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Bocce Ball Rules

How to Play Bocce Ball

Bocce ball is played with two teams throwing four balls each towards the pallino. The team with balls closer to the pallino gets points. The first team with 12 points wins.

Bocce Teams

How many players on a bocce ball team?

Bocce ball teams have two to four players. Two players from each team are placed at each end of the court and are not allowed to switch ends during a game. Each of the players throws two balls. A team is allowed to have one or more alternate players. 

A team is allowed to play a match only if 2 or 3 of the team members are present. However, each player is allowed to throw 2 balls maximum (a penalty of 2 balls per missing player). If there are fewer than 2 players on a team present at the scheduled game start time, it forfeits the game with zero points and the opponent is awarded 12 points.

Team member roles

Each team must have a team captain who takes part in the coin toss. They also assign players to their position on the court for the match and may designate another player as an “end captain” for the end opposite that of the captain. The team captain and the end captain are the only people on the team who can go on the court for measurements

Starting a Game

Coin toss

The match starts with a coin flip between the captains of each team. The winner chooses between throwing the pallino first and picking the color of the team’s balls.

Consecutive games

If the same team plays in the next game, the players must switch ends between games, and the winning team throws the pallino to start the next game. Players can be replaced by substitutes, but the same player is not allowed to play 2 consecutive games from the same end of the court. If different teams are playing, the match starts over with the coin toss, and players may be reassigned by the captain.

Pallino throw

The pallino is the smaller target or object ball put into play. It is tossed underhand from behind the pointing foul line.

The pallino must cross the center line and end up at least 12 inches away from the sideboards or backboard without hitting the backboard. If the first thrower fails to do this, the other team gets their toss until a successful toss is made. If the second throw fails to seat the pallino, it may be placed approximately in the center of the hitting foul line so that the game is speeded up.

If a player throws the pallino while the other team should do it, the balls are returned and the frame starts over.  

When the pallino is in play, it can be knocked anywhere on the court but it can’t be back over the center line and must stay within the boundaries of the court.

Playing Bocce Ball

Bocce Ball Throws

The player who seated the pallino throws the first bocce ball. Like the pallino, the other balls are thrown underhand. If the first ball hits the backboard but doesn’t hit the pallino, the ball is removed and the team throws a ball again until they have a ball in play.   

Except for hitting, the players must throw all bocce balls from behind the pointing foul line. When a ball is released behind the pointing foul line, it is considered a throw for points. If a ball is released beyond the pointing foul line and before the hitting foul line, it is considered a throw to hit or spock other balls. Foul Line rules apply.

A team throws their bocce balls until they have one of the balls closest to the pallino or has thrown all its balls. If a team ties the opponent’s closest ball, it must throw again. The “IN” team (whose ball is closest to the pallina) only throws if opponents have thrown all 4 balls. 

Players are allowed to hit or spock (a toss targeted at the pallino or the other team’s bocce ball to remove it). But if a player wants to go past the pointing foul line to deliver a “hit” or “spock”, they must first inform the official referee or their opponent if there is no official referee.  If the thrown ball does not hit the pallino or another ball, it is removed from play, even if it does not hit the backboard.

It is allowed to bounce off the balls or play them against the sideboards.

If a ball hits the backboard without first touching the pallino or another bocce ball, it is a dead ball and is removed from play. Standard Penalties apply.

If the wrong color ball is thrown, it is replaced with a correct color ball after the ball comes to rest.

A ball must be removed from the play if a player throws it when the other team should throw or throws more than 2 balls. Standard Penalties apply. However, if a ball is thrown when the other team should throw because the Referee miscalled, the ball is returned and the correct player throws. Standard Penalty #2 applies.

10. If before the throw, something or someone outside the playing surface interferes a team’s legally thrown ball while moving, the ball is returned to be thrown again. Balls moved by the throw are reset to their approximate original position if it can be determined. Otherwise the frame is replayed. But, if a team member causes the interference, the ball is removed from play and the Standard Penalties apply.

If an opposing player or a referee accidentally or intentionally moves a team’s legally thrown ball from its resting position before the points are determined and the end of the frame is declared, the ball is reset to its approximate original position if it can be determined or the ball is sufficiently moved. Otherwise, the offended team can decide to leave the balls as they lay or replay the frame.

If a team member accidentally or intentionally moves a legally thrown ball from its resting position, the ball is removed from play. Standard Penalties apply.

Before measuring, the person who measures must press and rotate balls and the pallino to mark their original position on the court surface so that they can be replaced to their original position if they are accidentally moved while measuring.

If a bocce ball goes out of the court, it is a dead ball and is removed from play for that frame.

Volo shots (lofting the ball in the air attempting to hit the target) are not allowed.

Foul Lines

Pointing and hitting foul lines must be clearly marked across the playing surface so that foul line violations can be officially called and penalties applied.

Players are allowed to step on the proper foul line before releasing the pallino or a bocce ball, but not over it. (The width of the foul line mark can’t be greater than toe of foot.)

If a player steps over the foul line (their toe exceeds the width of the proper foul line), they will receive one warning. In case of subsequent fouls, the pallino throw will be nullified or the thrown bocce ball will be removed from play. Standard Penalties apply.

Standard Penalties

If a rule that requires the removal of a bocce ball from play is violated, that ball is immediately removed from play until the end of that frame (the violation is called and the ball is removed before the next ball is thrown otherwise the ball remains in play for the rest of the frame.) 

Any balls moved because of the action of the violation are reset to their approximate original position if it can be determined or the balls are sufficiently moved. Otherwise, the offended team can decide to leave the balls as they lay or replay the frame.

Bocce Ball Sets