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Bocce Ball: This Is How We Roll at PGA WEST® and The Citrus Club

Who knew that a contest of tossing polished rocks in ancient Egypt circa 5,000 B.C. would evolve into bocce ball, one of the most popular sports in the world? Bocce, or lawn bowling, has had a fascinating history throughout the millennia—Hippocrates, Galileo, DaVinci, Queen Elizabeth 1, Sir Francis Drake and President George Washington were reportedly avid fans. In modern times, bocce has been particularly popular in Italy; in fact, Italian immigrants have been credited with spreading the game to countries across the globe.

In the past few years, bocce has exploded in popularity in the U.S. with more than 25 million bocce enthusiasts around the country. Closer to home, bocce is booming at The Club at PGA WEST® and The Citrus Club with a combined 1,000 Members and counting playing on six courts—four at the Sports Club and two at The Citrus Club.

“It became really popular during COVID because it’s an outside activity,” says PGA WEST Sports Club Manager Travis Carlson who runs the Member bocce program at the Club at PGA WEST. “Bocci is a very social sport and a lot of couples play with other friends at The Club and often go to dinner together after the game,” he adds. “It’s also a great way to make new friends.”

If new Members want to play but don’t yet know anybody, Carlson will arrange teams for them; a team he organized in 2020 still plays and socializes together. “Connecting people is one of my favorite parts of the job,” he says.

With fall, winter and summer leagues at The Club, Members (18 and over) can play most of the year in the Party League on Mondays and Tuesdays or competitive Top Gun League on Wednesdays. The Sports Club also arranges round robin tournaments, which have become so popular that Carlson plans to arrange more tournaments next season.

The Sports Club also offers introductory classes and hosts fun, family-oriented events like Glow in the Dark bocce. And, what’s great about bocce, Carlson notes, is that it’s appropriate for all ages; other than the ability to toss the ball, no specific skills are required.

The Basics of Bocce

At PGA WEST, bocce is played on 60’x12’ clay courts. There are two teams per court during league play. Teams consist of 6-12 players, however only four people play at a time with competitors from each team stationed on opposite ends of the court. The game is played with eight large balls comprising two different colors to distinguish teams, and a smaller white target ball called the pallino.

Simply put, rounds are called “frames” and the first player to roll the pallino sets the target for the frame. The pallino must pass the center line and stay within the court’s boundaries. The team who throws the pallino first also throws the first bocce ball with the goal of getting it as close to the pallino as possible. When a team get their ball closer to the pallino than

their opponents, they let their opponents deliver their balls. Once all bocce balls have been delivered, the frame is over. Scoring points are determined by the team that tosses the ball closest to the pallino in each frame. A game is finished when a team reaches 12 points or at a 25-minute time limit for the Party League (35 minutes for the Top Gun League), whichever comes first.

PGA WEST Club Members who want to learn more about the bocce ball leagues and events at the Sports Club can contact Travis Carlson at (760) 564-7128 or e-mail him at For the Citrus Club, contact Recreational Manager Stephanie Arthur at


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