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Court Plans

Suggestions for Building an Oyster Shell Bocce Ball Court

The popularity of the sport of Bocce Ball has increased greatly in the past few years. With this increased popularity, there has also been a string movement to play on the courts with an authentic "Old Country" type surface. Historically, an combination of oyster shell and loam or clay has been preferred for the court surface. The following is a simple step by step description of the construction of a typical court in use today.

Note: The court may be installed above or below grade, or a combination of both. This is an above grade example.

  1. Choose a level area of adequate size. Court inside dimensions are generally 10' to 12' wide and 70' to 90' long.

  2. Remove any vegetation and level all high spots.

  3. Lay out and mark the court inside dimensions.

  4. Around the perimeter, locate 4' by 4' posts on approximately 4' centers. Be sure the side rail thickness is considered when positioning the posts. Each post should be placed in concrete 1'6" to 2'0" below ground level and extend at least 1'0" above ground level. Care must be taken to ensure that each post is level and true in all directions. Before proceeding, allow sufficient time for the concrete to cure.

  5. Attach a 2" x 12" (or thicker) rough sawn wood side boards to the inside of the 4" x 4" posts. Make sure the side boards are level\ as the will be your guide for leveling the court surface. Leave a small gap between the side board and the ground to allow water to pass through easily and at the same time retain the rock bedding to be installed next. Counter sink all nails or bolts used in installing the side boards. Any side joints should be made at the posts and all corner joints should be reinforced on the outside. Cut the posts off flush with the top of the side boards. A 2" x 8" cap may be added to the top of the side boards and the posts to increase strength and give a finished look.

  6. Place a 2" to 3" thick bed of rock inside the side boards to elevate the court surface above the ground and improve drainage. Level out and compact the rock bedding. If the rock bedding were to be installed below grade, a drainage pope would be required to carry water away from the court.

  7. There are two ways to prepare the playing surface:
    1. Dry mix oyster shell and loam or clay.

    2. The drain rock is then covered with a mixture of dry mixed clay blend oyster shell, oyster shell flour, loam or clay. This layer is prepared by dry mixing the materials together in a cement mixer and spreading to a uniform depth of 3 to 4 inches. The mixture is then leveled with the use of a screed or other leveling tool.

    3. The surface must then be compacted. A tamper or suitable compacting tool should be used. Some moisture may be required to get satisfactory compaction. The surface is then wetted and smoothed. Another method of compaction is to flood the court. Then, while still wet a bull float is then used to create a smooth surface.

    4. The court must then be dried out completely and any cracks filled in. The backside of a rake works well to move the material into the cracks. A garden roller will do the same and compact the material further.

    5. Finally, the court is dusted with oyster shell flour, to make the wear surface. It is rolled flat, misted, (more flour added if needed), rolled again, etc. until you get a solid and smooth surface. Too thick a layer of flour may crumble and form a powdery surface.

  8. Wet mix oyster shell and loam or clay (preferred).
    1. The drainage is the same as in the dry mixed example.

    2. "Lay Blend" oyster shell, loam or clay and shell flour are mixed into a slurry in a mixer and then poured.

    3. The court is then dried, cracks filled and the wear surface applied, the same as in the dry mixed example.

  9. The surface is now ready for play.


    Rake with leaf rake.
    Dust court with oyster shell flour, if needed, roll, mist.

    Court surface materials list based on 4" deep playing surface. (Illustration below).
    1. Oyster shell flour 1-1/12 pounds per square foot of court.

    2. Lay blend oyster shell = 8 pounds per square foot of court.

    3. Rock bedding - 2" - 20 to 25 lbs per square foot of court.

      3" - 30 to 40 lbs. Per square foot of court.

    4. iv. Loam see below.

    Formula for the loam or clay and oyster shell mixture.
    1. 8 parts lay blend oyster shell, 8 parts loam or clay and 2 parts oyster shell flour.

Yards of Loam Required for 2" of Thickness
Area (sq. ft.) loam
400 3.10"
500 3.86"
600 4.63"
700 5.40"
800 6.20"
900 6.95"
1000 7.72"

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