First off, you need to understand that the bocce that is generally played in the USA is very different from international style bocce. International bocce has very well defined rules that are consistent from one bocce venue and event to another. You can get a pretty good idea of what it is like by viewing pictorials I created – click International Rules and Volo Play from my main Joy of Bocce website.
If you are interested solely in the rules more commonly played in the USA, scroll down to “Dozen Steps To The Joy of Bocce” and “Open Rules” below. In international games, referees mark the positions of live balls and, not unlike billiards, players call their shots. If a player attempts a knockaway shot and misses, displacing other balls in the process, those displaced balls may be returned to their original positions (which were previously marked on the court surface).
You can read the Joy of Bocce Weekly issue I wrote about International Rules governing the North American Championships in Highwood, IL (2002) by clicking…
There are two sets of rules approved for international play – Punto Raffa Volo (these are described in the pictorial link above) and Volo. In Punto Raffa Volo rules, the three different shots are allowed (pointing, hitting on the roll, hitting on the fly) if executed according to the regulations, but under Volo rules only the volo and punto shots may be used. In other words, in the Volo game, if you decide to hit, you must loft, not roll your ball at the target. International Volo players generally use metal balls. To learn about the Volo rules click the Volo Play link to the left and read the Joy of Bocce Weekly by clicking: Volume II Issue 24
The best way to learn the rules, both International Rules and Open Rules is by reading my book which Newsweek called “The definitive guide to the sport.” There is an e-book version that you can order from the publisher ($9.95 – no shipping). Order the printed book ($18.45) or the the e-book by clicking…
Now, if you just want the “Readers’ Digest” version of the open rules and want to get started right away…peruse this section from my book:
Dozen Steps To The Joy of Bocce
1. Secure a set of bocce balls, a place to play, and some players.
2. Make two equal teams. One-, two- or four-person teams are most common.
3. Toss a coin or otherwise select who will play first.
4. The team that wins the coin toss pitches the pallino and then rolls the first bocce ball, trying to draw as near as possible to the pallino.
5. The starting team stands aside and does not bowl again until the opposing team gets one of their bocce balls closer to the pallino or runs out of bocce balls.
6. Play proceeds in this manner, observing the nearest ball rule. The team with the nearest ball stands aside and waits until such time that the other team has the nearest ball or has used up all its balls in the attempt. Remember – the team that is out plays – the team that is in delays.
7. After both teams deliver all balls, the frame or round is over. Score one point for each ball that is closer to the pallino than the closest ball of your opponent.
8. The team that scores the point(s) starts the next frame by rolling the pallino and the first bocce ball.
9. Games can be played to 11, 12, 15, 16, 21 points, or to any mutually agreeable count. North American Open Rules call for games of at least 12 points.
10. Balls can be tossed underhand or overhand, through the air or bowled along the ground.
11. Think ahead – like chess. Possible strategies include knocking an opponent’s ball out of scoring position, redirecting the pallino to a new position, and leaving a ball in front of the pallino to block your opponent’s attempt.
12. Have fun with this wonderful and ancient pastime – the best kept secret in sports.
In the USA there are some good international rules players. The United States Bocce Federation (see the navigation button for Related Links) sanctions all players who would represent the country in international play. However, most play in the USA is of the Open Rules type. The problem is that we have not yet standardized these rules. There are some archaic rules that took root years ago that just won’t seem to go away.
For a discussion of these, see chapter 11 of the second edition of my book, Tournament Play and Rules. It includes the full text of what I have termed North American Open Rules. Below is an excerpt. Or you can purchase the 4th edition of my book in which I have reprinted the United States Bocce Federation Open Rules.
The Bocce Guy