Bocce Game and Rules

Bocce originated in Italy and is one of the oldest of all lawn bowling games. It is now gaining popularity in Canada and the U.S., since it can be played by people of all ages and on a great variety of surfaces.

Bocce is played between two players or two teams of up to four players on a team. It is played with 8 large balls, 4 of one color, 4 of another color and one small target ball called the “Jack.”

They can be the cheaper balls (water filled for weight), or the “professional” painted solid wood type, which of course are more expensive. Players seek to place their Bocce Balls nearer to the target jack than their opponent or displace the opponent’s Bocce Ball and so improve the position of their Bocce Ball in relation to the Jack. Bocce can be played in a variety of ways using various rules.

Open Bocce

Open Bocce is the Italian game modified for American conditions. It can be played almost anywhere on a variety of surfaces, in the back yard or front yard, on a smooth lawn or rough grass, a grassy meadow, on a golf course or sandy beach, on level ground or hilly terrain. Variety in surface and terrain calls for variety in skills and techniques of play, producing a game rich in surprise and suspense. The target ball, called the “Jack.” is thrown out by a member of Team A. He/She may toss the jack ball any distance and in any direction that they choose. The same player then rolls or throws their two Bocce Balls as close to the Jack as possible. Then a player on the opposing team rolls and tries to place their balls nearer the target ball. Then the second player from Team A rolls and finally the last player from Team B.

A variation to the above is allowed. The so called “Nearest Ball” rule may be adopted as follows: The first player rolls or tosses their first Bocce Ball only. He/She then steps aside and does not bowl again until the opposing side has gotten one of its Bocce Balls closest to the Jack. The side whose Bocce is closest to the Jack is called “Inside” and the opposing side “Outside” Whenever a team gets “Inside” it steps aside and lets the “Outside” team bowl. This continues until one side has used all its Bocce Balls. Players must follow their proper turn throughout the game. A player must use all their balls at each turn, except in a game of 2 individuals (singles). Then each player uses 2 balls at each turn

Court Bocce

There are certain added rules and methods of play defined by the court layout.

The Pitch:

Any type of surface may be used. The playing field should be traced on your playing surface as per illustration A.

Throwing the Target Jack:

At the beginning of the game the right of the first throw is decided by lot. Thereafter, it belongs to the team that last scored. The Jack is thrown from behind the foot line. A throw is valid when a Jack comes to rest in the Sm rectangle at the far end. The Jack’s whole circumference must be within the lines. If the first throw fails, the same team has the right to throw again. After two attempts, the opposing team may place the Jack in the 5m rectangle (at least 50cm 120 in.] from any line).

Position of the Players: When the Jack is thrown, all the other players must stand behind the same foot line as the thrower.

Throwing the Bocce Ball: The team that throws the Jack throws the first ball. The first opponent then throws. If two opponents are at equal distance from the Jack, the team that threw last throws again. If the tie remains, the other team throws and so on. When one team has delivered all the balls, the other team continues until all its balls are delivered. The players then measure to decide the scores and then change ends. If two opposing balls tie for nearest, the end is void and is replayed in the other direction with the same team delivering the Jack.

Type of Shot: Balls may be thrown in one of the three following methods:

(1) Standard Shot: The player must stand between lines A and B of the starting half and roll the ball towards the Jack. He must release the ball before line B but he may advance not further than line C after he releases the ball. The ball must stop at least on or beyond line F of the finishing half, must not run out of bounds and must not hit or move any other ball or the Jack in the court. The object of this shot is to get as close as possible to the Jack. If the ball thrown fails to comply with the above regulations, it is disqualified and removed from the court. All balls moved by such a foul shot must be returned to their original positions.

(2) Call Shot: The player must stand between lines A and C and release his ball before line C but he may advance not further than line D after he releases the ball. The ball must stop on or before line F of the finishing half and must not run out of bounds. In this case, however, the player specifies his target beforehand and his ball must hit that target, or at least another ball or the Jack, if they happen to be within one foot of the target named. In the absence of any object within one foot of the target, the player must hit the target itself. The ball must hit the target (or another within one foot) first, before hitting or moving any other ball on the court. All measurements are made from the outer dimensions of the balls and not the distance between the balls. Failing to comply with any of the above regulations, the ball is disqualified and removed from the court. All balls (or the Jack) moved by such a foul shot should be returned to their original position and the game resumed. If the shot was good, however, then the balls (or the Jack) moved shall stand where they lay. All balls knocked out of bounds are disqualified. Also any ball knocked before line F of the Finishing Half is disqualified; and of course, if the Jack is knocked out of bounds or before line F of the Finishing Half, the whole Frame is invalid and must be repeated.

(3) Aerial Call Shot: This shot is similar to shot No. 2 (call shot) in all respects, except that the ball is hurled through the air and must land either directly on or within 1 foot of the target named and immediately proceed to hit the target or an object (ball or Jack) within 1 foot thereof (the original target). The ball must, as in case of shot No. 2, hit the target (or another object within 1 foot thereof) before hitting or moving any other ball in the court.


When all balls have been thrown, the Referee (or a delegation of the 2 teams) shall proceed to measure the distance of the balls from theJack, measuring from the outer dimensions. Each ball that is closer to the target ball than the nearest ball of the opposing team, scores 1 point. In case of a tie between two balls of opposing teams, the balls can cancel each other’s score or may be played again by the same players. (An agreement on this point must be reached before the game is started.) In case of a tie between 2 balls of the same team, then both balls shall score.


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