Sports

Bocce Ball Rules and How to Play

Bocce Ball

If you’re looking for a low-intensity game that still evokes so much excitement and fun, look no further than bocce ball. This game has been played for hundreds of years, and many people have a basic knowledge of the bocce ball necessary to have a good time with friends.

Mostly played at social gatherings like potlucks and picnics, there’s more to bocce ball than you realize. Its history is rich, starting as a welcome distraction during the Punic Wars for the Roman soldiers and gradually evolving into one of the most popular sports in Italy. Now, bocce ball is being played around the world.

And in the United States, the sport is growing in popularity and thankfully offers mental and physical health benefits. So, let’s walk you through a comprehensive guide to the game of bocce ball and teach you what you need to know.

In this guide, we’ll tell you about the rules, gameplay, deciders, and some free tips to get the better of your opponents as you play this fun game.

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The Bocce Ball Court – Where the game is played

Once you have an area with considerable space, creating a bocce ball court shouldn’t be a problem. Most people love to engage in the game as an outdoor exercise, but we’ve seen indoor courts pop-up in recent times. Regardless of the size of your social group, bocce ball is perfect. Learning to play on the court is simple and only needs some level of strategy. So, you’ll be working with your team to win.

Officially, the dimensions for a bocce ball court range from 60’-90’ (length) and 8’-14’ (width), so it is normal to see variations in different courts. The United States Bocce Federation (USBF) recommends that open play or tournaments be carried out in 13’ x 91’ courts.

But you can play in a court with smaller dimensions because space constraints mean that indoor courts will most times be smaller. You can also set up a bocce ball court on different surfaces such as stone, sand, dirt, and clay, but you have to ensure that the surface is flat.

In general, especially for beginners looking to engage in a casual game, you mustn’t go with the official size recommendations. Just make sure you have access to a rectangular playing area, and you can get started. Apart from the surface materials mentioned above, you can play on grass or artificial turf.

Some other items you need to create the playing area are bocce ball court markers and lines in compliance with the rules of the game. You can give your court a more standardized look using paint or tape to create the lines as follows:

  • Create a centerline in the middle to divide the court.
  • Create a foul line on each side of the court measuring 4 ft. to 6 ft. from the end of the court.
  • Measure 8 ft. to 10 ft. from the foul line on all court sides and create a spocking foul line.

Bocce Ball Equipment For Players

As soon as you’ve got the court set up, you need the right bocce ball equipment to get started. For beginners, you’ll need 1 pallino, as well as 8 balls in two different colors (one color for 4 balls). But it’s also normal to have a bocce ball set where you have 2 balls to one color, giving you 4 different color pairs.

The Pallino

This ball is different from the bocce balls and usually comes in a different color. Generally, most pallino balls have a diameter of around 1.97″ in the United States. But this doesn’t apply to the rest of the world as different locations have varying average sizes. Pallino’s are created from materials similar to those used in constructing a bowling ball.

The bocce ball set

There are 8 bocce balls in a standard set, 4 of which have a distinct color from the other 4. The balls most times share the same features in terms of their weight, size, and material. But you’ll also see sets that have balls with varying sizes to ensure that people of all ages can play, especially children.

The bocce balls used for official tournaments in the United States have a diameter range of 100-115 mm, but 107mm size balls are regulation standard. A standard bocce ball weighs an average of 2 pounds. These are the types of balls that experts prefer because it helps them practice better.

Do you have a bocce ball set already?

If not, check out our top 3 picks for the best bocce ball sets. These balls are great, and you will find one that is ideal for you and your friends.

1.      GoSports 100mm Regulation Bocce Set

This premium set gives you value for your money and is very affordable. We love the build quality, which seems surprisingly top-notch considering its relatively lesser price. The GoSports bocce balls are designed to comply with regulation, weighing 2 pounds 5oz each and measuring 100mm and 45mm for the bocce balls and pallino, respectively.

If you’re a beginner, this set gets you all the tools to start playing. The 8 bocce balls have square and circular markings (4 green and 4 red balls), rule book, measuring rope, shoulder straps, and a padded canvas case. It’s easy to see the level of quality possessed by this set. The balls are glossy and built to thrive in different terrains. Overall, its construction is great, but you will find other sets on the market that are somewhat better in this regard. However, the advantage is that you won’t have to spend as much as you would have on other bocce ball sets.

The GoSports bocce ball set can be used in different settings and is ideal for entertaining backyard games with friends, as well as tournaments. This set is great for any experience level.

Pros

  • Great value for your money
  • You get a measuring tape
  • Regulation size
  • Affordable pricing

Cons

  • A slightly inferior build quality
GoSports 100mm Regulation Bocce Set with 8 Balls, Pallino, Case and Measuring Rope - Premium Official Size Set Buy on Amazon

2.      Perfetta Club Pro Set

The Italians arepros when it comes to their knowledge of bocce balls as they’ve had the game around for hundreds of years. What you get with the Perfetta Club set is a skillfully crafted masterpiece from one of the best manufacturers of bocce balls in the world.

