Hello all! For this post I would like to go over the instructions of the game of bocce ball that you can use to gain a better understanding of how the game is played.
Bocce ball, also called boccie or bocci, is a relaxed but strategic game from ancient Egypt. Bocce started to hit its stride with Emperor Augustus and the Romans. It gained massive popularity with the arrival of Italian immigrants at the turn of the 20th century. Today, bocce is a relaxing and competitive way to spend a few hours enjoying the great outdoors in the pleasant company of friends and/or family.
Before I get into how to play the game, let me first briefly get into how the game came to be. According to Wikipedia, Bocce is a ball sport belonging to the Boules family. It is closely related to British bowls and French pétanque, with a common ancestry from ancient games played in the Roman Empire.
The game was developed into its present form in Italy (where it is called bocce, the plural of the Italian word boccia which means ‘bowl’ in the sport sense), it is played around Europe and also in overseas areas that have received Italian migrants, including Australia, North America, and South America (where it is known as bochas, or bolas criollas (‘Criollo balls’) in Venezuela, bocha in Brazil).
Step 1. Before starting the game, you must first gather your bocce ball set. A standard bocce set contains 8 colored balls: 4 balls each to a color, typically green and red, and one smaller ball called the pallino or jack.
- There are different skill levels that are often associated with different sizes of bocce balls. Larger balls are used by professionals, while smaller ones tend to be used by beginners and kids. Regulation-sized bocce balls have a standard diameter of 107 mm (4.2 inches) and a standard weight of 920 g (around 2 lbs).
- Standard bocce sets will run to at least $20, but if you’re going to buy a professional set, you may need more than $100. In my previous post, I have done a review of a professional bocce ball set that costs around $80.00 depending if you want a new or used set.
Step 2. Choosing your teams. Bocce ball can be played by two single players being pitted against one another, or by two teams with two, three, or four players each. Teams of five or more are not recommended, as fewer balls than players means that not everyone will be able to get a chance to bowl.
Step 3. Set up your game area. This is known as the court. If you don’t have a bocce court, you can always play in a place where there’s plenty of space to move, although a defined court would highly be preferred. A regulation court is a maximum of 4m (13 feet) wide and a maximum 27.5m (90 feet) long, although any rectangular court measuring around 13’x90′ should work.
- Regulation bocce courts have a barrier that’s raised around the edge of the rectangle. In most instances, this barrier can measures at a maximum of 20 cm (~8 in) high.
- If not already given, you can mark a foul line where players cannot step over before they bowl a bocce ball.
- There may be some players that prefer to place a regulator peg in the exact center of the court. This is the point beyond a pallino or jack must pass when it is thrown out at the outset of the game. This is one of the variations of how many people can play bocce, although it is not required, nor is it an official rule.
Playing the game
Step 1. You can flip a coin or randomly decide which team gets to throw out the pallino. It really doesn’t matter who gets to go first, as teams alternate throwing out the jack at the beginning of each new frame.
Step 2. Throw out the jack into a designated zone. The team who won the coin toss or who was randomly selected to start gets two opportunities to throw the pallino into a zone 5 m (~16 feet), which ends 2.5 m (~8 feet) from the end board of the court. If the team that fails to get the pallino into the prescribed zone on first throw, the second team then gets to throw out the pallino.
- An alternate set of rules states that the jack needs to only travel past a regulator pin that marks the middle of court.
- If you’re not playing bocce on a court, you may throw the jack anywhere on the playing area, provided that it’s far enough from players so that the gameplay doesn’t become less of a challenge.
Step 3. Once the jack is successfully thrown and comes to a complete stop, throw out the first bocce ball. The team that threw out the jack would be responsible for throwing out the first bocce ball. The goal is to get the bocce ball as close to the jack as much as possible. Players who throw out the bocce ball must stand behind the fault line that is approximately 10 feet (3.0 m) above the bottom of the baseboard.
- There are several ways to throw a bocce ball. Most players throw the bocce ball underhanded, with their palm cupping the underside of the ball, and either by bowling the ball from closer to the ground or lobbing the ball higher into the air. Some, however, can choose to throw the ball cupping it from the top instead of from the bottom, and lobbing it the same way as the underhand throw.
Step 4. The next team then bowls their bocce ball. The team which hasn’t yet bowled gets a chance to now. One player from their team bowls, trying to get the ball as close to the jack as possible.
Step 5. Next, decide which team gets to continue bowling all their remaining bocce balls. The team who has their bocce ball that’s farthest away from the jack would then get to bowl their remaining three bocce balls in succession, each time by trying to get as close to the jack as possible. Note: International rules always grants the next bowl to the team farthest from the jack as opposed to the rules outlined here.
- It is very likely and acceptable to hit the jack when bowling with a bocce. The only downside of hitting the jack is that it readjusts the the focus point of where you want to aim.
- If the bocce ball is touching the jack, it’s typically called a baci or kiss. This throw is usually worth two points if the bocce ball remains touching the jack at the end of the frame.
Step 6. You must allow the team who hasn’t completed their throws to bowl out. At the end of the frame, all 8 bocce balls should be bundled up at various distances around the jack.
Step 1. Measure which team’s bocce is closest to the jack. After everyone is done tossing their bocce balls, the team that collects points is the team whose ball is closest to the pallino. This team will collect one or more points, depending on the position of their other balls, while the other team won’t score any.
Step 2. Score one point for each ball from the winning team that is closer than the closest ball of the other team. Depending on the rules you choose to use, bocce balls that are touching or kissing the jack at the end of play would count as two points rather than one point.
- If the two teams balls are equal distance away from the jack, no points are awarded and another frame would then be played.
Step 3. Switch ends on the bocce court and play another frame. At the end of each frame, tally all the points. Start the next frame at the opposite end of the bocce court.
Step 4. Continue playing until a team gets 12 points. Alternately, play until a team reached either 15 or 21.
I hope that you gained some information in how to play the game of bocce ball. To maybe get a clearer understanding, I have included a video tutorial where you can get a visual to how the game of bocce ball is played below. If you enjoyed this post, please share on social media. And, as always, if you have any questions or comments, go ahead and send a shout out in the comments section below, and I’ll reciprocate in kind and as soon as I can. Thanks.
I found this to be a really interesting article discussing the rules and origin of bocce ball.
I’d heard of the game before, and seen people playing it at tailgates and things of that nature, but I never really quite knew what it was.
Now I know! I do have a question though, how expensive are sets? Are there any brands that you recommend?
Thanks so much for the comment on this post. Bocce ball looks like an interesting and fun game to play as I might have seen other people play it either at a local park or on television somewhere.
To answer your question about how expensive are the sets, I have done a review of a bocce ball set that is geared towards professional players and has two sets of price ranges: used and new. Used would cost around $78, while the new would cost around $82. As for Brands that I recommend, they would be, in no particular order: Baden, Trademark, Park & Sun, Perfetta, and St. Pierre.
I hope this helps, and if you have any more questions, feel free to ask, and I will touch base with you again soon.