• Introduction
  • Object of the game
  • Scoring in bocce ball
  • Serving rules in bocce ball
  • Gameplay
  • Punto, Raffa & Volo throws
  • Game intervals
  • The bocce ball court
  • Rules and regulations of bocce ball equipment
  • Other rules of bocce ball
  • Sources


  • Points: Once all bocces have been thrown, the team closest to the pallino, scores a point. Each ball that is closer to the pallino than the opponent’s closest ball, scores an additional point.
  • Game: The team that scores a predetermined amount of points first wins a game (usually 12pts).

Intervals and Changes

  • Before a match, both teams may throw two frames up and down the court to warm up.
  • A team has 45s to observe the bowls before throwing.
  • Each player must make the throw in 30s.
  • An official Technical Officer may call one 60s time-out during the first 30mins of gameplay.
  • In a triples or quadruples match, a team may have one or more substitute players. 
  • Players/teams switch ends after every frame.


  • Singles (1 vs 1): four balls per player.
  • Doubles (2 vs 2): two balls per player.
  • Triples (3 vs 3): two balls per player.
  • Quadruples (4 vs 4): two balls per player.

Pallino throw

  • At the beginning of each frame, the pallino is thrown. 
  • The winning team of each frame throws the pallino.
  • The pallino must be thrown underhand behind the B line (foul line) and land between the E line (center line) and the opposing B line. 


  • The team that wins the coin toss throws the pallino, and the first bocce ball.
  • After the first throw, all succeeding balls are thrown by the outside team that does not have the bocce ball closest to the pallino. 
  • All throws must be tossed underhand.
  • The inside team only throws if opponents have thrown all four bocce balls. 
  • Teams are allowed to hit each others balls and the pallino.
  • Hitting the back wall directly results in a dead ball, and the bocce ball is removed.
  • The pallino can touch the back wall after being struck with a bocce ball.
  • Team members can throw in any order as long as the throw the same amount of bocces.
  • Once all balls have been thrown, the team with the closest bocce to the pallino wins the frame.


Bocce ball is a ball sport that belongs in the boules family (similar to British bowls and the French pétanque). It is also one of the oldest known sports in the world. The first known documentation of bocce ball is from an Egyptian tomb painting dating back to 5,200 B.C. However, stone balls from 9,000 B.C. have also been found in Turkey that are believed to be used for bocce ball. It is believed that bocce ball in its current form originated from the Roman empire, where it slowly spread all over Europe and the rest of the world through Italian immigrants.

It is believed that bocce ball was first played with polished rocks by soldiers who were looking to relax and pass the time between battles. As time went on, polished rocks (and even coconuts in some parts of the world) gave way to wooden balls and iron bocces, before finally settling on the modern synthetic composite material used today.

The modern rules of bocce ball were first introduced by the House of Savoy near the cities of Turin and Lyon. The world’s first official Bocce ball club, ”Le Clos Jouve”, was founded in 1850, and still exists today. Its main governing body, Fédération Internationale de Boules, was founded on April 14th, 1946. 

Nowadays, bocce ball is considered to be one of the most well-known recreational sports in the world. It’s biggest events include the Tournois Bouliste Pentecôte in Lyon, and the Gara Alassio in Italy. Bocce ball has also been featured as an exhibition sport in the Paris Olympic Games in 1900.

Object of the game

The aim of bocce ball is to place your balls (bocces/bowls) as near as the target (pallino) as possible. On the other hand, your opponent also has the same objective as they try to place their balls closer to the same target or block you from getting closer. 

Scoring in bocce ball

The team that first scores a predetermined amount of points wins the game. The length of a game varies regionally but typically ranges somewhere between 7 and 13 (12 being the most common). Winning a game does not require a two-point lead, which means that a game cannot end in a tie. The vast majority of matches consist of only one game, but a best of three games format is also used in some tournaments.

When a frame ends and all balls have been tossed, only the team closest to the pallino scores a point. Furthermore, any additional ball closer to the pallino than the opposing team’s closest ball scores an extra point. If both teams are tied at the end of a frame (all balls have been thrown), no points will be given, and the play will continue from the opposite side of the court.

Serving rules in bocce ball – throwing the pallino

At the beginning of the game, the referee places the marker, also known as a jack or pallino, in the center of the court between the B line (foul line) and the E line (center line). The game starts with a coin toss. The winning team may choose which side the game starts from or to play the first ball. 

After the first frame has been played, the pallino must be thrown underhand from behind the B line and stop between the E line and the B line on the opposite side. If the player fails to do this, the opposing team tosses the pallino. However, if neither team can toss it into its designated area, the referee will place the pallino on the center of the court between the B and E lines. If the pallino moves in front of the E line or bounces off the court after a valid play, it will be placed back into its original position. 

After throwing the pallino, the same person also tosses the first bocce as close as the pallino as possible. Once all balls have been tossed, the frame ends and the winning team gets to throw the pallino on the next round. 


Bocce ball can be played in singles (1 vs 1), doubles (2 vs 2), triples (3 vs 3), or quadruples (4 vs 4) format.

  • Singles: four balls per player.
  • Doubles: two or three balls per player.
  • Triples: two balls per player.
  • Quadruples: two balls per player.

Each frame (set of eight balls) is played from one side of the court and starts with tossing the pallino onto the field. Once the pallino has been thrown, the same player then tosses the ball as close to the pallino as possible.

After both teams have tossed their first bocces, all succeeding balls are thrown by a team whose ball is the furthest, also known as the ”outside” team. The outside team continues tossing until they become the “inside” team or runs out of bocce balls.

In most ”open” non-competitive bocce ball games, the balls can be bounced off the sides. Teams are also allowed to hit each other’s bocces and the pallino to become the inside team. On the other hand, hitting the back wall results in a ”dead ball”, and the bocce is removed from the court. The pallino, however, remains in play even if it hits or touches the back wall.

