"I started out not so good, but after the third roll I sort of 'got it' and I pulled ahead and annihilated."
-Dorothy Henckel, 2017 Linear Bocce North American Champion
"Linear bocce gives me an excuse to wear this terrific ascot."
Jeff Norris, 2019 Linear Bocce World Champion
Linear bocce may be one of the nation's newest sports, but it also seems to be one of the fastest growing. Technically, anyway. Percentage-wise. Possibly. OK look, the measurement of sport growth is not an exact science. But do the math: In the 2014 LB North American Championships, the sport's first competition, 22 players competed. Then the LB World Championships the held in October 2018, drew a field of 76. This despite the complete absence of valuable prizes (unless you consider glory valuable).
Linear bocce was invented in Indianapolis by journalist Will Higgins, who was inspired while watching Jeff Ayers and Jim Kelly and others playing spirited bocce in an alley
behind Ayers’ house. Similarly, linear bocce is played in bumpy back alleys, which means it's luck-based and maddening, which is why it's within the rules for competitors to consume alcohol during competition (byob). But here’s the twist: Linear bocce is played in one direction. Traditional bocce goes back and forth, like horseshoes. Linear bocce goes only forth, like golf, so you actually cover ground while playing. You might travel several blocks, depending on how fast you play.
Linear bocce is timed. Each game lasts 90 minutes. The clock runs continuously. You'd have to be in unthinkably poor physical condition to need a timeout in linear bocce. Players must bring their own bocce balls, three per player. (Bring extras if you have them as invariably some people forget to bring any.)
Drinking is optional, but neck-wear is mandatory! Players must wear a scarf or tie or ascot — something, use your imagination — because we are basically tramping through peoples' backyards and if we look presentable, homeowners are less likely to call police.
Regarding rules and that kind of thing: Decisions of the commissioner, Will Higgins, and his designated course marshals (Jim Kelly and others) are final and cannot be argued with. Click here for the rules.
Spectators and hangers-on are welcome to spectate and hang on. They are free to move up and down the alley and watch the action the way people do at golf tournaments (except they don't have to be so quiet and still, and they are free to get under players' skins). There is no charge for this privilege.
At the conclusion of the competition it has become a tradition for players, officials and spectators/hangers-on to repair to the Red Key Tavern, 5170 N. College Ave., where prizes of little or no value are awarded.