“Roll your own” Rolle Bolle

If you’re not familiar (and I certainly wasn’t before the summer of 2012) Rolle Bolle is a Belgium lawn game. It’s kind of like a mix of bowling, and bocce ball. I discovered this strange game during a road trip in Colorado while visiting the New Belgium brewery last summer.

New Belgium has a beautiful set of ~8 inch carved wooden wheels or “Bolles” (imported from belgium) and a course shaped kind of like a mix between a half-pipe and a shuffle board court. My group of friends rolled our bolles in the Colorado sun for hours, and at some point during our marathon I decided that I needed a set for myself back in Chicago.

Upon returning home I found out there was however one glaring issue. Rolle Bolle is expensive, or at least the only place I found to buy a set was. At six hundred dollars plus shipping from Canada an “official” set was out of the question for me. This lead to my usual chain of thought how can I do this cheaper/myself? As it turns out there were some options out there.

I turned my attention to my favorite outlet for tools and accessories of questionable quality, Harbor Freight. For $6.49 each I could buy my six “Bolles” (or “8″ Solid Rubber Tire” as Harbor Freight called them) and get started on making myself a respectable lawn game. After taking these wheels home I pulled out one of my all-time favorite tools 3M Blue Painters Tape (is there anything this stuff can’t do?) to mask off the rubber portion of the wheel and used Rust-oleum Universal (another favorite of mine) to paint the plastic hub of each wheel. As you can see in the photos, I used red and yellow paint to identify the two teams.

Now at New Belgium the court is pretty fancy, but since pouring myself a curved concrete pad would negate the my savings from the bolles I decided to go a different direction. While doing some research online trying to buy a set of bolles it looks like the game can also be played more like horseshoes or bocce ball. So rather than make a large court I decided to make a couple of wooden stakes to serve as “goal markers”. I picked up a piece of 1.5″ dowel rod, cut it down to two 18″ lengths and turned it to a point a lathe.

When my friends and I play we’re not playing by any particular official rules of Rolle Bolle (partly because during my research I haven’t been able to find any official rules for the staked version), but here is an idea of what our “house rules” are:

  1. Stakes should be setup ~30 feet from each other.
  2. Players alternate “bowling” their Bolles towards the stake.
  3. Scoring:
    1 point
    is awarded for the Bolle closest to the stake.
    3 points are awarded if the Bolle strikes the stake.
    5 points if your Bolle is leaning on the stake.
    Like shuffleboard points from your opponent cancel out your points.
  4. Play to 13 or 21 or until you run out of beer.

So there you have it, as unusual yard game, made for a fraction of the price of a pre-made set. While it’s not quite as fancy as the all wood sets it gets the job done, was fun to me, and is an awful lot of fun to play.