Rules are regulations that govern the conduct within a particular activity. Bocce, like most games, has rules that are used to administer the way it's played. Although official rules regulate the game, the official bocce rules are not always followed "by the book". In fact, many clubs, leagues, and even casual players draft their own set of bocce ball instructions/rules based on the region in which they play.
To see the official bocce rules that are used by the United States Bocce Federation, visit their website by clicking the preceding link. The USBF is the governing body of bocce in the United States.
Most people at the local community level, including league members, tournaments players, and casual players use bocce rules that differ from the official rules. The below rules pertain to the locale that we play in (North East Ohio).
Eight bocce balls, a pollino, and a measuring device are the only pieces of equipment needed to play. For more details on the equipment and why it is needed to play bocce ball, click the preceding link.
Games can be played using different variations of team sizes. One vs. one, pairs, and foursomes are the most common configurations. When playing one per team, each team will throw four balls from the same end of the court. After all eight bocce balls are thrown; the players go to the other end of the court and continue alternating ends for the duration of the game. When playing pairs, the same procedure is followed, except each player on a team throws two balls instead of four. Foursomes are commonly played using two different formats. One format has two players from each team on each end of the court, while the other format has all four members of both teams on the same end of the court. In either format, players alternate sides after each round of throwing. Consecutive or alternating throws between teammates are both valid and should be determined by the players or the league/tournament in which they are playing.
Bocce is played on a rectangular court, either indoor or outdoor. The official court size is 86.92' long and 13.12 wide. In reality, bocce courts often vary in size and are either smaller or larger than the official sizes listed above. One common determinate of court dimensions is geographical region. In addition, constructing a bocce court is not an overly complicated or expensive project; so many courts built for leisure are not built to the official specifications.Surface
A bocce court surface can be a natural surface (grass or dirt), asphalt, crushed rock, clay, or even sand. The type of bocce (beach, indoor, backyard, etc.) often dictates the surface type.Walls
The bocce court has walls on all four sides, with the walls on each end commonly called backstops. Walls can and sometimes are emitted from the bocce court design, but this is dangerous. Bocce balls are heavy and can injure people when there are no walls to help keep the ball in play.Foul Lines
There are often four foul lines and a center line on each bocce court. The rolling (pointing) foul line is located approximately six feet from the backboard on each side of the court. The boccing (hitting) foul line is located 10 feet from each backboard. The USBF recommends only one line for both pointing and shooting be used. When single line courts are used, each foul line should be located 13 feet from the backboard.
The center line is in the middle of the court and used to regulate the tossing of the pallino.
Bocce ball sets come in several sizes, ranging from 90mm to 115mm. The 90mm bocce balls are meant for leisure and often used by families and kids. 115mm balls are sometimes used in tournament, league, and professional play. The most common size used for league and tournament play is the 107mm ball. Visit our Bocce Ball Sizes page to view pictures illustrating the various sizes of bocce balls.
The captains of each team will partake in a coin flip. One captain flips the coin while the other calls heads or tails. The winning team gets to throw the pallino and decide which end they will begin from. The losing team chooses the color of bocce balls they will use. At this point, a player from the winning team will toss the pallino.
The pallino toss is valid if it crosses the center line and does not cross the pointing line (if playing with only one line, the pallino toss is valid as long as it does not hit the back wall opposite of the throwing player). If the tossing player fails twice consecutively to place the pallino in a valid spot, the opposing team gets to throw it. If that team fails twice, the toss rotates back to the original team. This continues until a valid pallino toss is made.
Players should never touch bocce balls that are in play. In addition, all players except the player throwing their ball should remain off the court. Click the following link to read more about Bocce Etiquette.Shot Types
In bocce, there are two types of throws. The first shot type is raffa, more commonly known as rolling the ball. A raffa shot is the act of releasing the ball close to the ground in either a soft or hard manner. A player uses a raffa shot when they want to try and roll their ball as close to the pallino (thus establishing the point) as possible or they want to firmly roll the ball at an opponent's ball to try and knock it away from the pallino.
The second type of shot is known as a volo or bocc (more commonly known as a hit). The volo shot is the act of firmly lofting the bocce ball in order to knock an opponent's ball away from the pallino. Knocking the opponent's ball(s) away from the pallino can accomplish two tasks. First, it can distance the opponent's bocce balls from the pallino and allow the throwing team to roll in close with a raffa shot and establish point. Secondly, the volo shot can knock the opponent's ball(s) away from the pallino and establish point by staying closer to the pallino than the opponent's balls. Visit our Bocce Shots page to see pictures and videos demonstrating the different shot types.Delays and Substitutions
In most leagues and tournaments, there are specific rules pertaining to the delay of game and player substitutions. In general, if a team is not ready to play their match, they get 10 to 15 minutes to begin play. If they are still not ready after the flux time has passed, they must forfeit the match.
Substitutions vary depending on the bocce rules used, but often a player is allowed to substitute for another player after the player being replaced has thrown from each end of the court at least once. Substitutions are also allowed when a current player is injured.