Bocce Ball Rules: How to Play the Game

How to play Bocce Ball header

Fancy learning a new game? Here’s a fun game that everyone can play: bocce ball. It’s mainly a sport played in Europe but is slowly making its way across the oceans.

What are the bocce ball rules? Read on to find out:

What Is Bocce Ball?

Bocce is a game that originated in Italy but is now played all over Europe. It has since been anglicized as bocce ball and sometimes takes on the spelling alternatives: bocci or boccie. 

It is part of the umbrella ball game known as boules. Bocce is related to the bowls of the British and petanque of the French. 


This is a game that can be enjoyed by everybody–and I mean EVERYBODY!

You’ll see kids and senior citizens play bocce ball at the same time. It is also played by persons with disabilities. 

In fact

Bocce ball is the third most played sport among athletes with disabilities–third to soccer and golf. 

Disabled man playing Bocce Ball

“Bocce provides people with special needs the opportunity to have social contact, develop physically, and gain self-confidence,” the Special Olympics organization said. 

What is the goal of the sport?

You want to throw a bocce ball so that it will land closest to the pallino, which is the target ball. It is also referred to as jack and sometimes spelled as pallina. 

Here’s a short video to get to know the game more:

History of Bocce Ball

The game was established by the Italians and is rooted in the games played during the Roman Empire, around two thousand years ago.

While originally played in Italy, bocce ball has found its way to the rest of Europe. It is also played in regions where there are a lot of Italian immigrants:

  • Argentina
  • Australia
  • Rio Grande do Sul (in Brazil)
  • Some parts of North America
  • Some parts of South America

In Europe, aside from Italy, it is mostly played in the following countries:

  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Croatia
  • Montenegro
  • Serbia
  • Slovenia


The game was only played by Italian immigrants. Over the years, locals have played the game as well. 

Bocce Balls


Bocce has also evolved into other games like the boccia. This is mostly played by persons with disabilities.

It has mostly the same rules as bocce but on a much smaller scale. It is also played indoors and leather balls are used. 

Another development is the bocce volo, which uses a metal ball. 

Moving on

Now, let’s check out the bocce ball rules and understand why so many people enjoy this game. 

Bocce Ball Rules

As mentioned, the goal of the game is to throw the ball as close to the pallino as possible. It has to be closer than that of your opponent.

The players

Bocce can be played by two people or two teams with equal number of members–usually two and four members for each team. 

For singles, each player will have four balls. For a four-player game, each player will have two balls each. Players will only have a ball each for an eight-player game. 

Anybody can play the game–kids, adults, seniors, and people with disabilities. 

The court

It is usually played on any type of surface as long as it’s flat. You usually find it played either on grass or on sand.

The size is 60 feet by 12 feet. Although, if it’s not a formal competition, the court size can be adjusted according to the available space. 

Man holding Bocce Ball behind his back

The game

  1. It starts with a coin toss to determine which team will start first. The winner of the coin toss can elect to go first or second.
  1. It starts with a coin toss to determine which team will start first. The winner of the coin toss can elect to go first or second.
  1. It starts with a coin toss to determine which team will start first. The winner of the coin toss can elect to go first or second.
  1. It starts with a coin toss to determine which team will start first. The winner of the coin toss can elect to go first or second.
  • Get the ball as close to the pallino as possible.
  • Move the pallino closer to the ball.
  • Move the opponent’s ball so that it would be farther away from the pallino. 

When all balls have been thrown, the set ends. The set is called a frame. 

The scoring

The bocce ball set comes with a pallino distance marker. This is essential when awarding points. 

A point is awarded to a bocce ball of a team that is closer to the pallino than the opponent. In most cases, only balls that are distinctly closer to the jack gets the score. The team with the most points gets the overall point of the frame. 

The game continues until the predetermined score is reached. It could be a race to 12 points or more (or less). 

Group of friends playing Bocce Ball

Game equipment

  • Bocce balls – there will be eight balls. Four balls will have the same identification marks to indicate that owners belong to the same team. Some sets have four different colors with one set having a distinctive pattern. In some sets, all balls have the same colors but are identified by two different patterns.
  • Pallino / pallina / jack – it is known by many names. This is the target ball. It is small and usually white in color. 
  • Distance marker

When you buy a bocce ball set, everything is already included. 

Reasons to Play Bocce Ball

There are many reasons why you should play bocce ball. Here are five of them. Maybe you can add more.

It’s fun!

That should be the best reason why you should do anything–because it’s fun! 

It’s for everybody

Sometimes, it’s hard for families to find a fun activity together because of the difference in age and size. 

Grandmothers cannot play backyard football, can they? (Okay, maybe some can. But generally, they are too slow and fragile for such an aggressive sport).

Children, too

They would be too small for a game of football. 

There are many other games you can play at home, but none are as inclusive as bocce ball. The whole family can play the game, which means it’s perfect for parties when people of all ages attend. 

It improves coordination

You need good hand-eye coordination in order to throw the ball as near to the pallino as possible. That needs precision or as close to precision as possible. 

You also become better over time. 

It’s a form of exercise

You don’t really sweat too much when you play bocce. It’s basically a low-impact game. 

It’s still a physical activity, though, which can be considered a light cardio workout. 

Family playing Bocce Ball

It allows you to become a team player

While bocce can be a singles game, the more players there are, the more fun the game actually becomes. 

Being a member of a group allows you to become a team player, which is actually a helpful characteristic in real life. 

You should know

This is not just a simple process of throwing balls. There is a lot of thought put into it. 

You have to consider distance and the strength you put into the throw. The wind could be a factor, too. 

As a team, you could strategize with your game. You could either make an offense, which is to throw the ball as near to the pallino as possible or you could be defensive and move the opposing team’s ball away from the pallino.


Bocce ball is one of the most fun activities you can organize for your family and friends. It’s a great party activity, too, since everybody can play the game–grandparents, kids, and even people with disabilities. 

Bocce ball rules are pretty simple. The goal is just to throw the ball as close to the target ball, also known as pallino or jack, as possible. It can be a singles game or a team with two or four members each. 

The game originated in Italy but has since become popular around Europe and in areas where there are a lot of Italian immigrants. Bocce is also a popular game among special athletes.

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