Clubs are seeing a revival of bocce, the Italian version of shuffleboard played with metal, wooden or hard-plastic balls that’s considered the oldest known sport in the world and remains third most popular, behind soccer and golf.
At The Club at Mediterra in Naples, Fla., bocce has caught on so well that the Board of Governors authorized a $40,000 expenditure to create a new “bocce garden,” next to Mediterra’s Sports Club, that includes a paver deck, two lighted clay courts, and umbrella-shaded tables and chairs.
The seeds for Mediterra’s new “garden” were planted in February 2010, when 160 men and women signed up for a one-night, introductory bocce ball event that was combined with an Italian dinner and held on the tennis courts.
Then a community-wide survey showed strong support among Mediterra residents for adding bocce as a new permanent amenity. That led to the building of the “bocce garden” and formation of a bocce committee that has worked with Mediterra’s Sports Director, Tim Bauer, to create leagues of men, women and co-ed teams that began play this January. Participation quickly grew to over 330 players, many of whom compete in more than one league.
“Bocce is one of the only things that can bring a bunch of people together for an hour and doesn’t cost a thing,” notes the bocce committee chairman. “It’s no longer the sport associated with four Italian men on the corner; it’s a game that makes everyone feel together.”
The courts have also boosted patronage at Mediterra’s new Tavern on 18, a casual, al fresco lounge and sports bar that now offers a special bocce menu and wine bar. “One night after the men’s league, I went to the tavern and couldn’t get a seat,” says club member Bruce Soderholm. “Three-quarters of the people there had been playing bocce. It’s been a great success story.”