In the last couple of decades, the World Bocce Ball Championship has always used this exact set, which is also the preferred choice for experts. Since this set is built for serious games and pros, it comes with regulation specs of 107mm in diameter for each ball. The balls also weigh about 2 pounds 4oz with the pallino measuring 50 mm.

When you buy this bocce ball set, you’ll find 8 regulation balls split into 4 greens and 4 reds, a carry bag, and one pallino. But you will have to buy your measuring tape separately because it doesn’t come with this set. Rest assured, you will be playing non-stop for a long time, and we recommend this bocce ball set as arguably the best on the market.

Pros

  • Regulation size
  • Premium build quality
  • 10-year no-breakage warranty

Cons

  • Quite expensive
  • No measuring tape
Perfetta Club Pro Bocce Ball Set 107mm Made in Italy Fleck Color Buy on Amazon

3.      Baden Bocce Ball Set

If you are someone who wants a ball that gives you a taste of everything, consider the Baden Bocce Ball set. As usual, you get 8 balls that come in two distinct colors and also sport different patterns, a measuring tape, and a white pallino. The features of the balls in this set make them ideal for larger teams. Compared to other sets, the balls from Baden are lightweight and measure about 90 mm in contrast with the regulation 107mm.

Baden Champions 90mm Bocce Ball Set with Carry Case and Measuring Tape Buy on Amazon

Similar to most fairly standard sets, the construction of the balls feature resin material, and they perform best on grassy surfaces. However, you can also use them on other playing areas. We won’t forget to mention the convenient travel case that you get when you buy this set, making it easy for you to move the balls around, especially when traveling.

If you are new to the game of bocce ball, we recommend this option, plus it’s also great for children and older players looking to get started. But if you want something heavier, you can check out the 107 mm version from Baden for which you’ll spend a bit more to get the product.

Baden Champions Bocce Ball Set – Official Size 107mm & Official Weight 920g with Carry Case and Measuring Tape Buy on Amazon

We feel the price may be a win for many people as you have to spend around $60 to get this entry-level set. There may be other products on the market that boast a better quality, but Baden ensures you get a good product that won’t cost an arm or a leg. Then, you are covered by a 90-day warranty that becomes active as soon as you purchase the product.

You might want to keep in mind that some customers report experiencing cracks on the product. This means you have to be extra careful when deciding the best surface on which to play the game. Overall, what you have here is a fantastic bocce ball set with a few downsides. You are getting a warranty, quality material, great pricing, and ease-of-travel.

Pros

  • Quality carrying case
  • Comes in different sizes depending on your preference
  • Elegant design

Cons

  • The quality could be better

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Bocce Ball Rules – How to play the game

There are basic rules for the game of bocce ball. These rules are easy to understand and should get you started in no time. Below, we discuss the essential rules of the game for rookies –

1.     The Players

Two to eight people can play bocce ball, so this game is ideal for large or small groups. The size of the team will determine how many bocce a player gets. If a team has just one player, he/she gets all four balls and will bowl them. For teams with two or four players, they’ll have to divide the balls amongst themselves equally.

2.     Deciding what team goes first

You’ll have to decide what team goes first to start the game, and you can do this with a coin toss. Whoever wins the coin toss gets to choose their preferred pattern or color balls. They can also decide to toss first.

The team that wins the first toss is allowed to toss the pallino, and they can do this at any distance. They must ensure that the pallino goes past the centerline but stays within the court’s boundaries. Should a team fail at this, the next team gets to toss until one group gets it correctly.

3.     Bowling

With the pallino in place, the first bowl will be done by the starting team. A player on that team throws the first ball intending to get very near to the pallino as much as they can. Next, the opposing team gets their turn and does the same thing, this time trying to land nearer to the pallino than their opponents.

Should the first team toss their bocce ball and it goes outside the boundaries of the court, a second player from the same group has to toss. They must take turns to put the ball in play. Where they fail to do this, the turn falls to the opposing team who’ll then get to toss.

The game continues once the pallino and first bocce ball are placed correctly.

4.     Throwing the bocce ball

Going from rookie to pro in the game of bocce ball starts from improving your throwing technique. You might have to try out different strategies and techniques to decide which helps you perform best. This can be tricky for many people because there are different ways to deliver the bocce ball.

Some players use the bowling style to bowl the ball near the ground, but others may prefer the underhand throw.

To use the underhand technique, you have to cup the ball from under with your palm, then perform a high lob. Some players also prefer cupping the ball from the top before lobbing it.

