Skip to Content

Lawn Bowling vs. Bocce: Is Lawn Bowling the Same as Bocce?

A lady in a blue sweater and hat is playing on the lawn bowling rink, which is bent grass and is usually 19 feet by 120 feet.

While there are a wide variety of fun outdoor activities to choose from, both lawn bowling and bocce ball are popular classics. Some people think the terms “lawn bowling” and “bocce ball” refer to the same sport, but that’s not the case.

The differences are minor in some ways but massive in others. If you want to learn more, read all the way to the end. In this article, we’ll compare lawn bowling vs. bocce and highlight the differences you need to know about. 

Lawn Bowling vs. Bocce: What Is Lawn Bowling?

Lawn Bowling can also be referred to as “bowls”, is governed by the World Bowls and involves rolling your ball or bowl in an attempt to get it to stop as close to a noticeably smaller ball as possible. The smaller ball is called the “kitty” or “jack.”

Hardcore lawn bowl fans know that the game can look easy from the outside, but to win a game, you need skill. Avid players adopt a fierce focus and complete concentration when they play. 

When you set up to play lawn bowling, you’ll need a foot mat, the surface — also known as the green — on which you are playing, the jack or kitty, measuring tape and a set of bowls (the larger balls).

Bowling for Beginners may receive compensation if you make a purchase using this link, at no additional cost to you.
Bowling for Beginners may receive compensation if you make a purchase using this link, at no additional cost to you.
Bowling for Beginners may receive compensation if you make a purchase using this link, at no additional cost to you.
Bowling for Beginners may receive compensation if you make a purchase using this link, at no additional cost to you.

The set of balls you play with will have a weight bias, meaning each ball will favor or sway based on its fixed weight. 

The playing area will be divided according to how many people are playing. The games should be played as 1 versus 1, 2 versus 2, and so on. 

The goal of lawn bowling is to get a point by being the person whose ball lands the closest to the jack at the end of the round. 

Black lawn bowls and a white jack are used doing traditional lawn bowling matches.
Mattinbgn, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Lawn Bowling Rules

The first known set of rules for lawn bowling was recorded more than 150 years ago. Many still play by these rules, but others have adjusted them for specialized gameplay.

Here are some of the basic rules that govern many games today:

The men and women have grass as the playing surfaces in their game of bowls.
  1. The classic coin flip is often used to decide who gets to play first.
  2. Players take turns rolling their ball and rack up points when their ball gets closest to the jack.
  3. A player is allowed to knock or hit another person’s ball to move them farther away from the jack or for other strategic advantages.
  4. If the jack is knocked down a slope or away from its original position, it is still considered active and in play.
  5. When a player bowls their ball into a ditch or off the playing green (i.e., bowling green), the balls will no longer be recognized as in play.

Lawn bowling has many more specific rules and guidelines that can change as needed. Once you have the basics down, you’ll be able to adjust your own game rules accordingly.

What Is Bocce Ball?

Bocce ball is arguably one of the most recognizable backyard group games played during the summer. Most promoted by the United States Bocce Federation. The game uses eight large balls, and a small ball called a Pallino, the target ball.

Each team playing gets four balls. The balls should be made in different colors or patterns to be recognized as belonging to their individual team. 

Teams can be made up of one, two, or four players. If a team has four players on it, they each get one ball. Two-player teams throw two balls per person. One-person teams have four balls for each player.

The traditional coin toss decides which team will start off the game, and the winning team can play first or pass it to the other team. 

Bocce ball should have a playing field or bocce court established and clearly marked before the game begins. Then, the small ball is rolled or gently thrown out onto the playing field and must pass the midway point before the game can begin. 

Bocce Ball Rules

While bocce ball games tend to have simple, easy-to-follow rules, they can be adjusted based on players’ and location needs. These basic rules always make for a straightforward game, especially if you’re just starting:

  1. The player that tossed the small ball is the one who must take the first throw. The goal is to get the bocce ball as close to the smaller ball as possible. 
  2. Players alternate turns between teams with the ultimate goal of getting their ball closest to the smaller ball. 
  3. The game allows players to knock opponents’ balls to move their balls farther away from the small ball. 
  4. Scoring can vary depending on whether a team is using official game rules or their own adaptations, but points are usually awarded for being the closest to the small ball at the end.

Note: Neither lawn bowling nor bocce ball shares any origin history. Both games can be tracked pretty far back, but they appear to have never crossed paths or inspired the other. 

How to Play Bocce, Bocce Rules and Bocce Lessons

The Differences Between Lawn Bowling and Bocce

Both outdoor games are played with balls while targeting smaller balls, but that doesn’t mean they’re the same. There are many differences between the two games, including:

Difference #1

The ball shapes are not the same. Bocce balls are perfectly round, while lawn bowling balls are round on one side and oblong on the other.

Difference #2

Since Bocce balls are round, they can be thrown underhand or rolled. On the other hand, lawn bowling balls must always be rolled due to their weight and shape imbalance.

This can be a bummer for those who have played bocce ball in the past and find that they can’t throw the balls underhand. Though, this is something that people tend to quickly get used to. 

Difference #3

Both games’ official rules state that they have specific-sized playing fields or courts. A lawn bowling court is typically 19 by 120 feet, while a Bocce ball field can be 10 by 76 feet.

The surfaces required are different as well. Lawn bowling requires a bent grass playing surface, while bocce ball courts can be played on grass, sand, or even a synthetic surface like carpet.

Though there are strict rules for these games, when you play them at home, you make the rules. 

Standard bocce ball sitting on a lawn is 107mm (4. 2″) and weighs 920 grams (2lbs).

Which Game Is Best for You?

Both bocce and lawn bowling add a layer of fun to backyard festivities. The two games are played using balls with a smaller target ball, but that’s where the similarities end.

The two games provide so many benefits while spending time outside that it can be challenging to pick just one to play. Luckily, you don’t have to.

The best way to decide which game suits you is to play each game. You might be able to find a local club to visit and watch a few games, or you can watch them online.

If you have a friend with a set of balls for either game, ask them to teach and play with you. After playing each game, you’ll have a good idea of whether it’s something you want to play on a regular basis.

Just be sure to give yourself adequate time to formulate your opinion and make a decision. 

Seven men are playing on a hard-packed dirt surface, the most for bocce courts.

Related Articles

If you’re struggling to decide which game to play, consider playing both! Bocce and lawn bowling both offer the opportunity to exercise, strategize, and socialize, all while building your skill set for each one.

So, whether you end up playing one game or both, you’ll always be a winner while developing your newfound skill set. We hope that you found this article to be helpful, and we wish you hours of fun as you get your roll on!