bocce rules title

OBJECTIVE OF BOCCE BALL: Toss balls in a manner that lands them as close to the designated target ball as possible.

NUMBER OF PLAYERS: 2 to 8 players

MATERIALS: 8 bocce balls, 1 pallino, a measurement device


AUDIENCE: All ages


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bocce ball

Bocce ball, sometimes referred to as simply bocce, is one of the most well-known backyard games in the world. Yet, surprisingly, this sport – one of the oldest in the world – is relatively foreign to many Americans despite its lengthy history and accessibility. In fact, it’s probably one of the easiest sports in the world to understand, making it one of the best lawn games to play at any backyard party or when you’re camping! In fact, it’s as popular a lawn game as classics like cornhole and croquet.


Bocce was first documented in an Egyptian painting of two boys playing an early version of the game. This painting dates back to 5200 BC! Now, that’s a long history! Surprisingly, this game didn’t disappear from history, later surfacing in the Middle East and ancient Greece. After their conquest of the Mediterranean region, the Romans adopted the sport and spread it even further across the region. This Roman influence likely explains the game’s Latin-derived Italian name.

Bocce’s popularity has risen and fallen throughout history, although you can now find this game in many cultures around the world in some form or another. The worldwide popularity of this sport is likely due in part to how simple the game is. All you need to play are 9 balls and a method of measurement. Plus, of course, a large enough space to throw or toss the balls!

Now, enough talk about just how simple this sport is! Let’s dive into the rules of bocce ball so you can play this easy but entertaining game.


Here’s everything you need to know about setting up a game of bocce for some backyard fun!


bocce setup equipment

Bocce Balls: Bocce balls are hard, round, and roughly four inches in diameter. There are eight bocce balls in a game; four balls of one color and four of another color.

Pallino: A pallino is a tiny white ball measuring 1.4 inches in diameter or roughly ⅓ of the size of the bocce balls.

Measurement Device: While not completely necessary when playing at a casual backyard party, we still highly encourage getting some kind of measurement device. Most players use traditional measurement methods, such as tape measures, while others use string to provide rough estimates.


If you want to play bocce ball at home, don’t worry; we’ve got you covered! Here are some of our favorite bocce ball sets that we highly recommend. As a plus, all of these sets come with 8 bocce balls, 1 pallino, a measuring tape, and a carrying bag:


Bocce ball is a game in which two teams try to get their bocce balls closest to the pallino as possible.

You can play bocce ball with a minimum of two players and a maximum of the number of balls (traditionally eight). As long as each player can throw at least one ball, they can play.

For optimal and fair gameplay, teams should include one, two, or four players.


An official regulation-sized bocce ball court is around 91 feet long by 13 feet wide. However, most casual players don’t even bother to measure court dimensions

Bocce is meant to be an extremely simple, accessible sport that you can play in the street or in somebody’s yard. Anyone can play bocce as long as there is enough space and the ground is mostly level.

A good rule of thumb is that as long as there’s enough space to toss the ball and you can create a makeshift court ratio of width to length, 1:5 to 1:7, you’re good to play!


bocce rules gameplay

A bocce game begins with a coin toss to determine which team throws the first ball, the pallino. The player who throws the pallino must then throw the first bocce ball toward the pallino. The goal is to land the ball closer to the pallino than the opponents’ balls. Teams then alternate throws until all eight balls have been played.

Instead of alternating throws between teams, some players prefer to play with rules that a team must keep throwing their team’s bocce balls until they own the ball closest to the pallino.

This means that, for example, after tossing a bocce ball that is closer to the pallino than any of the other team’s balls, the opposing team must continue to toss ball after ball until they can get a bocce ball closer to the pallino than the other team. If they fail to get their balls closer, the other team still throws the rest of their bocce balls after the opposing team runs out of throws to determine how many points they get at the end of the round.


After the players throw all eight balls, the team that owns the ball that is closest to the pallino wins the round. Every single ball thrown by the winning team closer to the pallino than the opponent’s closest ball awards the winning team one point each, for a maximum of four points per round.

However, it’s worth noting that some players also prefer to play with a rule that considers any ball touching the pallino at the end of the round to be worth two points. In this case, the absolute maximum amount of points a team can win in a single round is 5 points.

You typically play bocce ball games to a score of 12 points, although this target number can be adjusted to any desired amount. But to win, note that the team must beat the opposing team by 2 points!


