Basic Bocce Rules

I played my first bocce ball game recently and got hooked! 

Bocce rules are pretty simple, and teaching the bocce ball rules to my young daughter was easy. 

It's a fun game for players of all ages that you can play anywhere - Play outdoors, indoors, at the beach, or even in the dark!

Bocce Rules

Bocce is played by 2 teams of 1-4 players who try to earn points by throwing their bocce balls closest to a small ball called a "pallina."

Bocce Rules
Playing Area

A bocce ball game is played on a rectangular court that measures 12 feet wide by 60 feet long.  

bocce ball court

The bocce court surface can be made of dirt, clay, grass, or any artificial surface.

It's important that the surface be level with no obstructions that would interfere with the ball rolling in a straight line.

The regulation bocce court is surrounded by walls made of a rigid material, like wood or Plexiglas.

The end walls should be at least 12 inches high, and the side walls must be at least as high as the bocce balls. The walls are used during play for bank shots or rebound shots.

The court is marked with 3 lines:

  • Foul Lines (2) – A foul line is marked at each end of the court 10 feet from the backboard.
  • Half-Court Mark – A center court line extends from sideline to sideline 30 feet from each backboard.
portable bocce court

Interested in building your own bocce court?

I've built a simple, portable one out of trim boards and rope that folds up and stores quickly and easily. You can also find simple portable ones that don't require any building on your part.

Bocce Rules

In addition to a court, you need the following equipment to play an official bocce ball game: 

Bocce balls – Bocce is played with 8 balls and 1 pallina. The 8 balls can be made of a variety of materials like wood or a composite material.

Official tournament bocce balls measure a little over 4 inches in diameter.

The balls can come in a variety of colors. Each team gets 4 balls of one color, and they must be a different color than those of their opponent. 

bocce balls

Bocce balls

Pallina – The pallina is a small ball about 2.5 inches in diameter that should be a color totally different from any of the other balls being used. White, red, and yellow are popular colors for the pallina.



Measuring device – Any kind of measuring tape or stick can be used to measure the distance between balls.

bocce measuring device

Measuring tape

Bocce Rules
Starting Play

A coin toss determines the color of balls each team will use and which team has the pallina first.

Delivering the Pallina - 3-Attempt Rule: The team with the pallina has 3 attempts to toss the pallina between the half-court line and the 10-foot foul line at the opposite end of the court. If they aren't able to get the ball in that area, their opponent has one chance to do it. If they can't do it either, the pallina is placed in the center of the opposite foul line.

Bocce Rules
Sequence of Play

bocce doubles

The pallina is rolled or tossed by a member of the team who won the coin toss. The player who tosses the pallina then has to deliver the first bocce ball.

After the first ball is played, the opponent delivers their bocce balls until they "take the point" or play all 4 of their balls.

The team with the ball that ends up closest to the pallina is called the "in" team, and the other team is called "out." Once a team gets "in," they step aside and give the "out" team a chance to deliver their balls until they get "in."

At the end of each frame, players move to the other end of the court and deliver their balls in the opposite direction.

Bocce Rules
Ball Delivery

  • A player may roll, toss, bounce, or bank his ball down the court.
  • The ball must stay inbounds, and the player who delivers the ball must remain behind the 10-foot foul line.
  • A player may choose to hit an opponent's ball to knock it out of the way, or they can hit a ball from their own team to try and gain a more advantageous position.
  • A player can grip the ball with his hand either over or under the ball, but it must be released with an underhand motion below the waist.
  • No player may play his ball until the pallina or all other balls have come to a complete stop.
bocce ball rules
bocce ball game

Number of Balls Each Player Delivers:

  • Singles (1 player on each team) – Each player delivers all 4 balls.
  • Doubles (2 players on each team) – Each player delivers 2 balls.
  • Team (4 players on each team) – Each player delivers 1 ball.

