Once considered a game for old men, bocce is now a game for every age, and it's rolling across yards from coast to coast.

Good times are had beside the bocce court.

The bocce mania that struck California in the early 1990s has rolled across the country. Family and friends gather to play. Home and garden stores carry bocce equipment, and there are more than 100 bocce-related sites on the Internet.

How to Play

Take advantage of early morning or evening play to avoid the hot weather.

To play bocce, players roll 2-1/2-pound grapefruit-size balls toward a small ball called a pallino. Using maneuvers such as bouncing the ball off the short railing, knocking other balls away, or tossing a sweet and steady roll, players try to end their turns with one of their balls landing closest to the pallino to accumulate points.

Equipment is easy to find, and relatively inexpensive.

Finding equipment is easy. Good bocce sets, which include eight large balls and one pallino, are sold through most sporting goods stores, home or garden catalogs, and online. Bocce balls are made of the same thermoset resin as bowling balls, and sets start around $45 but can cost more than $150.

A regulation bocce court is 90 x 10 feet, but a professional-style court is not necessary for a backyard game. Most standard backyard courts are 60 x 12 feet; are made of a hard surface, such as concrete, packed dirt, clay, or short grass; and have four 1/2-inch-tall wooden sideboards to play off.

Bocce federations are forming to standardize the rules of the game, but the details vary. For instance, some teams allow lobbing the ball while others do not. Court sizes can vary, too, but the basics are the same. Bocce can be played on a court or on any hard surface where the ball can easily roll.

A standard backyard bocce court's layout. Standard courts are 60 x 12 feet.
  • Bocce can be played with teams of one, two, or four. On two- or four-member teams, players from each side are stationed at opposite ends of the court and alternate throwing the balls.
  • The team that wins the coin toss (Team A) throws the pallino. The pallino must cross the court's centerline and cannot hit the backboard or go out of bounds. If Team A does not place the ball successfully, Team B gets to try. But Team A always throws the first bocce.

How to Score Points

The referee measures between the balls.
  • The object of the game is to toss the bocce closest to the pallino. One Team A player throws the first bocce, trying to roll it as close to the pallino as possible. Then a Team B player throws. Team B players continue to throw until someone throws a bocce closer to the pallino than Team A's first ball. When that happens, Team A throws again until a player rolls one closer to the pallino. The frame continues in this manner, with each team's players throwing in rotation, until all the bocce balls are thrown. Once all the players have thrown their balls, a referee, chosen by both sides, helps decide which team won points by measuring between the balls and the pallino.
  • The team with the ball closest to the pallino wins the frame. That team receives one point for each ball that is closer to the pallino than the opposing team's closest ball. Teams generally play to 12 points, but can play to 16 or 18 if there are more players.


Be careful not to step over the foul line while throwing.
  • Because each bocce weighs about as much as a dictionary, it is usually thrown underhand. A bocce can be lofted overhand but cannot land beyond the centerline.
  • Players must release the ball before they step on or over the foul line. If a player continually or intentionally steps on or over the foul line, he or she can be removed from the game.


Size up the other team's position on the court.
  • Balls can bounce off the sideboards, hit the pallino, or hit other balls. Good strategies are to knock the pallino closer to your group of balls or to knock the other team's balls away, which is called spocking. Balls cannot hit the backboard or roll out of bounds if the court doesn't have backboards: Balls that hit the backboard or roll out of bounds are dead and are removed from play until the end of the frame.


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