There is only one major rule to follow when you play bocce ball: players must throw while standing behind a designated line. Courts designed for bocce often have this as a painted line, also called the “ten-foot line.” But, of course, casual backyard players can agree on any spot to throw from. Failure to throw from behind this line can either result in a retried attempt or an omission of that throw.

Similar to the sport of curling, players can hit their own team’s balls and the opposing team’s balls. Players can even hit and completely displace the pallino from its original location (as long as it remains within the field of play).


Here are some throwing techniques and other strategies to keep in mind when playing bocce ball.

But first, keep in mind that traditional bocce rules state that you must toss bocce balls in an underhand motion.


In addition, to bowl well, you must account for a ball’s ability to roll depending on the surface you are playing on. For example, flat surfaces allow balls to roll quite far, resulting in many players almost treating the game as lawn bowling. On the other hand, playing bocce on unkempt grass can significantly limit the roll of the balls, resulting in players needing to be more accurate with their tosses.


An interesting strategy you might want to keep in mind is spocking. Spocking is when a player specifically targets the opponent’s balls or pallino. In order to spock, the player must first indicate that that is their plan. Unfortunately, if the player does not manage to hit another ball or the pallino, that ball is taken out of play.


There’s some dispute regarding whether or not you can loft or volo shoot in bocce ball. Always, double-check the rules of the club you are playing at. Or, if you are playing casually, you can decide whether or not this is allowed.

Lofting, or volo shooting, is the technique of throwing a bocce ball in the air to hit a target. It can be a great technique to bypass obstacles in the way or to even move the pallino from position.

But again, let us reiterate: this is not always a legal play, so always double-check the rules!


While your bocce ball should not hit the back wall, you can use the sideboards of the court. You can bounce the ball off the boards to reach the pallino, which can come in handy when the direct path is blocked by other bocce balls.

Check out this video for a great example of an absolutely fantastic bowl:


For many, bocce ball is a casual lawn game you can play outside when the sun is shining. However, for others, bocce is a more serious pursuit. As you might be able to guess, there is a difference in rules for competitive and casual bocce ball. The above rules cover everything you need to know about competitive bocce ball rules, so if you want to play casually with your friends, feel free to take whatever you like about the game and simply have a fun time with your loved ones!

For example, in a casual bocce ball game, you might play the rule that each team tosses one ball at a time. Or you might play bocce as an individual competition but rather as a team sport! You could even play bocce ball without a regulation-sized bocce kit and simply use random balls and objects you have lying around your house! Basically, it’s up to you!

In casual bocce ball, there is often a house rule that a player must always have a drink in their non-tossing hand. This, of course, is not common practice in competitive bocce.


The first team to reach a 12-point total (or any predetermined target) is the winner of the bocce match.


What Happens If You Hit the Pallino in Bocce Ball?

It’s okay to hit the pallino in bocce ball. Interestingly, if the player’s bocce touches the pallino and remains touching until the end of the frame, the team gets 2 points for that ball, not just 1. Another rule to keep in mind is that if the player’s bocce hits the pallino and then hits the back wall, that ball is not out and is still in play.

What Are the Most Points You Can Score Per Round in Bocce Ball?

4 or 5 points, depending on how you look at it. If all four balls of a team are closer to the pallino than all of the other team’s balls, they can score a maximum of four points. However, if one of the bocce balls is touching the pallino at the end of the round, they get an additional point. So, the absolute most points you can score in a round is 5 points.

What Happens If You Hit the Back Wall in Bocce?

If the bocce hits the back wall, that bocce ball is no longer in play. If that bocce ball hits another bocce ball after hitting the back wall, the other bocce ball must be returned to its original position. However, if the pallino touches the back wall, it remains in play.

Can You Use Two Hands in Bocce?

Players can roll or toss the bocce or pallino with one or two hands, but preferably, the player should roll or toss the ball underhanded with just one hand. However, with that said, since bocce ball is often a social sport, there is a common house rule that states that you can only roll or toss the bocce ball with the non-throwing hand holding a drink. So, in this case, you would absolutely need to use just one hand.

What Happens If Two Players Are the Same Distance From the Pallino in Bocce Ball?

If this rare occurrence where the two closest balls of each team are the same distance from the pallino, no points are awarded.