bocce rules title

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

NUMBER OF PLAYERS: 2-8 players

MATERIALS: Eight bocce balls, one pallino, a measurement device


AUDIENCE: All ages


Bocce, sometimes referred to as “bocce ball”, 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.

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! This game was never lost to 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 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 the game is now etched in the pastimes of many cultures. The worldwide popularity of this sport is likely due in part to its simplicity and accessibility; bocce simply requires objects to throw and a method of measurement.



bocce setup equipment

Bocce Balls: Bocce balls are hard, round, and roughly four inches in diameter. Eight of these are required for play; 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: A method of measuring the distance between balls is recommended, although it is not necessary. Most players use traditional measurement methods, such as tape measures, while others use string to provide rough estimates.


Bocce can be played with a minimum of two players and a maximum of the number of balls used (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. There will be two teams.


An official bocce court is 90 feet long by 13 feet wide. However, some don’t even bother to measure court dimensions.

Bocce is meant to be an extremely simple, accessible sport that can be played 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.


bocce rules gameplay

A bocce game begins with a coin toss to determine which team throws the first bocce ball, the pallino. The player who throws the pallino must then throw the first 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 exhausted.

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 a team could throw a ball right next to the pallino on their first throw, forcing the other team to throw all four of their balls, attempting to get 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.


After all eight balls are thrown, the scoring team who threw the ball closest to the pallino wins the round. Every ball thrown by the winning team closer to the pallino than the opponent’s closest ball also awards the winning team one point each, for a maximum of four points per round.

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.

Bocce games are typically played to a score of 12 points, although this target number can be adjusted to any desired amount.


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”, although backyard players can agree upon 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 are allowed to hit their own balls and the opponent’s balls. Players are even allowed to hit and completely displace the pallino from its original location (as long as it remains within the field of play).


Traditional bocce rules require balls to be tossed in an underhand motion.

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

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

‘That is ridiculous’: brilliant bowls shot lights up World Indoor Championships


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

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