General rules

Bocce is traditionally played on a flat, bounded surface made, in the case of our courts, of synthetic turf.  Our courts are 27.5 meters (90 ft) long and 4 meters (13 ft) wide. Bocce balls, which were originally made of stone, marble or wooden spheres, are now made of poly-resin and hard plastic composite materials. Games are played with eight balls, four in each of two colors, usually red and green, and one smaller ball (pallino) in a contrasting color.

Tournament-grade bocce sets are available with balls of 100 mm to 115 mm and pallinos of 40 mm to 60 mm in diameter. The Bocce Standards Association has chosen balls with a diameter of 107 mm (4.2 in) and a weight of 920 gm (2 lb) as the standard size.

A game can be played by two players, or two teams of two or four. One team begins the match by throwing the smaller ball, the pallino, from one end of the court. For a valid throw, the ball needs to pass the halfway point of the court.

The side that first attempts to place the pallino is given the opportunity to bowl first. Once the first bowl has taken place, the other side has the opportunity to bowl. From then on, the side which does not have the ball closest to the pallino has a chance to bowl, until one side or the other has used their four balls. At that point, the other side bowls its remaining balls. The team with the closest ball to the pallino is the only team that can score points in any frame. The scoring team receives one point for each of their balls that is closer to the pallino than the closest ball of the other team. The length of a game varies by region, typically from 7 to 13 points. In our case, it is 11.

Tactics can get quite complex when players have sufficient control over the ball to throw or roll it accurately. In traditional bocce, these are the three basic methods of playing.

  1. The Puntata or Accosto is the most widely used. Using a slow, moderate approach, the player, from a bent or crouched position, gently rolls the bocce ball as close as possible to the target ball. This method is particularly useful when the surface of the court is smooth, level and generally free of debris. The skillful puntatore will try to roll his bocce ball as close to the target ball as possible with a minimum of force, generally following a path in the middle of the playing surface. The puntata method is best used early in play when no other balls are blocking the path to the target.
  2. With the Volo, the bocce ball is tossed in the air, aimed at landing on or near the target ball. The ball should be tossed high in the air with a reverse spin at the moment of release. This spin will cause the ball to stop at the point of impact. Because this method requires extreme accuracy, a great deal of practice is required to do it correctly. To make an effective shot, the player has to judge the correct distance as well as the degree of spin.
  3. The Raffa is a "smash" shot similar to the volo. However, in this method, the ball is not lobbed. It is released close to the ground in order to dislodge an opponent's ball or disrupt a well-placed formation. In order to gain proper momentum, these shots require a "trotting" approach, similar to bowling. The player should start far back on the court, take a few running steps, and release the ball without crossing the foul line. Once having released the ball, the player’s arm should follow through briskly in the direction of the shot.

Rules and other details of play vary and can become complicated, depending on the tournament.

In our club, we play USBF open rules.

You may also consult the website of the United States Bocce Federation (

Download Registration PDF Right Arrow Left Arrow