If a team runs out of bocces before becoming the inside team, the opposing team finishes the frame by tossing the rest of their bocces. Both teams may also choose the order in which their players throw, as long as they all play the same amount of balls per frame.

Once all bocces have been tossed, the points will be counted and the next frame will start from the opposite side of the court. If teams disagree on a result of a frame, they may settle the dispute with a measuring tape to check the distance between the bocce and the pallino. If the dispute cannot be settled, the result is a tie and no point will be rewarded to either team.

A game is usually officiated by a referee, whose main responsibilities include deciding the result of a frame, making sure the game is played in good sportsmanship, and according to the official rules of bocce ball. 

Punto, Raffa & Volo throws

Bocce ball gameplay consists of three main throws; Punto, Raffa, and Volo. The rules regarding these shots are intricate and usually only used in tournaments and international bocce ball competitions. 

Punto throws are the most common throws in the game. Its name comes from the Italian word Punto, which means a point. The aim of a Punto throw is to roll your ball as close to the pallino as possible without hitting other bocci along the way. If the ball strikes one or more objects on the court and none of them move less that 70cm (27.8in), the shot is valid. A punto play must always be thrown behind the B line.

Raffa shot, also known as hitting or spocking, is aimed at other bocce balls on the court to move them out of the way. Like a Punto play, a Raffa shot must also be tossed behind the B line, but may not be used on a ball is located between the D and E lines. The player must also inform the referee before making a Raffa shot. 

A Volo shot is an aerial shot where the player attempts to hit other bocce balls or the pallino before it touches the ground. A Volo shot must always be thrown behind the D line, which is a player must inform the referee before attempting the shot. It is mainly used in competitions with international rules. 

If any of the aforementioned shots are deemed illegal, the receiving team may decide if the balls stay where they are or if they need be put back where they were before the shot. This is also known as the rule of advantage.

Game intervals

Before the match, both teams are allowed a full frame of practice throws, one going up and one going down the court, starting from the A line. Once the game has started and the first balls have been thrown, players are allowed to inspect the bocces for 45s. After inspection, the next toss must occur within 30s. This means that there can be a maximum of 75s between two throws. 

If needed, an official Technical Officer may call one 60s time-out during the first 30 minutes of gameplay. If needed, the referee may also give players the permission to level the court if normal play would be impossible.

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The rules of bocce ball vary greatly from one region to another.

The bocce ball court

Bocce ball can be played on a natural or synthetic surface, as long as it is flat, perfectly leveled, and appropriate to the game’s technical requirements. This court is 4-4.5m (13.1-14.8ft) wide and 26.5m (86.9ft) long, surrounded by 25cm (9.8in) high sidings made from wood or other non-metallic material. The lane heads are usually made from synthetic rubber to prevent the bocces or pallino from bouncing back. 

The court is also divided into vertical lanes and marked by colored lines made from chalk, marble dust, or paint. These lines are called A, B, C, D, and E lines. 

  • A lines: Located 13.25m (43.4ft) from the center line.
  • B lines: Located 9.25m (30.3ft) from the center line.  
  • C lines: Located 6.25m (20.5ft) from the center line.
  • D lines: Located 4.25m (13.9ft) from the center line.
  • E line: The center line.

Rules and regulations of bocce ball equipment

Aside from the court and athletic apparel, bocce ball only requires an official bocce ball set, containing eight balls and a pallino.

Bocce balls, also known as bocces or bowls, come in two different official sizes; senior and women/junior.

  • Senior sizes: Diameter of 107mm (4.21in) and a weight of 920g (32.5oz).
  • Women/junior: Diameter of 106mm (4.17in) and a weight of 900g (31.7oz).

According to the official rules of bocce ball, the balls must also be made with the same materials and have the same size and weight for each team. The bocces of any given team must be of the same color, but they must also sharply differ from the opposing team’s color scheme. During official competitive matches, both teams may bring their own bocces and pallino for training, but they will be inspected by the referees before the match starts.

The Pallino is a round synthetic ball with a diameter of 3.9-4.1cm (1.5-1.6in) and an official weight of 55-65g (1.9-2.3oz). The Fédération Internationale de Boules (FIB) also rules that the pallino must not contain any foreign substance that might impair its balance.

Other rules of bocce ball

Foul line fouls are some of the most common mistakes that occur during a bocce ball game. The basic rules of bocce ball state that the foul line may not be surpassed by any body part before the ball leaves the player’s hand. For the first offense, the referee will give the team an official warning. For any consecutive offenses, the referee will end the frame and give a point to the other team. Similarly, teams will also be fouled if they stand on the court during the other team’s turn, or move either team’s bocces or the pallino. Interestingly, players are also prohibited from declining a penalty given by the referee. 

In doubles, triples, and quadruples, the game may only start when all players are present. If a team is missing a player when the match is supposed to start, the team will be forced to forfeit the game. Once the game is in motion, both teams are allowed to make substitutions at any time after a ball has been played. Additionally, both teams have a captain, who is also the only player allowed to talk to the referee. 

If a bocce or the pallino breaks, the frame is considered dead, and no points will be awarded to either team. On top of that, any ”act of God” that may call off the game will be resumed at the same score. 

Did you learn anything new about the rules of bocce ball? Let us know in the comments!

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    Daniel Kiikka

    Daniel Kiikka holds a Master’s Degree in sports science, with a focus on sports pedagogy. After graduating from the University of Jyväskylä in 2015, Daniel worked nearly a decade within the world-renowned Finnish educational system as a physical education and health science teacher. Since 2021, Daniel has worked as a Lecturer at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences.

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