5.     In Play

If you avoid violating the foul line while ensuring that your ball stays within the boundaries of the court, the ball will be “in play.” keep in mind that the foul line is that line which you are not permitted to cross when attempting to toss your ball.

6.     Gameplay

A new rotation of playing turns begins once the first bocce ball and pallino take their place on the court.

Any team that can get closest to the pallino with their bocce ball gets the ‘in’ ball while the ‘out’ balls go to the opponents.

The next rotation will start with the team that has the out balls. The opposing team must try to get their ball closer to the pallino and will keep doing so until all their balls are exhausted. And they must do this while staying within bounds.

The rotation of turns will continue until the bocce balls are exhausted by all the teams. This signals the end of the “frame” with the points going to the winning team. “Frames” simply refer to game rounds.

7.     Scoring

You also need to know how to score frames to determine what team wins the game. As mentioned earlier, a frame ends when every team has played all their bocce balls, and the group with the “in” ball or the ball closer to the pallino is awarded the winning points for that frame.

There are game rules where bocce balls that touch the pallino get two points.

All bocce balls of the winning team that are closer to the pallino than those of their opponents will get one point each. Should arguments arise about which balls are closer, you can take measurements from the center of the pallino to the edge of the bocce ball.

8.     Fouls and Out of Bounds

There is a foul line on every bocce ball court that players are not allowed to cross before they release the ball. A player will receive a warning when they create a foul by crossing the line the first time. If this happens a second time, it signals the end of the current frame. The opposing team will receive the points for the frame, but this can be waived if the team wants the round completed and overlooks the penalty.

Players must ensure that their balls stay within the boundaries of the court when they toss. Any ball that makes its way outside the boundaries isn’t allowed back into play until the frame is concluded.

Should a ball strike the pallino and knock it out of bounds, this signals the end of the frame with no team receiving any points for that round.

9.     Measurements

Once all the bocce balls are exhausted, the teams have to determine which ball got closest to the pallino. Most times, it’s easy to see the closest ball, but you might have to use a tape measure to get a more accurate result.

As mentioned earlier, the team that has the closest bocce ball wins the frame points, and the opposing teams receive no points.

Should teams find that their balls are equidistant to get the pallino, the frame ends with no points awarded to either of the teams. That’s why you need a tape measure to determine whether one ball is closer by a few centimeters or not.

10.            Ending the game

When one frame comes to its conclusion, the teams will begin a new frame at the other end of the court. The points for every frame must be tallied at the end, and the teams should continue to play until one team amasses 12 points. But it is okay to come up with an entirely different target point before the game starts. You can go with target points of 15 or even 20 points.

In summary:

  • Your key objective is to get your bocce ball closest to the pallino than that of your opponent
  • You can try hitting the pallino to get it closer to your ball, or you can hit the opposition’s ball to get it farther away from the pallino
  • Be careful not to cross the foul line when bowling
  • In some games, you may get 2 points at the end of the frame if your ball is touching the pallino
  • Both teams receive no points should their balls be equidistant from the pallino by the end of the frame
  • There will be no tiebreakers in each frame as the points go to only one team
  • The bocce ball game ends as soon as one team attains the target point predetermined before the game.

Bocce ball playing tips to help you win

To win in a game, you need some luck on your side. But having skill can give you an edge over your opponents. To help you win more often, here are some tips for you:

  • According to the rules of the game, you are allowed to toss your ball to get closest to the pallino, hit it, or strike your opponent’s bocce ball to get it farther away from the pallino. With these 3 strategies in mind, formulate a plan with your team members that ensures you take advantage of any of these options to earn more points.
  • Find your distance. You need to understand your strengths when it comes to rolling the ball. You may have a stronger ‘short game.’ it could also be that you’re better when the pallino is far out. So, once it gets to your turn, always play within your strengths as the key to winning the game is staying consistent with your strengths.
  • Put your best into your first shot as this is usually the money shot! Getting it right with your first shot dictates the next move of your opponent, and you don’t want to lose that power. When you get them on the defensive, you keep your advantage.
  • If you’re the last player to roll, be aggressive. Go for maximum points by looking to hit your opponent’s ball farther away from the pallino to gain multiple points.

Spice up your social life with bocce ball

Becoming a pro at bocce ball requires practice and consistency. Many new players, just like yourself, may have difficulties with deciding where to aim while tossing. You’ll also have to learn how much force is necessary to reach your target when tossing the ball.

If you are just starting and looking to get into the game of bocce ball, we hope this guide has proved helpful. Remember that the game is flexible, and the rules can vary sometimes. But all you need to do is understand the basics of the game and adapting shouldn’t be difficult.

The next time you think of a low-intensity, fun classic yard game to boost the mood at social indoor or outdoor gatherings with friends, look no further than bocce ball.

Happy balling!

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