Answers to some Frequently Asked Bocce Questions

Table of Contents

What is the history of Bocce?
What is the difference between bocce, bocci, and boccie?
What is the proper pronunciation of "bocce"?
What is Court Bocce?
How were the Court Bocce Standards developed?
Why not use the International Rules and Standards ?
Why is the recommended standard court size 76' ?
Why are clay courts desirable and are there other options?
Where can I find specifications for building a bocce court?
What is Team Play Bocce?
How are the Social Bocce Teams formed?
Is there a fee or any cost to play Bocce?
Can your copyrighted information be copied and used?
What are the basic shots to master in Court Bocce?
What skills are needed to play Bocce?
What is a "volo shot" and why is it not permitted?
Why not have only one foul line for pointing and hitting?
Why the clock style scoreboard and why doesn't it have a zero?
What happens if the "IN" ball has not been properly called?
Why is the cup type measuring device used?
How are ties broken in league play?
Why can't players be reassigned at will during and between games?
What is match play and why have match play?
How do websites qualify to be on your 'Links' webpage?

 

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What is the history of Bocce?

The only fact for sure is that bocce is a game that is centuries old. Several descriptions with similarities can be found on the Internet. One version of the history of bocce published by the Wonderful World of Bocce Association on their website is as follows:

"The beginnings of the game of bocce are lost in the darkness of time. Traces of the game can be found among the early Egyptians, and graphic representations of figures tossing a ball or polished stone have been recorded as early as 5200 B.C. While modern day bocce bears little resemblance to these early findings, one thing is certain: that through its evolution the objective has been constant - try to come as close to a fixed target as possible. From this early objective, the basic rules of bocce were born.

Bocce must have been part of the therapeutic advice given by the early Greek physicians Ipocrates and Galileo who indeed believed that the invigorating exercise provided by this game could have beneficial results. It is said that the early Romans were among the first to play the game, at times using coconuts brought back from Africa. Later on, hard olive wood was used to carve out bocce balls. Quickly gaining status, there are indications that bocce was enjoyed by such luminaries as the emperor Augustus.

Throughout the centuries, the game enjoyed rapid growth as one of Europe's most popular pastimes, so much so that at one point in history several governments began to regulate its usage. Why? Because it was found that the popularity of the game interfered at times with the security of the state. In other words, the public at large was more interested in playing bocce than in defending their sovereignty! Rulers were moved to action. While Kings Carlos IV and V prohibited the playing of bocce (citing national security), several medical docents from the University of Montpellier, France, did their part by discrediting the claim that playing bocce had great therapeutic effect in curing rheumatism.

The popularity of the game reached such a level in Italy that on December 11, 1576, the Republic of Venice publicly condemned it, and thereafter those who disobeyed were punished with fines and imprisonment. Even the Catholic Church officially prohibited any clergyman from playing the game by declaring bocce a gambling device. Yet bocce survived and flourished.

Contrary to the rest of Europe, Great Britain has consistently embraced the game of bocce with great enthusiasm since its introduction. Among the early fans were Queen Elizabeth I and Sir Francis Drake. An amusing anecdote has Drake refusing to interrupt his game to address a threatening military advance: "First we finish the game, then we'll deal with the Armada," it is believed he shouted to those who tried to hurry him on.

However, in spite of its popularity and lacking a central organization, the sport of bocce was excluded from the first modern Olympic Games held in Athens in April, 1896. Shortly afterward bocce leagues were formed throughout Europe. First to organize the sport was France, followed by Italy (specifically northern Italy), which organized local clubs and leagues. The first organized Italian League was formed by fifteen Piedmont Region teams on November 15, 1947 in the town of Rivoli (Torino). Since 1947, the Bocce World Championships has been held every year with France and Italy as the most prominent competitors.

These two countries paved the way for an international interest in bocce as a formal sport. Even as this book is being written, worldwide preparations are underway internationally to include bocce in Olympic competitions. Yet it was not until the turn of the century that the game of bocce was organized competitively in the United States. A strong influencing factor was the European immigration to the American continent. Early immigrants, trying to retain their original lifestyle, played the game as a way of duplicating the social environment they left behind.

Soon U.S. leagues were created, paving the way for the game to be accepted as a major sport... and not just by men. The oldest women's bocce league in this country is from Chisholm, Minnesota. Called the Chisholm Women's Bocce League, it started in 1944 with 25 women who were introduced to bocce by Guido Pergal at a summer picnic. Today the top three most-participated sports in the world are 1) soccer 2) bocce and 3) golf."


The United States Bocce Federation says there are about 1 million players in the United States. Major centers of popularity include California, Chicago, Las Vegas, Memphis, New Orleans, Phoenix, St. Louis, and New York.

