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What's a Bocce Ball Made of ??                           

We wrote this bocce ball set review as a guide.  Not all bocce sets are bad, but some are certainly better, much better than others. Read on!! We'll add other bocce ball reviews so check back.

Initially we were a little worried that a page like this might be perceived as negative. But we get calls every day saying thank you for making it available and please keep it up. So we will. 

At least read the next few paragraphs. Doing so will save you money in the long term and most definitely, disappointment.

Note: This info of course does not apply to our lighted bocce sets as that is a whole different product and market. Those balls have to be translucent to allow the LED light to shine through, so are injection molded of a solid, one piece, special Polypropylene plastic.

The following information is for the buyer looking to purchase what is considered to be a "Traditional Bocce Set". The ones that are seen in old ( or new ) Italian movies, the game old and usually Italian men played on dusty back alley courts while arguing, loudly, with each other, ......

Let's start out by getting the size of a bocce ball right. The only sizes allowed for play by the International Federation for Bocce and the United States Bocce Federation are 107mm for men and if women prefer they can choose to use 106mm balls. 115mm, 112mm, and larger sizes are NOT Expert, Competition or anything else even though that is how they are marketed. They are just big balls imported by companies that don't seem to know any better.

Sure kids can better handle and play with smaller balls like 100mm or 90mm or smaller. Just as they can a smaller football and it too could be made of foam, water-filled plastic etc.

By the way, just as golf and tennis are not called the sports of golf ball or tennis ball, bocce is just bocce and not bocce ball.

So would you buy a baseball made of Vinyl or ever play baseball with a ball made of Vinyl and expect it to last like leather? Vinyl is the synthetic product that was to be the low cost replacement for leather. It stormed the market and clothes to furniture were made from it as it "looked" like leather, felt sort of like leather and best of all it was so cheap to make those items. The fact is Vinyl never had the properties of Leather and still doesn't. It didn't take long for people to realize that Vinyl sure looked good "off the rack"  but, among other not so good qualities, it soon deteriorated and looked terrible when it did. Now pretty much anything Vinyl and certainly the wearable kind, is considered as something the low end or less discerning buyer will purchase.

The same applies to bocce balls. And the adage "they don't make them like they used too" does apply,
in almost all cases, to today's bocce ball manufacturing, but thankfully not all. It used to be that when wooden balls lost favor ( for obvious reasons) the material of choice was one of the first "plastics", otherwise known as names like Bakelite. All bocce balls used to be made of that material and the best ones still are. Then along came a product that is made by mixing a catalyst with a binder ( mostly talcum powder ). It is recognized by the names like Bondo ( was a 3M product ) and is still used extensively as an auto body filler to repair dings in a car after a fender bender. Why, its cheap, easy to mix the 2 part epoxy and apply and best of all it sands easily and holds surface paint well. But scratch that surface and you get white underneath. All bocce balls that come out of China are made using that body filler material. Yes the balls look good initially ( like Vinyl ) but they do NOT have the same qualities expected of a discerning buyer and the balls will deteriorate on any true bocce playing surface very quickly. Read the sections below why and look at the photographs for the explanation.

The brand names all used to import the quality plastic balls. But now almost all import from China because the prices they can buy them for is so much less. Its not the cheap labor that has lowered that cost price, its mostly the cost of the cheap material. Sadly in some cases the retail prices did not change, even though they now buy for less than half the cost. Calling a product, tournament, professional, deluxe, competition, etc etc are just words and are not a right to jack up the price because a copywriter decides to use them. Especially when the quality of the materials the product is made from does not allow any of those descriptive words to be used, honestly.

Note: The very highest end professional bocce balls ( starting at $200 for a set of 4 ) are made from ABS, Melamine and other recently developed plastics that are super hard and very expensive as raw materials. As the official supplier and sponsor of the United States Bocce Federation, we sell those sets too.

You can check for this inferior material and its poor characteristics ( read below for more info ) by looking at the grooves cut in the balls or if the pictures shown online are not doctored, you will see that the grooves that are cut are white. If the grooves ( many websites that don't have a clue call this etching which is a whole different process and never done on any Bocce Ball) look white that's the talcum powder filler showing through.

