How to Play Bocce Ball

Become a bocce ball master and learn the history of the sport with this simple guide.
Build a Bocce Ball Court

Your Court is Complete

You can find bocce ball court sets in stores or make your own.

You can find bocce ball court sets in stores or make your own.

Bocce is a time honored sport that has been played for centuries around the world. While it has been regarded as a game for the common people, there was a time when playing was reserved strictly for nobility. These days, in parts of Europe, it is commonplace to see groups of people playing bocce in the park. In recent years, bocce has gained popularity in the US and sets are widely available in discount stores around the country.

A Brief History of Bocce

  • The first documented history of the game was in 5200 BC in a painting in an Egyptian tomb.
  • Bocce spread through Palestine and by 600 BC was adopted by the Greeks, who passed it on to the Romans.
  • In 1319 AD, Bocce was prohibited from play by anyone of lesser than noble status, as it was feared that it took too much time away from practical endeavors and military training. 
  • By 1519, the game once again became public and spread to places like Belgium and Holland.
  • The Republic of Venice condemned the sport in 1576 and the Catholic Church prohibited clergymen from playing bocce.
  • Guissepi Garibaldi, sometimes referred to as the George Washington of Italy, popularized the sport and made it what it is today whilst unifying Italy.
  • In 1896, the first Bocce Olympiad was played in Athens, Greece. It has been an international sport ever since.
  • The first bocce clubs were formed in Italy and the first recorded Italian league was established in 1947. This was also the first year of the annual Bocce World Championships.

Bocce is a fun outdoor game for the whole family, employing much strategy and skill. It can be played by individuals or in teams. The objective is fairly clear and the basic skill is easy to develop. With a small investment and readily available materials, you can build a simple bocce court in your yard that will provide hours of fun for family and friends.

The rules of bocce vary dramatically from tournament play to basic backyard enjoyment. While fun to watch, the tournament rules are much more stringent and require a court that is not practical for most US yards. The simplified rules make it much more attainable and easy for players of any age to comprehend. If official tournament rules are more your thing, a quick search of the internet will reveal many sites dedicated to the subject.

Basic Backyard Bocce Rules

  • There can be up to 8 players.
  • Each team chooses a color or, if applicable, each person chooses a color and a pattern.
  • Determine who will go first.  You may wish to flip a coin or choose the player with the closest birthday.
  • Choose a foul line that you must not cross when throwing your Bocce ball. If using a walled court, stand outside of the frame.
  • The first player tosses out the pallino (smaller target ball that comes with the set).
  • The first player then begins play by throwing out a bocce ball attempting to get as close to the pallino, as possible.
  • The next team or person takes a shot at getting their ball closer to the pallino than the first player.  If they succeed their ball is called "inside".
  • The second player continues until they have either gotten a bocce ball "inside" or they have thrown all of their balls.
  • Play continues until all balls have been thrown.
  • Points are awarded to the team with the most "inside" balls.
  • Only the team with the most "inside" balls gets points.
  • In the event of a tie, no points are awarded.
  • The winner of each match throws the pallino and first ball for the next match.
  • Game is won by the first player to reach 13 points.

Note: It is perfectly acceptable to hit and move the pallino into a different position with your bocce ball, thus potentially changing the "inside" balls.  Likewise, it is acceptable to knock an opponent’s balls into a different position.  You may also bank off of your own bocce balls or your opponent’s.

Next Up

How to Build a Covered Sandbox

This weekend, build a covered sandbox for the kids. The roof on this DIY sandbox will keep the play area well-shaded and free of leaves, twigs and rain.

21 Classic Board Games to Play as a Family

Trade-in your screens for a little family-friendly competition around games that have spanned generations.

How to Build Regulation Cornhole Boards

This bean-bag toss game is fun and easy for the whole family. Building a cornhole set is a fairly easy woodworking project that you can tackle in a day.

The Best Lawn Games to Amp Up the Fun This Summer

Whether you're playing on grass, sand or water, stock up for summer with these 15 guaranteed-to-entertain outdoor games.

The Best Tools to Get Kids Hooked on Gardening

Foster an interest in being outside and outdoor gardening with these kid-sized tools.

How to Build a Modern Outdoor Bench

Looking for more outdoor seating or a decorative bench for your porch? Try your hand at this easy woodworking project that can be built in less than a day.

30 Gifts for Garden-Loving, Outdoorsy Dads

Dad doesn't need another tie. Find the perfect garden-centric gift that he'll want to use year-round.

How to Replace an Outdoor Water Spigot

If your outdoor hose spigot is leaking from the spout, it’s time to replace it. Here’s how to knock out this project in no time at all using a few simple tools.

The Best Outdoor Privacy Screen Ideas for Every Space

From roller shades to faux ivy, we're sharing the best outdoor privacy screens for every style, space and budget — because your backyard should be a judgment-free zone.

How to Properly Paint Your Home's Exterior

Give your house a fresh, updated look with exterior paint.

Go Shopping

Get product recommendations from HGTV editors, plus can’t-miss sales and deals.

On TV

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.