Bocce Ball Vs. Croquet: A Comparative Guide

Bocce Ball


Bocce Ball and Croquet are two classic lawn games that have delighted players for generations. While both games are played outdoors and involve strategy and skill, they each have distinct histories, rules, and cultural significance. This comparative guide delves into the origins, gameplay, equipment, and appeal of Bocce Ball and Croquet, helping you understand the unique charm of each game and perhaps guiding you in choosing which to play at your next gathering.

Bocce Ball

Historical Background

Bocce Ball

Bocce Ball traces its roots back to ancient civilizations, with evidence suggesting that forms of the game were played in Egypt as early as 5200 B.C. The game gained widespread popularity in ancient Rome, where it evolved into something more recognizable as modern Bocce. The Romans used a ball made of coconuts brought back from Africa, and later, they started using balls carved out of wood. Bocce spread throughout Europe and became particularly popular in Italy, where it developed into the formalized sport we know today.


Croquet’s origins are somewhat debated, with some suggesting it evolved from a French game called “paille-maille” played in the 13th century, while others believe it came from an Irish game known as “crookey” or “crookey ball.” However, the modern game of Croquet as it is known today was established in England in the mid-19th century. By 1868, the first official rules were codified, and the game quickly became a favorite pastime among the British elite, spreading across the British Empire and beyond.

Gameplay and Rules

Bocce Ball

Bocce is played with eight large balls and one smaller target ball called the “pallino” or “jack.” Players or teams take turns throwing their Bocce balls, aiming to get as close to the pallino as possible. The game can be played on various surfaces, including grass, dirt, or even sand, though a smooth, flat surface is preferred for competitive play.

  • Starting the Game: The game begins with a coin toss to decide which team throws the pallino. The same team then throws the first Bocce ball.
  • Throwing the Balls: Players alternate turns, trying to place their balls closer to the pallino than the opposing team’s closest ball. Players can also strategically knock away the opponent’s balls.
  • Scoring: Once all balls are thrown, the team with the closest ball to the pallino scores points. One point is awarded for each ball closer to the pallino than the opponent’s closest ball. The game continues until one team reaches a predetermined number of points, often 12 or 15.


Croquet involves players using mallets to hit wooden balls through a series of wickets (small hoops) placed on the lawn. The objective is to navigate the course and hit the final stake before your opponents.

  • Setting Up: The croquet court is set up with wickets in a double-diamond pattern. The game typically starts with a coin toss to determine the order of play.
  • Playing the Game: Players take turns stroking their balls from a starting point and attempt to pass through each wicket in the correct order. Each turn consists of one strike, but players earn extra strokes for successfully passing through a wicket or hitting another player’s ball.
  • Scoring: Players score points by passing through wickets in the correct sequence. The first player to navigate the entire course and hit the final stake wins the game.


Bocce Ball

The equipment for Bocce is simple but specific:

  • Bocce Balls: Typically, Bocce sets include eight balls, four for each team, often differentiated by color or pattern. Standard Bocce balls are around 107mm in diameter and weigh about 920 grams.
  • Pallino: The smaller target ball, usually white or yellow, is around 60mm in diameter.
  • Measuring Device: Sometimes a measuring tape or stick is used to determine which ball is closest to the pallino when it’s difficult to judge by eye.
Bocce Ball


Croquet requires more varied equipment:

  • Mallets: Each player uses a wooden mallet to strike the balls. Mallets vary in length and weight, with players often choosing one based on personal preference.
  • Balls: Croquet balls are solid and colored to distinguish each player’s ball. Standard balls are about 92mm in diameter and weigh approximately 453 grams.
  • Wickets: These are metal hoops that players must pass their balls through. A standard set includes six or more wickets.
  • Stakes: The game usually features two stakes, one at the start and one at the end of the course, marking the beginning and conclusion of the game.

Cultural Significance

Bocce Ball

Bocce Ball holds a special place in Italian culture, often seen as a leisurely pastime enjoyed in parks and on beaches. It’s a game that fosters social interaction, commonly played in relaxed, informal settings with family and friends. In many Italian-American communities, Bocce courts are a common feature, and the game is associated with gatherings and celebrations. Bocce has also gained popularity worldwide, with organized leagues and tournaments. It’s a game that appeals to a wide age range, requiring minimal physical exertion while still demanding precision and strategy.


Croquet has a more formalized and somewhat aristocratic image, particularly in the United Kingdom. Historically, it was a game enjoyed by the upper classes, often played in manicured gardens and associated with social events like garden parties. The sport’s structured nature and the need for a well-maintained lawn have contributed to its refined reputation.

However, Croquet is not just a relic of the past. It remains popular in various parts of the world, with many clubs and associations dedicated to the game. Its strategic depth and the precision required to navigate the course make it a challenging and engaging pastime.

Appeal and Accessibility

Bocce Ball

Bocce Ball’s simplicity and minimal equipment make it highly accessible. It can be played almost anywhere with a flat surface, making it ideal for casual gatherings, picnics, and family outings. Its rules are easy to grasp, and the game can be enjoyed by people of all ages and skill levels. Bocce’s leisurely pace and social nature make it a perfect game for relaxation and friendly competition.


Croquet, while requiring more equipment and setup, offers a different kind of appeal. Its structured gameplay and the need for a well-prepared lawn make it a more formal activity. However, Croquet provides a deeper strategic challenge, requiring players to plan their shots and think several moves ahead. It’s a game that can be played at a relaxed pace or in a competitive, tournament-style setting. Croquet’s unique combination of strategy, skill, and social interaction attracts those looking for a more engaging and cerebral outdoor activity.

Which One to Choose?

Choosing between Bocce Ball and Croquet largely depends on your preferences and the context in which you plan to play.

If You Prefer Simplicity and Flexibility: Bocce Ball might be your game. It requires minimal setup, can be played on various surfaces, and is easy to learn, making it ideal for spontaneous games and casual play.

If You Enjoy Strategy and Structure: Croquet offers a more strategic and structured experience. It’s perfect for those who enjoy games that require careful planning and skill. Its formal nature makes it suitable for organized events and competitions.

Social and Competitive Aspects

Both Bocce Ball and Croquet can be enjoyed in social and competitive contexts, but they offer different experiences.

  • Bocce Ball: Often played in a relaxed, social setting, Bocce Ball is perfect for casual gatherings where the emphasis is on fun and camaraderie. Its straightforward rules and gameplay encourage participation and engagement without requiring deep strategic thinking.
  • Croquet: While Croquet can be played casually, it shines in more competitive and structured environments. Its rules and the strategic depth of navigating the wickets and interacting with opponents’ balls make it a game that rewards skill and tactical thinking.
Bocce Ball

Equipment and Setup

  • Bocce Ball: A Bocce set is relatively inexpensive and easy to transport. The game can be set up quickly and played on almost any flat surface, making it highly adaptable for different venues.
  • Croquet: Croquet sets are more specialized, and setting up the course requires more time and space. However, the unique equipment and the process of setting up the game contribute to its distinct and enjoyable experience.


Bocce Ball and Croquet, though both lawn games, offer distinct experiences catering to different tastes and occasions. Bocce Ball’s simplicity and flexibility make it accessible and enjoyable for a broad audience, perfect for casual play and social gatherings. Croquet’s strategic depth and structured gameplay appeal to those who enjoy more competitive and thoughtful activities. Whether you’re looking for a game to play with family on a lazy afternoon or a sport that challenges your strategic thinking, both Bocce Ball and Croquet provide delightful ways to enjoy the outdoors. Ultimately, the choice between the two comes down to your preferences for simplicity versus strategy and the context in which you plan to play.