American Bocce Strategy: Tricks Tips & Nips vol. 4 — Ball on the Wall

The middle of the court is where the top bocce players make their mustard, but that secret sauce recipe will not be shared just yet. Focusing on a strong and sound wall strategy is an important first step in developing your bocce game from rolling stones with hope to playing frames with purpose. Afterall, it’s these four walls that elevate our game from the backyard, freestyle games of the hoi polloi.

In some of our younger leagues, I’ve seen a team figure out how to best use the wall and ride that strategy all the way the title game. I’m not suggesting mastering the wall will take you to the promise land, but being uncomfortable with it puts you at a significant disadvantage. Before you can develop a strategy for how to best play with the pallino on the wall, you need to first take a class on David Foster Wall-use.

Easy wall points (good)

The red ball that’s sitting in front of the pallino is owning this frame.

How to Approach the Wall

There are three main reasons to throw your bocce ball off the wall. One is to slow it down. Plenty of players have a hard time controlling the speed of their ball when the pallino is very short or very long. Getting a sense of how the wall checks the speed of your bocce ball saves you from having to make drastic changes to the natural comfort zone of your bocce ball speed.

Another major reason the wall should be utilized is to open up your angle of approach to the pallino. If you’re trying to get your ball to stop in an imaginary target circle, then there are a lot more lines into that circle when you bounce of the wall then there are if you’re throwing directly at it. Too often, though, I see players line up a shot on the wall by standing right on that very same wall. They set their line, take a couple practice swings, a deep breath and then it’s time to let it loose. Lo and behold, the bocce ball hits the wall right after it leaves their hand and goes all the way to the other side of the court. Wah wah.

The final—and probably most obvious—reason to use the wall is to get around balls that are in your way. While it’s an obvious use for the wall, it often hides in plain sight. If your goal is to get your bocce ball into a target circle, then you’ll start to find a wider array of shots at your disposal than if you were simply shooting at the pallino every time. Change your view, change your world.

Al pointing out line on deep P

Alex is showing where the green ball will go if red takes a line off the wall and into it.

Hitting the Wall

Don’t think of these walls the same way you do the rails on a pool table. They are not that rigid. The angle the ball hits the wall at will not be equal to the angle it leaves the wall. Because there is give to the walls and since you have more direct control over the spin on the ball, you have a pretty wide range of exit angles on the ricochet. Take advantage of that by standing off the wall you’re planning on throwing against.

If you roll the ball with spin heading into the wall, it’s going to exaggerate the angle it takes off the wall. This can be used to great effect if you decide you need to use the wall, but need to end up closer to the center of the court. Spin and time will get your ball from bouncing off the wall and back into the center of the court.

Backspin will really check the speed of the ball when it hits the wall. This can be very useful when shooting at a pallino that is deep into one of the corners.

Top spin is going to keep the ball moving at pace and power through impact with other bocce balls. So, if you’re just hoping to mix things up, put some top spin on there and really get after it.

Now, if you spin it away from the wall then…I don’t know—I guess it’ll stick close to the wall and you confuse me as a bocce player and person.

Lyle coaching (good)

Lyle (red balls) is talking through the possibilities. Being slightly off the wall and behind the pallino has put green in a very strong position.

Pallino on the Wall Strategy

Expect chaos when the pallino is on or near the wall. The pallino will move, the bocce balls will get banged around and the frame will be in constant flux. If chaos is the rule of the day, be aggressive until you have to protect yourself. Put that first ball right on the pallino. Set up fairly close to the wall the pallino sits on, kiss the wall on your way in and the bocce ball will end up just in front or a touch off the wall and a little behind the pallino (if you get your speed right). To my mind, those are the two best spots to leave your first stone.

Lookin up Lyle Rollin at the wall (very good)

This is the kind of frame that comes down to the first to miss or last to throw.

If you’re throwing against a stone like that, use the wall to bounce to the “wall side” of the other team’s ball. If their ball is sitting off the wall, then you can take a wider angle and aim for the wall just shy of where their ball is sitting and throw it about a foot longer than the distance dictates. You’ll rebound off the wall, send their ball into the middle of the court and then come back towards the pallino. Then you flex and mad dog the other team.

And that’s basically the way this frame is going to go. It comes down to a game of who misses first or who gets to play the last stone. There are a few more tips to impart, though:

  1. If you can get behind the pallino and on the wall, you’re in a very powerful position. From there, build a fort around it. If you’re able to sandwich it, only luck can save the other team from you walking away with points.
  2. Think about the ball you’re throwing first and don’t get too cute by putting a ball behind the pallino with the intention of your next bocce ball kicking the pallino back to your initial ball. Make the space first and then throw at the pallino.
  3. When the other team has gone on a run of scoring frames and you take back control of the pallino, consider putting a ball on the wall to throw off their rhythm. Remember, the wall is chaos and this may not give your team control, but it will hopefully loosen their grip on the game. Of course, if they’ve been beating you up on the wall, then throw it into the middle of the court.
  4. If the pallino was thrown short and is within three feet of the wall, then I recommend at least considering using the wall to nuzzle up there.
lookin down the lane roll in progress (good)

Me? I’m rolling from the left side of the court and bouncing off the wall about three feet before half court and landing right around that pallino.

And that’s it for me. Disagree? More to add? Take it to the comments or bring it to the courts.

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