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Why not use the International Rules and Standards?

The International rules and standards as published by the Confederation Boccistica Internationale are complicated, ball positions are all marked, requires trained officials, requires players to have a very high skill level, involves many measurements, and the games take a significant amount of time to play. The International rules could be likened to a "professional" level of bocce. It is obvious since most players use 'open' rules and shorter courts, that the International standards have little appeal to the general public. However, this has left a void for standards for most bocce players as evidenced by the wide variety of rules, equipment, and court standards in use today. The Bocce Standards Association is simply trying to provide some level of standardization for Court Bocce.

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Why is the recommended standard court size 76' ?

Court sizes in use today vary in size from 60 feet to 95 feet. The International standard as published by the Confederation Boccistica Internationale is 26.5 meters (90 feet) by 4 meters (13 feet). However, the World Bocce Association and others specify a 76 foot court and most in the United States do not use the International standards. The 90 foot court appears to be excessive and expensive and the shorter (60 foot) courts appear too small and not challenging. The 76 foot court appears to be sufficient for all skill levels and a good compromise cost wise. Anyone playing on a 76 foot court should easily adapt to the larger or smaller courts if necessary. Note that on the International court the pointing foul lines are 13 feet from the backboard leaving 64 feet as the major playing area, whereas, on the 76 foot court, the pointing foul lines are 6 feet from the backboard also leaving 64 feet as the major playing area.   The court width, which is much less critical, is recommended at 12 feet since many courts today are using Astro Turf type (indoor / outdoor) carpet materials for the playing surface. This material can be easily obtained in 12 foot widths. The Court Bocce Standards are a compromise set of standards to hopefully encompass the sport as most generally played today and gain a wide acceptance to establish some standards for the sport.

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Why are clay courts desirable and are there other options?

Clay courts built to the specifications of tennis courts provide consistent playing surfaces from court to court, the court surface is rugged, they have a long lifetime, and maintenance is low. Other materials being used tend to be soft, rough, or inconsistent. There are many contractors familiar with building clay tennis courts and can easily build a bocce court.  If cost is a major factor of whether or not you can have a court, an alternative to consider is the use of Astro Turf type (indoor / outdoor) carpet materials over a level concrete base for the playing surface (probably more consistent than most other options and certainly better than no court at all). For indoor courts and temporary courts, the Astro Turf type surface is a very good option.

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Where can I find specifications for building a bocce court?

Lee Tennis, an affiliate of  Luck Stone Corporation, has provided us a copy of their Bocce Court Specification to help standardize the construction of bocce courts. Click Here for more information.)

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What is the difference between bocce, bocci, and boccie?

They are all the same. Another area to confuse people about the sport of bocce. Bocce is the correct and widely accepted word for the sport. The Confederation Bouliste International (the Italian bocce federation) uses "bocce" in their documents.

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What is the proper pronunciation of "bocce"?

Merriam-Webster Dictionary shows the pronunciation as 'bä-chE.  Phonetically this is "botchee".   [Click to hear]

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What is Court Bocce?

Court bocce is played on a well defined court with walls on all four sides that control the area of play. The playing surface is made as smooth and level as possible so that balls will go where the thrower intended. The sport is played with a published set of rules.

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How were the Bocce Standards developed?

The standards have been developed over a period of  years since 1997 by a committee of bocce fanatics from the Northeast and Midwest working with a country club to build bocce courts, form leagues and tournaments, and publish a good set of game rules. Every committee member had played with different rules and on a variety of courts. An initial set of rules were agreed upon. Each year the rules were used in leagues and tournaments, found lacking, and improvements made for the next year. Finally, the committee gathered rules and standards from many organizations, such as, the International Boules Confederation, the Italian Boules Confederation, the Collegium Cosmicum Ad Buxeas, the World Bocce Association, the United States Bocce Federation, Bocce International, the Wonderful World of Bocce Association, the Joy of Bocce book, the Rico Daniele Bocce book, iBOCCE.com, and many other club/league/tournament/individual websites. The committee researched all the rules and standards and could not find a comprehensive published set of bocce rules and standards for Court Bocce. The committee, using all the information gathered, then developed a set of rules and standards that basically encompassed the common existing rules and standards being used. Rules that make good common sense and emphasize skill, finesse, and strategy were used. The committee then set out to make these available so that Court Bocce could become a sport played the same way anywhere you go rather than a game played by whatever rules the local players decided to adopt. To accomplish this the Bocce Standards Association was formed in 2001 with the committee as initial Directors. The Bocce Standards Association is a non-profit organization operated by bocce fanatic volunteers. The rules and standards are published on the Internet to make them readily available to everyone at no cost. Excellent comments were received during the initial one year comment period and most were included. The Court Bocce standard rules were finalized in July, 2002. Other forms of bocce may be considered in the future.

