It’s Game Time: What Is Bocce Ball?


Do you know what the third most popular sport in the world is? It’s not football. It’s not baseball, either.

It’s bocce ball, right behind soccer and golf.

About 25 million people play bocce in the U.S. alone, and that doesn’t count the millions of people who pick up the game at backyard events.

Are you still wondering about what is bocce ball and how to play it?

Read on to find out what bocce ball is and how to play this magnificent game.

What Is Bocce Ball?

Bocce ball is a type of Italian lawn bowling game. The Italian word ‘bocce’ means balls.

You’ll find similar games played by cultures around the world. The French play Petanque. The English play Lawn Bowling.

The early roots of the game go back thousands of years to the Middle East. Bocce as we know it today was played throughout the Roman Empire.

Italian immigrants brought bocce with them wherever they went. When Italians reached America, they created bocce clubs. Some cities and towns have bocce courts, which are dirt rectangles to use as the playing field.

What You Need to Play Bocce

You need two sets of balls. One is a red set of four balls, another is a green set of four balls. Regulation sized bocce balls weigh 920 grams, or just over two pounds each. They come in at about 4.2 inches in diameter.

You also need one small ball, called the pallino. This is usually a white ball that is about 1.6 inches in diameter.

You also need a space to play. You can build your own bocce ball court, or mark off space in your back yard. A regulation bocce court measures 91 feet long by 13 feet wide.

Unless you plan on going full-on professional, you don’t need to have a regulation-sized court. You can just work with the space you have. A 10’ x 30’ court would be just fine if that’s the amount of space available.

A measuring tape is a useful device to have on hand for accuracy in awarding points during the frame.

The Bocce Ball Rules

The rules of bocce are really simple, and you can adjust them according to how many people are playing and how experienced they are.

You can also adjust the game according to the amount of space you have available.

This level of flexibility makes bocce easy for anyone to pick up. Adults and kids love to play the game, and they often play it together at barbecues and family gatherings.

The game starts by setting the teams up. Each team has one, two, or four players to keep everything even.

If teams have two or four players, one or two players from each team will play from opposite ends of the court. Players don’t switch sides until a game is complete.

You’ll have a coin toss to see which team goes first. The team that wins the coin toss can choose to have the first throw of the pallino or the color of bocce balls.

One player throws the pallino onto the court. A good throw is past the center of the court. If the throw doesn’t reach the centerline of the court, the opposing side gets to throw the pallino.

The player that throws the pallino throws one of the bocce balls to get close to the pallino. After that first ball is thrown, the opposing team will throw next until they have a ball that gets closer to the pallino or they have thrown all four balls.

It’s important to note that every ball must be thrown underhanded. There are no overhead throws, windups, or anything like that in bocce.

Keeping Score in Bocce Ball

A game is divided into frames. Each frame is when all eight balls are thrown. The team with the closest ball to the pallino is the “In” team or the “In ball.”

The In ball determines the scoring of the round. For example, if the green team has the “in” ball. The green team collects points for every ball that is closer to the pallino than the red team.

A team can receive anywhere between one to four points a frame. A game is won when a team reaches twelve points. Typically, three games are played in a bocce match.

Winning Bocce Ball Strategies

Now that you know the rules of bocce ball, you should learn some basic strategies to win the game. You should also learn some basic skills to throw accurately.

There’s a fine art to throwing a bocce ball accurately. Your grip on the ball, your stance, and how you throw the ball all matter.

Your stance should be steady, and your body shouldn’t move as you throw. That can impact the trajectory of the ball. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart with one foot slightly ahead of the other.

One of the best throws for beginners to learn is the forehand roll. With this type of throw, your hand is underneath the ball and you roll it onto the court. You can do this on one knee or from a standing position.

If you want to put some backspin on the ball, try a backhand throw. This is where your hand goes in front of the ball as you throw it.

Where should you throw the ball? It depends on how close your team is to the pallino. You can throw your ball in a position to block the opposing team from getting close to the pallino.

You can also try to knock the opponent’s balls away from the pallino.

Learning to Play Bocce Ball

What is bocce ball? It’s an easy and fun game that can bring out your competitive nature! All you need is a space to play, bocce balls, a pallino, and a tape measure.

Once you get the hang of the basics of bocce ball, you can start using strategies to win.

Head over to the Home section of this site for more ways to have fun at home.