for the 24 inch long steel spikes that were driven into the ground.
Here we are driving the spikes into the ground. We used 48 spikes total around the perimeter. Care was taken to allow for proper placement of spikes that would be used on the second row of 4x4s
At this point we have 5 tons of gravel down and three sides of the 4x4s. We decided to leave the fourth side off so that the gravel truck could continue to drive inside the court area to drop and spread additional loads since nobody wanted to use a wheelbarrow to move a hundred loads of gravel.
Our truck with the second 5 ton load of CA-6 gravel.
And here the spreading - saved a lot of time and labor!
The stone that didn't work
Win some & lose some
From all the sources I had read it was recommended that you could use decomposed granite for a second and finish layer for the court. Unfortunately after working with the first 5 tons and being disappointed in how it spread and the poor coverage, it was decided to take a break and rethink this stage of the project. As we saw it, it would take at least 10 tons more and at the price of D.G. we didn't want to go there.
Compacting the decomposed granite proved to be a glitch. The one inch layer that we should have had with 5 tons turned out to be less than half an inch. How much money did we say we wanted to invest in this project? Not that much!
Final layer & finishing touches
Back on track!
So after doing more research we decided to go with Ag lime for the final layer of gravel. It is a fine size gravel and drains very good. When wet and compacted it can become very hard. We added 14 tons of Ag lime to the court.
The fourth side of the court was finally spiked into place. Since we used 4x4s an inner board is not needed since the 4x4s will not flex.
This photo shows the installation of the second row of 4x4s. The final inside height is 7 inches deep and with approximately 4 inches of gravel that leaves a side board 3½ inches tall which is slightly taller than a standard bocce ball and works well for rebounds and banked shots.
Even though we had a truck spread the Ag lime -- it still left a lot to be spread and it was so soft that the yard tractor could not be used - so this was probably the hardest part of the project.
Still raking the Ag lime - where are all the friends when you need them? Thank God for wives who are willing to help!
Finally all the Ag lime is raked out and smoothed. Here the compactor makes a difficult job very easy.
Final raking and compacting - almost done.
Score board for the court. Memorial to my twin who was with me when I started the project but unfortunately did not live to see the final court.
Deano - Il Mio fratello gemello! Riposa in pace.
What it is all about
Learn about Bocce
The official United States Bocce Federation
Bocce Court info - 13½ ft wide by 80 ft long - constructed of 24 - pressure treated 4x4 boards 16ft long (end pieces cut to 14 ft length) - 29 tons of gravel, decomposed granite & limestone powder forms the base & top coat. The 4x4's are spiked together & held into the ground by 48 steel spikes 3/8 inch x 24 inches long. Total cost of project was approximately $1800
What do you know about bocce?
For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.
- Bocce originated in Italy
- Court size is officially 15ft x 100ft
- All ages from small children to seniors can play bocce
- A pallino is......
- The small target ball
- The larger ball that you throw to score with
- Clay is the official top layer of a court
- The small target ball
Dale Metcalfe (author) from Chicago & Phoenix on July 13, 2015:
Hi Tony - we are southwest of Chicago. Since we are on farmland that drains very well, we did not put down any drainage pipes.
Our base layer of gravel combined with the top layer of limestone provides for rapid drainage. If we get a heavy rain - the water is gone within 30 minutes. On slower draining soil you might need the pipes.
Tony Andres on July 13, 2015:
Can you tell me where you are located. Also, did you lay down any perforated piping?
Dale Metcalfe (author) from Chicago & Phoenix on May 07, 2015:
The court is doing just fine - all I do is smooth it out with a rake and then ocassionally water it down & roll with my lawn roller. Yes Ag Lime is finely crushed limestone. This June it will be 5 years old.
ted on May 06, 2015:
wanted to know how your bocce court is holding up ?
also ag limestone you talk about is just crushed limestone is that correct?
Dale Metcalfe (author) from Chicago & Phoenix on May 16, 2012:
With the gravel base the drainage is excellent. Even in the heaviest rains if you give it time to drain the base stays good. It does get a little "grainy" so I use a metal rake and re-spread the Aglime then I wet it down and roll it with my lawn roller. I was told that it would become as hard as cement but that has never happened. For now I am happy with the base - it plays on the fast side and I like that.
John Tiberio on May 15, 2012:
Thanks for your step-by-step summary. Can you let me know how the aglime surfacing is holding up for you? What happens to the surfacing after a rainfall? Does is become muddy and wet, or is a free draining? Your input is appreciated.
Dale Metcalfe (author) from Chicago & Phoenix on March 15, 2012:
Grazie! It was a work of love.
Dale Metcalfe (author) from Chicago & Phoenix on March 12, 2012:
Thanks for those who read my article - it was very therapeutic for me building this living memorial to my twin brother. - BB
Dale Metcalfe (author) from Chicago & Phoenix on March 12, 2012:
Thank you for your kind words - they are appreciated.
Michelle Simtoco from Cebu, Philippines on March 10, 2012:
What a comprehensive, step by step guide....awesome! :)
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