How to Play Yard Bocce Ball


Bocce ball, the backyard game as old as civilization itself. A game played by senators, emperors, presidents and the average Italian senior citizen alike. Its popularity is expanding in many different countries, and now bocce ball fever is taking the United States by storm.

Not only is bocce ball (aka bocci or boccie) a fun pastime for young and old, it’s a very versatile game that can be played almost anywhere. All you need is a flat playing surface, a set of bocce balls, a couple of friends, and a desire to have a good time.

People measuring distance of pallino from other bocce balls

What is Bocce Ball

Bocce ball, (pronounced Bah-chee) is a throwing/bowling game that has been around since the time of the ancient Roman Empire, perhaps even earlier.

Cousins with the popular European games of lawn bowling and pétanque, bocce ball is a game which involves either throwing or bowling balls near a target.

What You Need for Bocce Ball

To play bocce ball, you will need:

  • A flat playing area
  • A set of Bocce Balls
  • A tape measurer
  • 2-8 players

Making a Bocce Court

If you are trying to make a bocce court by the book, official bocce ball courts are 13 by 91 feet.

However, if you don’t care about official regulation size, you can make a court that fits your needs and yard space.

Bocce court’s surfaces can be made out of a number of different materials including:

  • Dirt
  • Clay
  • Sand
  • Oyster Shells
  • Grass or lawn
  • Artificial turf

To keep the materials from spilling out of the court, raised barriers are often constructed that serve as a border for the court.

Here are some materials you may consider when building a barrier around your bocce ball court:

  • Railroad Ties
  • Wood
  • Brick
  • Cinderblock
  • Pavers
  • Rocks

There are various design options when it comes to building your own bocce ball court.

The three main things to consider when building a bocce court is that the court is:

  1. Level
  2. Able to absorb the shock of the balls
  3. Has a clearly defined perimeter

Construction Tips for DIY Bocce Courts

Here are some tips if you are building a permanent Bocce court in your back yard.

  • Choose a space that is free from obstacles and irrigation plumbing.
  • Level the ground before construction
  • Place a barrier, such as a weed barrier or poly mulch to keep weeds and ground moisture from seeping into the court
  • Make sure the inner part of the court has a drainage system so puddles won’t form when it rains
  • Use a level throughout all parts of construction

Fun Additions to Bocce Courts

There are many ways in which bocce players customize their courts.

If you enjoy playing bocce with friends after the sun goes down, consider hanging strings of lights above the court for a magical look.

You can place solar lighting or recessed lighting around the border of the court.

Scoreboards are a handy and fun addition to make your playing experience more enjoyable as you are able to keep track of the score easier.

Bocce ball racks are also a great addition to any bocce set up so that you won’t have to lug the balls out of storage each time you play.

How to Build an Easy Bocce Ball Court

It doesn’t take a lot of money or hours of work to make a simple bocce ball court.

If you are looking for a nonpermanent court, or something that you can whip up on the fly, all you need is some rope, paint or other material to mark off the border and a flat, impact friendly surface.

Like it’s cousins, lawn bowling and pétanque, you can use a flat lawn as long as it is free from obstacles.

Mark the border, making sure that it is easy for all players to see.

Remember, although regulation size is 13 x 91, you can make it as big or small as you like.

Red and Green Bocce balls on green grass

Bocce Balls

There are nine balls in bocce ball, a small ball called a pallino, (aka a boccino or jack ), and eight larger ones.

According to BocceStandardsAssociation.org, modern bocce balls are usually made out of hard plastic, wood, metal, or resin.

They are generally very dense, which can cause surface damage to an area that isn’t built for impacts.

The eight larger bocce balls are divided into two different color groups, each color representing a certain team’s ball.

Bocce ball sets can be purchased at most sporting goods stores, or shops that carry outdoor games.

Indoor bocce ball sets are also available, but they are generally made of lighter materials than the out door sets.

If you are interested in buying a set, keep in mind that prices for bocce ball sets run anywhere from $17-$100.

DIY Bocce Balls

Because bocce balls are so dense, it is hard to reconstruct them.

However, you can make your own unofficial set as long as one ball is smaller and the other eight are larger and uniform in size and weight.

For example, you can use a golf ball for the pallino, and use eight dense rubber balls for the other bocce balls.

If you are looking for a fun, indoor safe version, try using Styrofoam balls, with a small pallino, and eight larger balls.

How to Play Bocce Ball

Once the court and equipment are ready, it’s time to bocce ball.

First, divide into two teams.

Each team should be between 2-4 people.

Second, flip a coin to find out who goes first.

Third, a player from the first team takes the pallino and tosses or rolls it to the back half of the court.

If the player fails to properly place the pallino, team two gets a chance to set the pallino.

If team two fails to set it properly, team one tries again.

The process is repeated until the pallino is properly placed

The object of the game is to get the teams balls as close to the pallino as possible.

Once the pallino is in place, each team stands behind the foul line and takes turns throwing balls at the pallino, starting with the player that placed the pallino.

If the player’s ball gets out of bounds, they keep tossing until a ball finally can be considered in play.

The opposing team then tosses their ball, trying to get closer to the pallino.

The team whose ball is closest to the pallino becomes the ‘in’ ball, while the and the other team becomes the ‘out’ ball.

The ‘in’ ball team steps aside and the ‘out’ ball team throws their balls until they get their closer to the pallino, making them the new ‘in’ ball team.

If a ball lands outside the boundaries, it is considered dead and out of play until the next round.

The round, or frame is over when both teams use up all of their balls.

Points in Bocce Ball

According to Backyard Bocce , only one team is awarded points for each frame.

The winning team is the one with their balls closest to the pallino. (For close calls, use a measuring tape, measuring from the center of the pallino).

The winning team scores a point for each ball that is between the closest opponents and the pallino.

If a ball is touching the pallino, (aka kissing) that ball is awarded two points.

If both teams closest balls are the same distance from the pallino, then it is considered a tie and both teams don’t receive any points.

At the beginning of the next round, the winning team of the previous frame gets to set the pallino.

The players keep playing different frames until one team reaches 16 points and is declared the winner.

Other Variations of Bocce Ball

As with any other game, bocce ball can be customized to your wants and available resources.

For example, instead of using balls try using bean bags, or have three teams instead of one.

Perhaps instead of seeing who gets the closest to the pallino, see who can get the furthest without going out of bounds.

Maybe instead of throwing or rolling balls, you can use a golf club to hit the balls as a fun put put/ bocce hybrid game.

If you have lots of room, use Frisbees as the bocce balls and practice your throwing skills as you aim towards a Frisbee pallino.

Place a pallino in the center of the court and use water balloons to see who can hit it.

You can even do a jumbo version of the game using beach balls.

Use your imagination and see what other fun variations you can play with your friends and family.

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