Perfetta Club Pro Balls are made in Italy (exclusively imported and distributed by Playaboule ) shown in both red and green on the left (in first pic below) are made from very high grade Bakelite type plastic, yes the good stuff. Balls made in China and imported and distributed by the brand name bocce companies are the 4 ball halves on the right and in pics further down the page.
  • Almost every bocce set that is mass marketed in the USA by the "name brands" and are seen in the chain sports stores and Target, Walmart etc etc. comes out of China.
  • The "beauty" of the balls are barely skin deep. A few hours worth of play on any natural outdoor surface like, crushed granite, oyster shell etc will knock the skin off and leave you with chalky, whitish, looking balls that are very difficult to tell apart.
  • In addition to this turning chalky the softer material means that the balls wear down in size very quickly
  • They often don't roll true, due to the uneven skins and materials in the balls. ( see pics )
  • Are very prone to cracking and splitting.
  • Have short or limited warranties that cover "workmanship" . Note: Perfetta Club Pro sets on the other hand, have a 10 year warranty specifically against splitting and cracking.
  • If a ball is listed on a website as Imported but does not say from where or does not mention the country of origin at all then you can assume it is from China. After all any copywriter or marketer would leap at the opportunity to state "Made in Italy".
If none of those things, listed above are is important to you or you are a very occasional player then the cheap prices of the Chinese made sets, may be the best deal for you. But don't pay more than $65 a set for the Chinese 107mm balls or the Kids balls that are 100mm should be no more than $39 a set. In both cases of course, "Brand" names of the Chinese imported balls are always more expensive. Those you will see listed for $70 - $120Plus a set and often given grand titles like, tournament bocce, or competition bocce or even Pro bocce all as a marketing ploy!!! But below the skin you will still get the "quality" of balls you see in the pics below and further down this page.

The 2 balls to the far right above are from 2 different Chinese manufacturers and are made from inferior materials. As you can see, the balls second from the right are filled with recycled materials. The balls to the far right are solid but made from low grade materials and are therefore prone to scuffing ( the balls look white afterwards) and cracking. When cutting both examples of the Chinese made balls the smell was exactly like the odor given out from auto body fillers. The stuff that that is known as Bondo and used as ding/dent filler when doing panel repairs on a car involved in a wreck. Look closely at where the groove patterns are cut in the balls and you'll see they they are white and powdery looking. Compare those to the Perfetta Club Pro balls ( The 4 balls on the left side ) that have a consistent and deep color.

Look at the balls to the left below. The creamy material is just ding repair material that binds together the scraps from recycled materials. The big orangey slug in the middle is off center and the green materiel on the outside is thinner on one side, so this means the ball will not roll in a straight line!! Both balls could be cut with a hacksaw quite easily and the shiny surface was just that, on the surface. Not surprising these sorts of balls typically have a 90 day warranty and in some cases stretch to 1 year. But only against workmanship!! As they say beauty is only skin deep.

Below are Perfetta Club Pro Balls. It took a heck of a long time to cut these in half as the material is so hard. This consistent high quality material is why we give these balls a 10 Year Warranty against splitting or cracking!! Of course they roll true. The biggest surprise is that even though they are made in Italy, are clearly a superior ball, from the supplier to the World Bocce Champs held in Europe, 10 year warranty, they are not much more expensive than the rubbish that masquerades as a quality bocce ball, as seen above.

Below are some other examples of Chinese made sets that are very cheap.

Below is another very well known and distributed US brand made in China. The white/gray area is autobody filler. Also the outer skin wall is very uneven so balls won't roll true. Surface scratched/scuffed very easily. The darker gray area is the result of cracking the ball apart after cutting.

The picture below  shows the bag on the left that comes with the balls in the picture just above. The description of this bag on websites is Deluxe Heavy Duty bag, yet it is flimsy and light weight, just as the balls are listed as tournament quality and competition!!!. The case on the left is how theirs looks without ball in the case, flat and unsupported, the one too the right is ours, without balls in the case. The difference is obvious.

Here is an example of a set that is sold all over the web.

Thinking that these might be a good deal for our customers we purchased some sets to inspect. We would never post a product on our site if we did not see it first and know that it was something we would be proud to own. No you won't find it on our site, yes they are made in China, yes one of the photos above is of this set. Its a very cheap set and is because the balls are way undersized. This means that about a 1/3rd less material is required to make them so they should be cheaper, the balls in the photo must have been digitally "improved" in a big way, because the balls are really a dull red and green color. OK for kids but for adults familiar with a correctly sized ball, we believe you will be disappointed. Can you believe it some sites actually call these a Tournament set!!.
Note: This page and indeed all information on this site is copyrighted material and not to be used in any form without Playaboule's written permission. That copyright includes all the wording and the images.