Summer games 7-11-2011

Backyard bragging rights.

Some great games to gather your friends for this summer.

Summer is full of great reasons to get a bunch of friends together, and playing bocce, croquet, or horseshoes are some of the best. Why these three? They’re easy to set up. They don’t require the kind of effort other games do that leave you with a sweat soaked shirt. You probably already own one or more of them collecting dust in the corner of a garage or basement. And, best of all, you can generally perform well and even win while holding a drink in one hand. What could be better?



Bocce Ball.

Bocce is a game that most likely began in ancient Egypt, spread to Greece, and then was introduced throughout the Roman Empire. It gradually became popular throughout Europe and the Italians eventually brought it to America. It’s a great game to play with a small group because if you don’t have a Bocce Court handy, you can play the Open Rules version where all you really need is a flat open area. A backyard, a park, or even a parking lot work well. And a set of Bocce balls of course.

Essentially what you do is have someone toss the smallest ball and then the players try to get their balls as close to the small one without hitting it. This causes the same kind of reactions you see in a regular bowling alley—people yelling at their ball in the hopes that it will magically move of its own volition. The closest or “inside” ball gets the points. Traditionally Bocce is played to 13 points. Another great aspect of Bocce is that you can play and then easily break mid-game to grab a burger from the grill and then resume when you feel like it. For official rules go here.




Practically everyone has played Croquet at one time or another. Usually this was when you were very young and the excitement of having a mallet in your hand would trump any idea of actually playing as you began swinging wildly to see how far you could send the balls flying across the backyard. Now, being a bit older, you can appreciate the game more, although the satisfying “thwack” of striking a ball is still there.

The game probably originated in France, became popular in England and then was exported to the U.S. where it became popular because we’ve got a lot of lawns here. For a playing surface, practically any grassy area will do, although short grass is preferred. There are specific dimensions as to how to lay out the diamond pattern of wickets and posts but all of it can be accommodated to fit your backyard. To refresh your memory on how to play, go here. Oh, and whatever you do, don’t make the mistake of inviting these girls over to play.




This is the simplest game of the three, just set two stakes in the ground 40 feet apart and toss four horseshoes at them. Not very complicated. It’s this simplicity combined with the skill of tossing the shoes accurately that has made the game so popular. It’s the perfect way to while away a lazy summer afternoon. Although if you’re doing it like this you’re doing something wrong.

Horseshoes seems to have begun when it, or a game very similar, was played by Roman Soldiers as a way to occupy the hours when they weren’t marching or conquering. The game traveled from there. The English were playing horseshoes by the 16th century and exported the game across the Atlantic. As with Roman soldiers, horseshoes became very popular among American servicemen beginning as early as the Revolutionary War. They then brought the game home with them. There’s even a horseshoe pit at the White House. To get all the specifics about how to play at your house, go here.


Let the games begins.

Because these games require little physical exertion, you don’t have to wear athletic clothing to play them. So, to spice up your gaming get-together, maybe you specify a certain dress code. Croquet has traditionally been played in all white. The seersucker suit is no stranger to a horseshoe pit. And playing Bocce can easily be done in a sport coat. However you decide to do it, the important thing is to get out there and play while the lawn is green and the days are long.

TAGS: Backyard games | Bocce | Croquet | Egypt | England | George H.W. Bush | Greece | Harry Truman | Heathers | Horseshoe pit | Horseshoes | Kirk Douglas | NHPA | Roman Empire | seersucker | Shannen Doherty | Sport coat | The Brotherhood | The White House | USBF | USCA | Winona Ryder

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