When I was first asked to report on a bocce ball league in Charleston, little did I know that I would ultimately end up on a booze cruise headed to Morris Island, but thanks to the folks at Chucktown Social, that's what happened.
Chucktown Social was started in 2012 by Katie "Fred" Frederick, who first got into bocce ball back home in Baltimore. After moving to Charleston, Fred decided to start a bocce league in Charleston, mainly due to the game's laid-back nature, with people of any size, gender, and athletic ability able to play.
"You pick it up pretty quickly," says Frederick. "And any age group can play, from 21-year-olds to 70- and 80-year olds."
Although bocce is usually played on a court, just about any open space works for a casual match. "What's great about bocce is its accessibility," Frederick adds. "All you really need are some bocce balls and an open space."
A game is played between two teams made up of one to four players. At the beginning of a match, one team throws a smaller ball, the jack (also known as the pallino in Italian), to a designated spot. This spot acts as the game's marker, with the goal of the game being to toss bocce balls as close to the jack as possible.
Each team alternates in either bowling (underhand) or rolling the bigger bocce balls towards the pallino. The scoring team gets a point for each of their balls that is closer to the jack than the closest ball of the other team. The length of a game varies, with Chucktown Social leagues normally playing to 15 points per round.
Though the game's premise is simple, there's still some strategy. Players often have to decide whether to knock either the jack or another ball away to get their ball in a better spot. This can get pretty complicated, especially when playing against more seasoned players.
In experiencing bocce, my main takeaway was just how relaxed it is. Though it can be competitive — particularly during league matches — the casualness of the sport makes it perfect to play with your friends while sipping a few brews. Attire is casual too, so you can wear pretty much anything you want.
Watching the game played on a beach instead of a bocce court, I thought it was intriguing to see how much the environment affected the game. With the jack being thrown anywhere from atop rocky plateaus to craggy coastlines, it was interesting to see just how skilled some of the more experienced players were, with many casually hurling their bocce balls faraway distances in close proximity to the jack, almost without trying.
For anyone with a competitive — but not too competitive — streak, I'd definitely recommend giving the sport a try. A fun game, new friends, day drinking, and beautiful weather — what's not to love?
For more information, visit chucktownsocial.com.