Bocce ball is an enjoyable game for all ages that's rapidly gaining popularity, and, if you've ever played, you know exactly why. It's the perfect combination of fun and challenging, yet easy enough for anyone to partake—the kind of lawn game the whole family can get involved in.
Just as the game has become more popular, so has the trend of the backyard bocce ball court. And, while you could go all in and drop thousands of dollars on a bocce ball court installation, we've got a simple way to build one yourself. Though renting a few tools may make the job easier, this DIY bocce ball court can be built mostly with tools you already have.
Before You Begin
Before diving into this project, there are a few things that need to be decided. The two main things to determine are the location and size of your court. You should choose a spot in your yard that you don't utilize much and that won't inhibit the use of the rest of your yard. Also, a spot with good drainage is ideal, but there are some ways to make more water-prone spots work.
According to the United States Bocce Federation, official bocce courts are 86.92 feet long and 13.12 feet wide. Because this is so large, it may be wise to scale down to a more appropriate size for your space. For this reason, this tutorial and the materials needed can easily be adjusted to suit your needs.
Equipment / Tools
- Post-hole digger or auger
- Round-point shovel
- Drill bits
- 4-foot level
- Tamper or compactor
- Lawn roller (optional)
- Miter saw
- Circular saw or reciprocating saw
- Tape measure
- Framing square
- Post level
- Stapler and staples
- Digging bar with tamper
- 4x4 #2 pressure treated boards
- 2x6 #2 pressure treated boards
- Exterior-grade decking screws
- Decomposed granite
- Crushed oyster shell
- Corrugated French drain pipe (optional)
- Marking paint
- 4 wooden stakes
- Landscape fabric
- Scrap 2x4 board
- Scrap plywood
- Wood screws
Follow these steps to build your own backyard bocce ball court. Adjust the materials and dimensions to suit your space and consider adding a French drain for areas prone to collect water.
Establish Court Dimensions and Set Posts
Mark Four Corners
Once you've determined where your bocce court will go, use marking paint and a tape measure to mark the four corners.
Stake off Corners
Drive wooden stakes in each of the four corners and tie a string around all four stakes to outline the court's dimensions.
To avoid injury, remember to wear safety glasses, gloves, and any other necessary safety equipment whenever using tools.
Use a framing square to check the string for square and adjust the stakes if needed.
Use a flat shovel or edging tool to score the sod beneath the string, then remove the layer of sod on the entirety of the court.
Take advantage of this free sod and use it to fill low spots throughout your yard. Additionally, setting some aside to line the outside of the court once finished is a good idea.
Dig Corner Holes
Using an auger or post-hole digger, dig four corner holes at least 1 foot deep.
Set Corner Posts
In each corner hole, place a 4x4 post that has been cut to provide at least 1 foot of excess.
Tamp Around Posts
To firmly set the posts, shovel in a little dirt, loosely tamp with the tamping end of a digging bar, and check for level and square. Continue to tamp the dirt around each post layer by layer, checking for level and square as you go to ensure the posts line up in the end.
Once the corners are fully set in place, reinstall the string around the court.
Mark Secondary Side Post Locations
Use marking paint to mark the location of all of the secondary posts that will make up the sides of the court. Because everyone's courts will have different dimensions, the easiest way to determine where to install the posts and how many to install is to follow this method:
There shouldn't be more than a 4- to 6-foot span between posts, so, on each side, start in the middle between two corners and mark a spot. Then, continue to mark the middle until the spot between marks is less than 6 feet long.
Dig and Set Side Posts
Using the same method as the corner posts, set a side post in each marked position.
Add Optional French Drain
If your bocce court is located in a spot that tends to collect water, a French drain may be necessary to encourage drainage from the court. Follow these steps to install one before moving forward.
What Is a French drain?
A French drain is an underground pipe that is fitted with holes that allow groundwater to seep inside the pipe and be drained out the end as a result.
Dig Spot for French Drain
Use a shovel to remove a few more inches of dirt, especially near the center of the court, as this is where the French drain will be located. The water should drain out the backend of the court, so digging a very slight slope will encourage drainage.