Bocce Rules
Player Rotation

The players on each team can choose to play their balls in any order, provided the player who tosses the pallina delivers the first bocce ball. The player rotation can change from frame to frame, but no player may deliver more than their allotted number of balls.

Bocce Rules

At the end of each frame (when both teams have delivered all of their balls), scoring is determined in the following manner:

  • Points are given to the team whose balls are closer to the pallina than the closest ball of the opposing team.
  • Teams can earn from 1-4 points depending on how many balls they have that are closer to the pallina than the closest opponent's ball.
  • It may be easy enough to determine the distance visually, but you may need to measure it if it looks close.
  • Measurements are taken from the center of the bocce ball to the center of the pallina.
bocce game

Once the points are determined, the players pick up all of the balls, walk to the opposite end of the court, and play continues into the next frame. The team that wins each frame delivers the pallina in the next frame. 

Bocce Rules

During a Frame

If two balls from opposite teams are the same distance from the pallina, the team that rolled last will continue to roll until the tie is broken. (Example: Team #1 rolls the ball toward the pallina and establishes the point. Team #2 rolls a ball that stops the same distance from the pallina. Team #2 continues to roll until it gets a ball closer.)

At the End of a Frame

If the two balls closest to the pallina are the same distance and they are from opposite teams, no points are given and the pallina is given back to the team who had it at the start of the frame.

Bocce Rules

The length of the game depends on the number of players. The game is played until a team earns the following number of points:

  • Singles = 12 points
  • Doubles = 12 points
  • 4-Player Team = 16 points

Bocce Rules

The following actions are illegal and result in penalties:

  • The feet of the player delivering the pallina must stay behind the 10-foot foul line until the ball is released. If the line is crossed, the ball is called dead and removed from the court. If the ball hits other balls and moves them, they are all moved back as close as possible to their original positions.
  • If a player rolls more than his allotted number of balls during a frame, the extra ball is declared dead and removed from the court.
  • If a player moves a ball belonging to his own team, it is considered dead and removed from the court.
  • If a player moves one of his opponent's balls and there are remaining balls still to be played, the ball is moved back as close as possible to its original position. If all 8 balls have already been played before an opponent's ball is moved, any ball that was moved is awarded one point each.
  • If a player interferes with a teammate's ball in motion, the ball is called dead and removed from the court.
  • If a player interferes with an opponent's ball in motion, the team fouled has one of the following options:
    Play the ball over.
    Declare the frame dead.
    Decline the penalty, accept the position of the touched ball, and keep playing.
  • If a team delivers the pallina and its first ball inappropriately, both the pallina and the ball are retuned and the frame starts over.

Bocce Rules
Dead Balls

A live ball is any ball that is delivered inbounds. A ball is dead if it:

  • is the result of a penalty.
  • goes out of the court.
  • hits the top of the sideboards or end boards.
  • is the result of a foot foul.
  • is the result of an illegal movement of your team’s ball.
  • is the result of interference with a ball in motion by your own team.

Bocce Rules

Depending on the number of players, skill level, available equipment, or the size of your playing area, you can modify the basic bocce rules to fit your needs. Here are some modifications you can make:

  • Use bean bag balls for a fun indoor bocce game that won't mess up your walls.
  • Use a smaller court.
  • Use other kinds of balls like soccer balls, softballs, or basketballs.
  • Use balls you can kick and only use your feet to deliver the balls.
  • Play blindfolded.
  • To make teams more even, have some players use their weaker hand.
  • If you hit the pallina, you get bonus points (or you lose points).

The cool thing about bocce is you can play it anywhere!


indoor bocce

At the beach

beach bocce

In the dark

More fun bocce games...with a twist!

These are just a few easy ways to change up the bocce ball rules to fit your needs. Hopefully, they’ll give you some ideas for adapting the game to make it more fun for your group.

Special Olympics provides local, national, and international competition in bocce for individuals with cognitive disabilities. Follow the link for more info about adapted bocce rules and competitions in your area.

We've got lots more exciting kids sports activities that include ball and target games likes bocce! 

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