10 Easy Steps to Learn How to Play Bocce Ball8 min read

Bocce has been around for centuries. Starting as a healthy recreation for Roman soldiers during the Punic Wars, it has since evolved and become a favorite game in Italy. Now it has grown in popularity in the US and other countries because it’s a fun and easy game to play. It’s an excellent team sport and provides light cardio and stress relief, helping you maintain physical and mental health.

If you’re learning how to play bocce ball, you need to learn a few essential terms and steps (We also have an article on Petanque vs. Bocce, a close variant to bocce). Other than that, you can leave the rest to practice and you will soon become an excellent bocce player. In this post, we’ve provided you with a handy 10-step guide on how to play bocce ball – covering everything from what you will need for the game to scoring to bocce ball rules. We also have a post with frequently asked questions if you need more information.

Step 1. Setting Up Your Court

The first step is to set up your court. If you are lucky enough to have access to an actual bocce court feel free to jump to step two. Depending on your preference you can use a measuring tape to mark off official dimensions or you can just eyeball it and work with what you have. Regulation courts are typically 91 feet long by 13 feet wide with a number of horizontal lines including a center line (dimensions below).  You could use tape or paint to mark the lines for an official looking court. The game is traditionally played on courts made of soil, grass or asphalt.

Alternatively, you could designate a long rectangular area based on the space available and mark it off with pylons or other temporary markers.

Bocce is much like shuffleboard in that you can adjust the court size according to the space you have available. You just need to make sure that the surface is flat and fairly smooth so players can comfortably move around. The surface can be sand, dirt, stone dust, clay, grass, or artificial turf.

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The court is divided into several sections by a number of horizontal lines and each line corresponds to the game rules. You have the centerline, which as the name suggests, is drawn right at the middle. When a player throws the pallino, it must end up beyond this line to be considered a valid throw. Besides this, you have:

  • The foul line, which is usually around 4 feet to 6 feet from each end of the court. Players should never cross this line when throwing the pallino or the bocce ball.
  • The spocking or hitting foul line, which is another 8 feet to 10 feet from the foul line on each side of the court. Players can throw from this line when trying to hit their opponents’ balls away from the pallino.

Step 2. Gathering Your Equipment

Once you have your court set up, you can start gathering the equipment you will need to play bocce. You typically only need a bocce ball set and a tape measure for settling close calls. A bocce ball set includes the following:

  • 1 pallino, also known as a jack, which is a smaller ball
  • 8 colored balls in 2 different colors (4 balls each to a color), which are larger

The sizes of bocce balls may differ according to the skill levels of players. Bocce beginners may want to use smaller balls while experienced players may prefer heavier balls. As for the colors, they typically come in red and green. But these can be problematic for people who are colorblind, so you can try looking for other colors of bocce balls.

Step 3. Choosing Your Teams

While two players can play against each other, bocce is the most fun when played in teams. You can have up to four players in each team, where each player has one ball. In teams of two, each player gets two balls. And in case there is only one player per team, you get four balls per player.

Try to make sure each team gets an even number of players, so each player gets an equal opportunity to bowl. In the case of a three-player team, one player gets to bowl twice because there will be an extra ball.

Step 4. Deciding on Who Goes First

The best way to determine who gets to bowl first is by doing a coin toss. But in some cases, the teams would randomly decide on who goes first. However, it doesn’t matter too much whether or not you go first because teams will take turns throwing the pallino at the start of each frame.

Once decided, one member of the starting team will throw the pallino into the playing area. As mentioned earlier, they must not cross the foul line and also ensure that the pallino lands beyond the centerline. If it ends up being an invalid throw, the opponent team takes their turn throwing the pallino to start the game.

Step 5. Bowling

Once the pallino is in place, the starting team can throw their bocce ball with the intention of getting it as close to the pallino as possible. There are several techniques to throwing a bocce ball. And if you’re still learning how to play bocce ball, you’ll probably want to spend some time figuring out which technique works best for you. This is important because what works for one person will not necessarily work for another.

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Some players throw bocce balls underhand by cupping their palm under the ball and  either lobbing it high into the air or bowling it from closer to the ground. Some players also throw the ball by cupping it from the top and then lobbing it into the air.

Step 6. Taking Turns

Once the first team bowls their first bocce ball, the opponent team takes their turn. Whichever team has their ball farthest from the pallino then takes another turn to throw the rest of their balls. After this, the other team will take their turn to use up all their balls.

Step 7. Measuring

After every player has taken their turn bowling, you need to measure which team’s bocce ball is closest to the pallino. Only the team with the closest ball will collect points for this frame while the opponent team will not score.

Step 8. Scoring

Bocce ball scoring typically involves giving one point for each of the winning team’s balls that lands closer to the pallino than the opponent team’s closest ball. But depending on the rules you choose to follow you could even score two points for a bocce ball that is still touching the pallino by the end of the frame.

In the case of balls that are of an equal distance from the pallino, neither team scores a point. This is when your tape measure comes in handy. It can help you determine which ball is closer even though they appear to be at a similar distance to the naked eye. Once you’re done with the scoring process, you have successfully completed one frame.

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Step 9. Finishing a Match

After completing one frame, the teams will switch to the other end of the court to play another frame. You can tally the points after the end of each frame and then repeat the process. You typically continue playing until one team manages to score 12 points. But the target score may also vary according to predetermined points set before the game. Some may play till one team manages to score 15 or even 21 points.

Step 10. Understanding the Basic Rules

What are the rules of bocce ball? Now that you know how to play bocce ball, there are a few basic rules that you’ll want to remember so you can thoroughly enjoy playing the game:

  • You must not step past the foul line when bowling.
  • Balls may be tossed, lobbed or rolled on the ground.
  • In addition to trying to get your bocce ball as close as possible to the pallino, you may also try to hit the pallino to move it closer to your ball or try to hit an opponent’s ball to move it away.
  • In some bocce ball scoring rules, you get two points if your bocce ball is touching the pallino at the end of the frame.
  • No one earns points if each team’s closest ball is the same distance from the pallino at the end of the frame.
  • Only one team scores points per frame which prevents the need for tiebreakers (it’s like shuffleboard scoring in this regard).


These are the 10 essential steps that will help you learn how to play and enjoy bocce ball. There may be some variations in the bocce ball scoring rules you follow and the court size you use. But these basics should give you a clear idea of what the rules are for bocce ball and how you can get started. If you’re ready to play with your friends and family, check out some of the highest rated bocce ball sets in 2019.

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