Simple Lawn Bocce Ball Rules

by Katy Willis
The aim of bocce is to get as close to the pallino as possible.

The aim of bocce is to get as close to the pallino as possible.

Bocce is a ball sport that is played in a similar style to American lawn bowling. Bocce has been played since Roman times, and, although there are similarities between the first recorded games and modern bocce, the rules and style of play have changed and developed throughout the centuries. The game was banned in 1319, as the Roman Emperor Charles IV believed the game was interfering with the training of his army.


The playing area, referred to as the pitch, is a length of grass measuring 82 feet long and 12 feet wide. A line should be marked halfway down the playing area with a length of rope, which is the halfway line. The throwing line is the edge of the playing area, at the opposite end of the pitch from the area in which the balls are to be thrown. A measuring tape may be required. Bocce is played with eight large balls, which are usually made of plastic or metal, and with one smaller target ball, which is called a pallino. The eight balls are usually divided into four different colors.

Starting the Game

Bocce can be played with either two, four or eight players. The eight balls are divided between the number of players. If there are two teams, then players get two sets of colored balls each. Four players would get one set of colored balls each, and eight players would get one ball each for a total of four teams. A player is picked to throw the pallino, and he throws it from behind the throwing line towards the other end of the pitch.

Throwing the Bocce Balls

The player that threw the pallino begins by throwing one of his colored balls--trying to get it as close to the pallino as possible. The ball can be rolled or thrown, but, if it is thrown, then the bocce must land before the halfway line and roll the rest of the way. The ball must be thrown underarm. After the first player has thrown his bocce ball, he is known as “inside” because he has the closest ball to the pallino. A member of the opposing team then throws one of her bocce balls. If her ball is closer to the pallino, then the opposing team throws. If she is not closer to the pallino, then the team gets another try to throw one of their balls. They may continue to throw until they have used all of their balls or until they are closer to the pallino, in which case it is the other team's turn to throw again. Once one team has thrown all of their balls attempting to get closer to the pallino, then the other team may throw the rest of their balls. One point is given for the team that is closest to the pallino. There are no points scored if there is a tie. Games are usually played to 12 points, but players may decide to play to a different number of points as long as it is agreed to before the game begins. The team that scores the first point throws the pallino in the next round of bocce. If there are more than two teams playing bocce, then after the second team has thrown and if their bocce ball is closer to the pallino, the third team takes their turn and then the fourth team. Once all teams have thrown, play returns to the first team.


  • The Joy of Bocce, 2nd Edition; Mario Pagnoni, 2004
  • Bocce: A Sport for Everyone; Rico C. Daniele; 2000

About the Author

Katy Willis has been writing articles since 2005, and writes regularly for several knowledge banks and product review sites. She's had articles published in the "Lynn News" and "Diva." She specializes in mental-health, healthcare, dementia, gardening-related topics, photography and LGBT issues. She earned a Bachelor of Science in mental health nursing and a bachelor's degree in English literature from the University of East Anglia.

Photo Credits

  • Bocce colorate image by Paolo Pizzimenti from Fotolia.com