Install French Drain
Lay your corrugated French drain pipe in the center down the full length of the court, with the end positioned just slightly beyond the court's edge. Depending on your specific yard, you may need to add additional pipe beyond the court for proper drainage.
Cut Side Rails
The sides of the bocce ball court will consist of vertically stacked 2x6 boards. To install the side rails, cut your 2x6 boards to length according to your court's dimensions and the position of your posts. The ends of the 2x6 should fall on a post in order to be fastened. For example, if you have a post every 6 feet, your boards should either be 6 feet long or 12 feet long.
Fasten Side Rails
To attach, place a board on the ground against the post and screw one side into place using an exterior-grade decking screw. Place a level in the center of the board and lift the other end up on the next post until it reads level, then screw in place. If you're struggling to level the rail, it may be because you need to remove a little dirt at the bottom of the post to lower the board.
For the end rails, follow the same procedure and screw through the end rails into the side rails. Repeat this process for all of the bottom rails, then again for the top rails.
Cut off Excess Post
Once the top and bottom side rails are fully installed, use the top of a post level to mark a line around each post that matches the height of the top rail, then cut off the excess post with a circular saw or reciprocating saw.
Cut and Fasten Top of Frame
The top of the frame will consist of 2x6 boards lying flat on the posts. Cut your boards to length in the same fashion as the rails, ensuring the ends fall on the top of a post. If you want a more custom look, use a miter saw to miter the 45-degree corner joints. Line the boards up with the edge of the side rails and screw them into place using long decking screws.
Install Gravel Layer
Shovel in Gravel Layer
The first layer of the court consists of large gravel to encourage drainage. If you've installed a French drain, this layer will cover the top of the drain. If not, factor in enough gravel for a 2- to 3-inch layer.
Pack in Gravel
After the gravel is shoveled in and roughly leveled, use a tamper or compactor to firmly pack it down. Remove any high spots with a shovel.
Line With Landscape Fabric
To prevent weed growth, install landscape fabric over the top of the gravel layer and staple it to the side rails.
Install Crushed Layer
Shovel in Decomposed Granite
The next layer is the crushed layer, and the standard material for bocce courts is decomposed granite. Again, factor in enough decomposed granite for a 2- to 3-inch layer. Shovel the decomposed granite onto the gravel until you've reached a roughly leveled 2- to 3-inch layer. To perfectly level the granite, you need to build a screed tool.
Build Screed Tool
An easy screed tool can be made by cutting a straight 2x4 board to a length just beyond the width of the court. Next, cut a piece of plywood to a length that perfectly matches the interior width of the court. Lay the 2x4 on the plywood and screw it in place so that the amount of plywood hanging out the bottom perfectly matches the desired height of the decomposed granite.
To screed the top of the decomposed granite, lay the 2x4 part of the screed on the top of the bocce court frame. Grab a helping hand and together work the plywood across the top of the decomposed granite to knock off any high spots and achieve a perfectly level surface.
Pack in Decomposed Granite
Use a tamper or compactor to firmly pack the decomposed granite. Repeat the screeding process, adding and removing material where needed, and pack again.
Install Top Layer
Add Optional Crushed Oyster Shell Layer
The top layer of the bocce ball court is composed of either sand or crushed oyster shell, which is the preferred material, as it prevents the bocce balls from getting scratched. This layer is somewhat optional as you could technically play on the decomposed granite, but adding this layer will make the court the best it can be.
Screed and Pack in Top Layer
This layer shouldn't be any more than 2 inches. Adjust your DIY screed 1 to 2 inches higher than before and repeat the same process as was used to install the decomposed granite layer.
Adding a little moisture as you compact can help the crushed oyster shell to pack more effectively.
How to Maintain a Bocce Ball Court
A well-built bocce ball court needs very little maintenance beyond keeping the surface free of debris. However, to ensure the performance of the court is up to par, gently raking and rolling with a lawn roller will keep the playing surface up to snuff. Occasionally, you may need to add additional crushed oyster shell to the surface. To ensure the longevity of the frame, applying a deck sealer every couple of years is a good idea.