If you have watched people playing bocce ball, you might have wondered just how different it is from lawn bowling. They’re similar in that you try to get your balls as close to the jack as possible, so it’s not surprising that a lot of people mix up the two games. However, there are several differences between lawn bowling and bocce ball in spite of all the similarities.
In this post, we’ll deconstruct the main
differences so you’ll have a better idea of what
constitutes as bocce ball and what is lawn bowling. Let’s get started.
Differences in Balls Used
The biggest difference between lawn bowl
and bocce ball is in how the balls are shaped. Bocce balls are perfectly round,
so they can travel straight down the playing surface towards the pallino or
jack. The player’s throwing technique will determine how the ball travels, and
they can even put some spins and curves into their throws.
On the other hand, a lawn bowl has an elliptical side instead of being completely round as you can see in the image below. This is mainly because it is supposed to travel in a curved path and the elliptical shape helps with that. Originally, makers of lawn bowls would insert weights in one side of the ball, creating a weight bias to produce the curving effect.
Because the official rules no longer allow the addition of weights, players now depend on the shape of the bowl alone to produce that bias. You may not instantly notice this slight difference in shape, but there’s a visible difference in how the balls look overall.
First of all, a lawn bowl is much bigger
than a bocce ball. Some of the smallest lawn bowls have a diameter of about 116
mm and the biggest ones can go up to 127 mm in diameter. Meanwhile, a standard
bocce ball measures 107 mm in diameter as discussed in our previous article on petanque
vs. bocce ball.
Another difference is in the color of the
balls. A bocce ball set comes with eight balls of two different colors,
typically blue and red. If you’ve read our bocce ball FAQ,
you would also know that some sets even come in four different colors. On the
other hand, lawn bowls usually come in black and brown, although you may be
able to find other colors too.
Differences in Delivery Technique
If you observe how players deliver the ball
in lawn bowling, you’ll notice that it differs from how you throw a bocce ball.
In bocce, you use an underhand throw just like in softball. There are different
throwing techniques in bocce but you typically toss the ball in the air to get
it as close to the pallino as possible.
In lawn bowling, you roll the ball as close to the ground as possible just like in regular bowling. That’s why you can’t play it on surfaces like sand, where the ball will have a hard time rolling forward. This gentle rolling technique is similar to the specialized bocce ball throwing technique called pointing.
Differences in Court Size and Surface
Another major difference between lawn
bowling and bocce ball is in the court size and playing surface. Due to the
shape of the balls and how the balls are expected to travel, there are
significant differences in the kind of playing surface you can use for these
Lawn bowling regulations are more specific
and less flexible, mainly because of the unusual shape of the balls and the
delivery technique used. As mentioned earlier, a lawn bowl has an elliptical
side so the shape is quite unique. Plus, you need to use a rolling technique to
deliver the balls so this makes it difficult to play on soft and uneven
surfaces like sand where the ball wouldn’t be able to roll.
In lawn bowling, you need to use a bent
grass playing surface so the balls can roll smoothly towards the pallino. Lawn
bowling rinks are usually 19 feet by 120 feet, which is much larger than the
typical bocce ball court.
bocce ball court size is around 13 feet by 90 feet, but for casual play, you
can make adjustments according to how much space is available. Backyard bocce
courts are slightly smaller than this.
Even in terms of playing surface, bocce
ball courts offer more flexibility because there aren’t any official
regulations for court material. Your playing surface could range from synthetic
carpets (for indoor play) to grass or even packed dirt. A lot of people use
sand, and more modern courts even use a poured liquid playing surface.
You’ll need to adjust your throwing
technique based on what surface you’re playing on. For instance, rolling
techniques could work best on smooth surfaces but you’ll need to actually toss
the ball in the air when you’re playing on sand. Otherwise, your ball wouldn’t
be able to move forward.
Differences in Origin
Since there are so many similarities
between the game rules, you’d think that they at least share the same history. While
this may well be the case, there are some variations in the documented history
of the two games.
The origin of lawn bowling has been traced
back to the 12th and 13th centuries in London. In the
biography of Thomas Becket, popularly known as the Archbishop of Canterbury,
William Fitzstephen wrote about a game similar to lawn bowling called jactus
lapidum. Although the popular belief is that jactus lapidum refers to the game
of bowls, some also believe that round stones were used to play an earlier
version of the game.
As we’ve thoroughly discussed in a previous
article on the history
of bocce, bocce ball’s origins can be traced back to ancient Egypt. An
Egyptian tomb painting dating back to 5200 BC depicts two boys playing a game
that looks very similar to bocce. Some even believe that the game could date
back as far as 9000 BC in Turkey because of some ancient stone balls that were
uncovered in the region.
Although these are suppositions, what we
know for sure is that bocce can clearly be traced back to the time of the
Romans. During the Punic Wars in 246 BC, Roman soldiers had already been
playing a game with rules very similar to bocce ball. So while there is a
possibility that lawn bowling has been adapted from bocce, there is no documented
proof that the two games have the same origin.
Both bocce ball and lawn bowling are
extremely fun games that require skill and strategic throwing techniques. After
you understand the differences between the two, you’ll have a better idea of
how to play them. Whether you choose to play bocce or lawn bowling is up to
you, but you should definitely try both to see which one you enjoy more.