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What is Team Play Bocce?

Team play bocce refers to teams consisting of 4 players each playing competitively in a series of games or matches in a league or tournament.

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How are the Social Bocce Teams formed?

Teams are formed by the group present at the start time. Team formation depends on the number and mix of men and women present. Sometimes the men and women play on separate courts or play mixed. Typically, new players are split among the teams and given assistance by an experienced player.

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Is there a fee or any cost to play Bocce?

Fees depend on the bocce club or the owners of the courts. Equipment is usually furnished at the courts. Many courts are public with no fees charged.

Typically a nominal fee is charged for play in leagues or tournaments to cover incidental expenses, prizes, and trophies.

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Can your information be copied and used?

Yes. The whole purpose of the Bocce Standards Association is to promote the use of standards for the sport of bocce. We are non-profit, do not sell anything, and in fact, want to give away our work. The only limits for copyrighted information on our site is that it may not be reproduced in any form to be sold without written permission. We encourage players, clubs, and organizations to copy and distribute our court rules free of charge to anyone and everyone. We also encourage them to put them on their websites. To assist this we have assigned an URL to the the rules page such that you can insert a hyperlink for your rules directly to our webpage for rules. The URL address for the rules page is  http://rules.boccestandardsassociation.org

Other websites are encouraged to link to this website for bocce rules, court, and equipment standards.

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What are the basic shots to master in Court Bocce?

There are 3 basic shots used on standard courts and an infinite number of ways to play them in a game. The 3 shots are 1) the pointing shot, 2) the hitting shot, and 3) the bank shot. Experience, ability, strategy and personal preference will determine the choice of the shot to use at any particular time. All 3 shots require practice and mastering them assures a player rewarding results.

The Pointing Shot   This shot is the most commonly used bocce shot. The player delivers the bocce ball in a crouched position so that the ball is released underhanded in a smooth, slow rolling motion. The objective of this shot is to try to roll the bocce ball as close to the pallino (target ball) as possible with a minimum of force. The pointing shot is best used when there are no other balls blocking the path to the target. Pointing type shots are also used to block an opponent from hitting your point balls or to set up a ball that can be hit later by you or a team mate to move it into a scoring position.

The Hitting Shot   This shot is basically a "smash" shot and is often referred to as a "spock" or "raffa" shot. Hitting is a strong shot executed close to the ground and intended to dislodge an opponent's ball, move the pallino, or disrupt an undesirable formation of balls on the court. This shot is an underhand shot and can be delivered in any manner the player chooses except as a "volo" type shot. Typically a player starts far back on the court, takes a few running steps, and releases the bocce ball prior to crossing the hitting foul line.

The Bank Shot   A standard bocce court provides the ability to bank a shot off the sideboards. The use of this shot is very advantageous to use when other bocce balls on the court are blocking a direct shot to the pallino or to another ball you want to hit. On a good banking court the ball will come off the sideboard at the same angle used to hit the sideboard. Often a player uses the bank shot to place the pallino and then follows by banking the first bocce ball at the same point.

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What skills are needed to play Bocce?

There are specific playing skills involved to master a number of different shots, to develop a delivery form that best suits each individual, and to apply the strategies required to best play a game. The skill of delivering the ball is similar to reading the green when putting in golf in that each shot is different, the court is not perfectly flat, and the speed of the ball must be judged properly to place the ball exactly where you want it. The basic shots to master are pointing (placing the ball as close as possible to the target ball), hitting (purposely hitting opponent’s balls away that are in for points or moving the target ball for your own advantage), blocking (placing your ball in a position to block your opponent and protect your point balls), banking (using the side rails to change the angle of approach to get around blocking balls), and setups (placing a ball in a location so that you or your team mate can hit it into a scoring position). You will see as many methods of throwing the balls as there are players. They vary from an upright position to down almost on one knee position, a slightly lofted ball to a smooth release at court level, and standing still to running. Even with great skills, one must employ excellent game strategy to win games. You must know where to initially place the target ball, when to use each of the various shots, which player to match against each of the opponents, which player to use for each shot, observing your opponents’ weaknesses, observing how every ball rolls on the court, and calculating the scoring risks for each shot you take.

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What is a "volo shot" and why is it not permitted?


The volo shot is a high arcing shot usually thrown with a back spin with the objective of directly hitting another ball or landing very close to the pallino with little or no roll. For safety, protection of the court playing surface, and to be in agreement with rules on most other clay courts, it was excluded.

