Although seemingly a leisurely game, bocce ball has a long history and can get quite competitive. Even the most casual games with the family can turn into an intense match where you’re itching to win. There is something exhilarating about winning, after all, and just knowing the basic rules of the game isn’t enough to ensure victory. If you’re a competitive player, you may be on the lookout for tips on how to win at bocce, or you may want to learn how to throw better to improve your game.
That’s why we’ve put together some of the most useful strategies and throwing techniques that you can use to become a better bocce player. To make it more comprehensive and useful for all skill levels of players, we’ll be covering both the basic strategies and the more advanced throwing techniques.
The Basics to Bocce Ball Strategy
Like with any other game, there are some basics to bocce that you need to master before you learn how to win at the game. Make use of the following tips to get acquainted with bocce ball:
1. Get Comfortable
Now this may seem like a super basic tip and you may just dismiss it, but it’s the first thing you need to master before you can even learn how to win at bocce. You’d be surprised to see how much better you throw when you’re comfortable. Nerves can get the better of you and mess up your toss, so you should take deep breaths and try to relax before a bocce game. Some players even have a drink first so they can loosen up.
Besides mental relaxation, the clothes and shoes you wear will also make a huge difference in your comfort level. Make sure you wear clothes that allow full mobility of your arms and legs. And wear shoes that are closed, comfortable, and sturdy such as gym shoes. Wearing open-toed footwear like sandals and flip flops could give you an unstable stance and even cause you to slip and injure yourself.
2. Develop a Winning Stance
There are two tossing positions in bocce. Some players prefer to stand, while others prefer to crouch. Regardless of which position is more comfortable for you, you need to find a stance that works for you to make a great toss.
If you prefer to stand as you toss, keep your feet shoulder-width apart so that your stance is firm. Right-handed players will need to approach the bowling line by leading with their right foot, while left-handed players will need to lead with their left foot.
But if you’re more comfortable to take a crouching stance, lead with your left foot and put your right foot down if you’re right-handed. And similarly, lead with your right foot if you’re left-handed. A lot of professional bocce players tend to throw in a crouching position so you might want to give this one a try even if you’re used to standing.
In both cases, you need to rest most of your weight on the leading foot while firmly resting the other foot firmly on the ground. This will give your stance more stability while adding momentum to your toss.
3. Improve Your Grip
When learning how to throw a bocce ball, you need to first improve your grip. The same holds true for a lot of games that involve throwing or tossing something – like cornhole, Frisbee, etc. You can’t just clamp your fingers around the ball and hope for the best. Instead, you need a soft but firm grip to deliver a winning toss.
Grip the ball with just your thumb and forefinger, and cradle the rest of it in your palm like you would a tiny baby animal. This grip would give you some control over the ball without forcefully clutching it. Then use the strength of your index finger and your thumb to make the actual throw.
4. Plan Your Throw
While the basic goal in bocce is to throw the ball as close to the pallino as possible, there’s a lot of planning that goes into actually winning the game. You need to carefully strategize what kind of throw you need to make depending on the court surface and the position of the opponent’s balls.
If there’s a ball directly blocking your path, for instance, you may want to avoid aiming straight at the pallino and rolling the ball towards it. Otherwise, you could end up pushing the opponent’s ball closer to the pallino, contributing to their win.
Or let’s say you’re playing on a soft court surface that makes it difficult for bocce balls to roll far enough. In this case, you may want to opt for a raised toss that takes your ball at least halfway to the target before it starts to roll. This is where the different throwing techniques will come into play.
Bocce Ball Throwing Techniques to Master
After familiarizing yourself with the basics, you’ll be in a better position to learn the more advanced aspects of the game such as throwing techniques. Let’s take a look at the most common bocce ball throwing techniques that a good bocce player needs to learn:
Pointing is when you gently roll the ball to try and get it as close to the pallino as possible with your main goal being to score a point. It is sometimes called lagging, puntata, or punto. You’ll need to keep your arm straight and move it like a pendulum while keeping your head still and your shoulder level.
This is usually the throwing technique you’ll use for your first ball and is typically the best option when you have a clear shot at the pallino. In case there’s an opponent’s ball in your way, using this technique could result in knocking their ball closer to the pallino. When you can’t get a straight shot, see if there’s an opening cross court. Otherwise, you can opt for a bank shot (see #7) to get around.
Pointing is most effective on a smooth court surface, since the ball will roll more easily when the surface is smooth. In this case, you’ll be using a sliding delivery. In case of a rougher playing surface where you still want to use pointing, you can use a lifted delivery so your ball flies for a bit before it starts to roll.
Spocking is also known as hitting, bombing, shooting, or raffa. This technique involves hitting another ball using your ball. You can hit your own ball to move it closer to the pallino, or you can hit your opponent’s ball to move it out of the way. You would typically deliver this shot in the air with a low trajectory and without a back spin.
But it’s important that you carefully consider every possible outcome before you resort to spocking, because it’s very easy to miss. And missed spocks could result in taking your balls out of play and knocking out your own points. So too many missed spocks mean you’ll be contributing to your opponent’s win.
Like we briefly mentioned before, bank shots can help you get around balls that are blocking your way. Banking involves bouncing your ball against the rails to change the angle and get it to places that are difficult to reach. This shot takes advanced throwing skills, so you might need some time to get used to it. You would typically use this shot when the pallino isn’t too far from the rails.
As the name suggests, blocking involves rolling, tossing, or knocking your ball to place it in a position that blocks your opponent’s balls. This technique makes it difficult for the opponent to roll their ball closer to the pallino, and thus makes it difficult for them to score additional points. You can even knock against your opponent’s balls to set up a block that will prevent them from scoring further.
This is a high-arcing throw that sends your bocce ball flying in the air beyond the center line. It usually has varying amounts of back spin and is a very powerful throwing technique. You can use this throw to knock your opponent’s balls out of the way or to move the pallino.
However, volo is typically not allowed in court bocce to prevent damage to the court surface and for safety considerations. If you’re using a cheat set of bocce balls, you could even end up damaging your balls with this move. So you should ideally invest in top-quality bocce sets that will withstand hard impact.
10. Forehand Roll
The forehand roll is usually the first tossing technique that beginners would use in bocce. It’s where your hand is behind or under the ball like with bowling. When you use this throw, your ball won’t bounce much as it hits the court surface. This makes it easier to anticipate the direction in which your ball will roll.
However, the main challenge with a forehand roll is that the throwing motion naturally includes a top spin. So you’ll often see beginners getting frustrated with how their balls travel much farther than they expect when they use this technique.
11. Backhand Roll
A backhand roll is the opposite of a forehand roll and involves putting your hand in front or on top of the ball as you release it. This throwing motion naturally includes a back spin, which can control the speed of the ball soon after it lands on the court surface.
12. The Push
Pushing a bocce ball, as the name suggests, is when you use your palm to push the ball out of your hand. It’s a great way to toss your ball with minimal to zero spin, which improves the accuracy and consistency of your throw. The key to nailing this technique lies in knowing the right time to release the ball.
As you can see from these strategies and throwing techniques, there’s a lot that goes into playing bocce. If you want to win at the game, you will need to adjust your strategy based on various factors like court surface and the position of other balls in play. Get acquainted with the tips we’ve provided here to improve your bocce technique and check out our glossary for some insight into some bocce jargon.