Lawn Bowls vs Bocce (9 Similarities and Differences) | A Simple Illustrated Guide

  • By: Reece Williams
  • Time to read: 4 min.

A guide looking at the differences between lawn bowling and bocce. Are they the same? And which is better?

Lawn Bowls vs Bocce

Lawn bowls and bocce are often confused. From a distance, they look very similar, but they are very different sports.

Lawn bowls and bocce also have similarities to petanque and french boules, but bocce and lawn bowls are the ones we are looking at today.

Is Lawn Bowls The Same As Bocce?

No, lawn bowls and bocce are different. They have similarities in how the game is played and how the game is scored, however, the major differences are in the gameplay and techniques.

What are the similarities?

First, it’s best to look at the similarities. There are reasons why lawn bowls and bocce get mixed up so it’s important to understand why.

The rules

The aim of lawn bowls and bocce is the same. The aim is to get your ball nearest the target ball. The names for the balls are different in each sport – but the principle is the same – nearest wins!

The flow of gameplay is the same. Teams – consisting of between 1 and 4 players – take it in turns to throw. The score is taken after all players have used all their shots.

ItemName in BocceName in lawn bowls
Thrown ballBocceBowl or Wood
Target ballPallinaJack or Kitty
Names for items in bocce and lawn bowls

Finally, there are similarities in the shots and tactics used in bocce and lawn bowls. Equivalents of “The draw”, “The yard-on” and “firing shot” can be found in bocce.

Tactics, such as building the head, removing opponents shots, and moving the target ball are common in both sports.

The equipment

As you would expect, the types of equipment required are the same. The balls may differ in size and shape (discussed later), but the principles are the same.

In both sports, all that is required are a set of bowls for each player, a jack, and a comfortable pair of shoes.

You do need a mat in lawn bowls, but not in bocce. In bocce they have lines on the court, so mats aren’t required.

Their origins

Lawn bowls’ origins can be traced right back to the ancient Egyptians. Archaeological findings support the theory that a game with biased stone balls was played almost 7000 years ago. Their version had sticks as targets, and would be played in the dirt instead of on grass.

A version of the game – much closer to what we would understand to be bowls – was played by another great civilisation – in ancient Rome. This version was to become modern-day bocce. It is believed that the Romans brought this game to the rest of Europe, with several countries adapting the rules creating their open version. This includes boules in France and of course lawn bowls in Great Britain.

You can read more on the history of lawn bowls here

International events

Both bocce and bowls are played at the Paralympics and Para-Commonwealth Games. Bocce (called Boccia ball) was introduced in 1984.

Lawn bowls have been a part of the Para-Commonwealth Games since it’s inception.

The 5 differences between Bocce and lawn bowls

Now we know how they are similar, it’s time to look at why bocce is different to lawn bowls. Here are the 5 main reasons.

lawn bowls vs bocce

The balls used

The balls used in bocce are perfectly round, and will always be the same size and weight for all players.

Lawn bowls are only round on the running surface. Each side of the bowl is shaped differently, it is this unique shaping that makes lawn bowls curve. Lawn bowls are also available in different sizes and weights to suit the preferences of the bowler. Bowlers with smaller hands will require a smaller bowl. This will help them hold the bowl correctly when delivering their shot.

The technique

The main difference with the technique is that Bocce are thrown whereas lawn bowls are rolled.

Bocce balls are thrown directly towards the target, whereas lawn bowls are aimed off-centre to allow the curve (or “bias”) to take effect. The offset is judged so that the curve finishes at the desired spot.

The playing surface

Playing surfaces are different in Bocce compared to Bowls. Bowls can be played indoors on carpet, or outdoors on grass, or an artificial surface. The condition of the grass will have an effect on the game

Bocce can be played pretty much anywhere and on any surface. Common surfaces include sand, grass, or clay.

Bocce Ball can be played on a variety of flat surfaces such as: Bocce Ball Courts, Beach Sand and Yards or Parks. A large area is needed in order to make the game more challenging. An actual Bocce Ball court measures 76 feet long and 12 feet wide. The game however is just as much fun without the court.

The ditch

lawn bowls vs bocce
A lawn bowls ditch

Bowls rinks have ditches at each end and have extra rules associated with them. This adds an extra dimension to how the game can be played, and the tactics used to win.

For example, a bowl can be removed from play by hitting it into the ditch.

Regions of play

lawn bowls vs bocce
A game of bocce

Finally, Bocce and bowls are popular in different regions of the world. Bowls is mainly played in Commonwealth countries, especially in the UK, Australia and New Zealand. It is still growing in many other parts too.

Bocce is more popular in mainland European countries. This could be explained by the fact bocce is founded in Italy, and its influence spread from there.

That covers the main difference between bocce and bowls. However, in my view, they are both great sports that bring people together. Which ever you play just be sure you play with friends and have a great time!

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Get The Complete Lawn Bowls Drill Pack

The Jack High Bowls Drill Pack is available now for instant download.

Perfect for beginners and improving players looking to be more consistent and win more games!