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BOCCEBREW - Holding Court

MARIN INDEPENDENT JOURNAL     Saturday, October 2, 1999


A personal court gives your garden party a sporting chance

By Richard Polito


A LAWN IS a thing in your backyard that needs mowing, weeding, and expensive fertilizing. A bocce court is a party.

David Brewer installs parties.

Brewer, the San Rafael landscaper behind Boccebrew, has installed 30 or so bocce courts in backyards, parks and wineries in the past three years. He’s turned a lot of lawns into parties since the day he discovered bocce in a friend’s backyard five years ago. “Everybody had a glass of wine and everybody had a good time,” Brewer said.    

Bocce is a game in which colored balls are rolled down a flat, rectangular course. A mixture of lawn bowling and shuffleboard, the bocce players master strategy and touch to get their four balls as close as possible to a target ball or “pallino”.

 It sounds simple, but mastery of the game is elusive, and the social, talking, bragging fun is endless.

  His latest court creation was completed at David and Nancy Cherneys’ Novato home last week. The Cherneys were going through a total remodeling of their house and yard when a landscaper suggested a bocce court. “We had this long narrow spot, and we were thinking about putting in a putting green,” David Cherney says.

  A round of referrals and calls led them to David and Sandy Brewer and an invitation to a game in the Brewers’ backyard. The Cherneys brought their teenage daughter. Everybody got to play on the Brewers’ court.

  “On the way home, we called them, and said, ‘When can you start,’” David Cherney says.

 That’s a typical response, Brewer says.

  People like the game because it is social, an “icebreaker,” a game that anybody can play at any athletic level.

  “It’s a very welcoming game,” Nancy Cherney says.



The court can be installed in nearly any yard that is big enough and can be made flat enough. Brewer, a landscaper contractor, started with a weed choked patch of land in  his own backyard. "I looked at it and said, 'I'm going to put a bocce court here," he says.

Brewer, a landscape contractor, started researching the make up of the courts and has developed his own design, consisting of 9 inches of materials in four layers and a drainpipe.

It starts with a layer of ¾ - inch drain rock.

On top of that, he spreads a layer of “class II base rock.” Topping that, he adds a mixture of oyster shell and ground clay. The final layer is an even layer of finely ground oyster shell. “Everybody has their own technique, their own system,” Brewer says.

       Brewer is satisfied with his technique. His own court lived through El Nino, draining evenly when it had 4 inches of standing water. The surface is soft and sand like and does need to be smoothed out occasionally. “It’s a lot less maintenance than a putting green,” he says.

The cost, installed with wooden side railings runs between $10 and $12 per square foot. In the case of a 48-foot-by-9-foot court like the Cherneys have, the construction tab can run as high as $6,000.

Since he started going commercial three years ago—“I looked on the Internet and nobody was doing it,” says his wife, Sandy—bocce courts have grown to 70% of his landscaping business.

Brewer will build courts smaller or larger, depending on the size of the customer’s yard and budget.

He’s built regulation-size (90-foot-by-13-foot) courts for parks and installed a 70-foot-by-12-foot beauty for a Mill Valley homeowner.

Unless you’re aiming to go professional, a smaller court is fine for most people. “You can have as much fun or as much competition no matter what size,” Brewer says.

The Cherneys are having fun and they haven’t even moved back into their home; remodeling is proceeding on all fonts.

“The neighbor are all excited about it,” Nancy Cherney says.

 David Cherney is busy perfecting his game. Their teen-age daughter Liza is playing, too. “Everybody can play and everbody can enjoy it,” Cherney says.

     And nobody has to mow it.