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Why not have only one foul line for pointing and hitting?


The pointing foul line is 6 feet from the backboard; enough space to allow sufficient room for a one step delivery, yet not use up too much of the playing area. The hitting foul line is further out since most players like to have a running start (much like bowling) to implement a hard throw. Having a pointing foul line closer to the backboard creates a larger playing area for shorter courts.

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Why the clock style scoreboard and why doesn't it have a zero?

The clock style scoreboard has wide acceptance. It is relatively east to construct, is available to purchase, and it is visible and easily interpreted by all the players and fans. If we were starting from scratch, the  preferred arrangement would 11 points for a game with a zero replacing the 12, however, since there are so many scoreboards in use using the clock layout  and 12 points determining the winner, it was left that way.

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What happens if the "IN" ball has not been properly called?

The whole game of bocce is based on the "IN" ball, the ball closest to the pallino. The scoring and the order that balls are thrown by each team are based on the IN ball. After each ball is thrown the IN ball MUST be determined by the referee or end captains before the next ball is thrown. The rules state that if the end captain from each team agree on the IN ball no measurement is required or if they do not agree, a measurement is taken to determine the IN ball. Once the IN ball has been determined and the next ball has been thrown, that ball is the IN ball from then on unless something happens to change the position of the pallino, the position of the IN ball, or the position of the opponent's ball that it was previously compared to or an opponent's ball gets closer than the ball that the IN ball was previously compared to. At this time, the IN ball is again determined.
 
When making final point counts after all 8 balls have been played, the IN ball just before the 8th ball is thrown is not subject to being re-measured or re-determined unless something happens to change the position of the pallino, the position of the IN ball, or the position of the opponent's ball that it was previously compared to or an opponent's ball gets closer than the ball that the IN ball was previously compared to. Only then is the IN ball again determined. To change the IN ball at this time without valid reasons makes the whole frame invalid because it has been played in error.
The rule about measuring after all 8 balls are thrown is there to alleviate arguments where people have been calling 2, 3, or 4 points during the frame without official measurements.
 
It is the team's end captain and team captain's responsibility to assure that the IN ball is properly called during a frame before the next ball is thrown because if it is not called correctly, the next ball is thrown in error and probably all others after that. This is the time to determine the IN ball, not later. If the IN ball is not very obvious, make the measurement.
 
In short- For the game to be valid, the IN ball once declared and the next ball is delivered, it IS the IN ball until something happens to change the arrangement of the closest ball of each opponent at the time it was declared the IN ball. Any protest on the IN ball call must be made by the other team before the next ball is played.

 


Why is the cup type measuring device used?


The cup type measuring device with the tape centered on the top was included because it is extremely accurate since there is very little clearance in the cup for the pallino, the tape can be locked with the first measurement to the outside diameter of the bocce ball, and nothing is moved as the tape is simply rotated to see where the locked tape tip is relative to next ball measured. The tape actually does not need any measurement markings on it. Various known measuring devices were included in the standards with no intent to preclude other reliable measuring devices.

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How are ties broken in league play?


Some method should be adopted by the league to break ties
since there is a likelihood of two or more teams winning the same number of matches or games. Many use the total points scored over the season to break ties . Others use points scored and points given up. The difference in points scored awarded to the game winner is another method.

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Why can't players be reassigned at will during and between games?

Strategy is an essential part of bocce. It is the responsibility of the captain to properly set up the team for the match. If allowed to shift players around, captains would continuously be moving players either to better balance with an opponent or to create an imbalance in their favor. Typically, the 2 ends of a court play differently and players must switch ends between games to assure an advantage is not given to one of the teams.

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What is match play and why have match play?

Match play in bocce is similar to match play in golf where score doesn't count, the only thing that counts is who won the hole. In bocce match play the only thing that counts is who won the frame. Match play can be used where control of the time to play a match is essential. The time to play a single frame is pretty consistent and by setting the number of frames to be played, the length of the match is controlled. Measurements are at a minimum since only the 'In' ball needs to be determined. In a standard 12 point bocce game, the time to play can vary from a minimum of 3 frames (4 points per frame) to 23 frames (12 to 11 score, 1 point per frame). Match play is a convenient way to hold a tournament where the number of players or teams is so large that the number of courts and the available time cannot accommodate them if standard games are played. Also in match play if 4 points are scored in a frame, all is not lost since still only one frame was won.  See 'Bocce Match Play' section.

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How do websites qualify to be on your 'Links' webpage?


Currently sites are put on the Links page gratis and chosen for visitors to the site to access more useful bocce information. Sometime in the future we may only link sites that carry our approval mark on their bocce equipment, those that fully support our standards effort and provide a link to our website.

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