ABA Official Rules of Bocce

These are the Official Rules of “Open” Bocce, the Official game of bocce in the United States.

Equipment

Court dimensions

  • The recommended dimensions are 75′ in length, and 10 feet in width.  
  • A court must be 60′ x 9′ in order to hold ABA sanctioned events.

Court composition

  • Bocce courts can be played on various surfaces; all with different advantages and disadvantages.  Surfaces (or mixtures of surfaces) include DG, clay, synthetic resin, groomed grass, carpet, oyster shell, or synthetic turf.
  • The finest courts create ‘the big three’: fast, flat, level play.
  • More important that the surface material is the condition of the courts.  The better the court conditions, the more enjoyable and competitive the play.

Court railings
Most clubs use ‘flat railings’; where balls can rest along the side rails.  A few courts slightly ‘ramp’ the sides — assuring balls can’t rest along the railings.

ABA feels there is an advantage in ‘open bocce’ in having “flat” railings — creating strategies and gaming around playing the rails effectively.

Balls
Official bocce balls are 107 mm in size and 920 grams in weight.

Pallinos can vary in sizes and weights.  50 mm pallinos are recommended.

Teams with their own (unique) balls is encouraged; especially in league play.

 

Rules of the Game

Equipment
A set of 8 balls (four for each team), with 2 different colors and a target ball; called a pallino.

Players
Games can be played one-on-one (singles), as doubles, triples, or foursomes.

  • In Singles, each person throws 4 balls and plays both ends of the court.
  • In Doubles, each team member throws 2 balls, playing both ends of the court.
  • In Triples, 9 balls are used instead of 8.  Each player throws 3 balls each and plays both ends of the court.  All other rules are the same.
  • In Foursomes, 2 members of a team are stationed at opposite ends of the court, and play 2 balls each (or all 4 players play both sides of the court, and throw one ball each).  (It is recommended, in league play, for 2 team members to be at each end of the court.)  

The Objective
A frame is a mini-match inside the entire match.  In each frame, the object is to end up with as many of your balls closer to the pallino than your opponent’s closest ball. 

Frames make up a game, games (in many cases) make up a match.

Beginning a Game
Flip a coin to see who rolls the pallino to start a match.  Or a player holds the pallino behind their back and the opponent guesses which hand has the pallino. All work.  The team that wins the toss can either roll the pallino — or choose the color of the balls. It’s recommended, in league play, to always start a match at the same end of a court.

Most importantly, get the game going…

Tossing the Pallino
The pallino must land between the center line – and can’t hit the back wall. If you don’t throw the ball within this area, the other team rolls the pallino. The first team that rolled the pallino in a frame always rolls the first ball.

Any player on a team can toss the pallino. The pallino must be tossed underhand; just as you would any other shot.

Pitch Line or “Foul Line”
A player may step on, but cannot step over, the foul line before releasing the pallino or balls.  A player can ‘follow through’ into the court as long as the ball is released before stepping into the court.

If a foot foul occurs, in the spirit of the game, either ignore it (best choice), or gently remind your opponent of the rule. In the absolutely most extreme of the rules, after issuing a warning, if the same player fouls again, the ball would be removed from the court, and other balls would be replaced to their original position.

Also, when a player releases the pallino or bocce ball, both feet must be inside the court unless that player has a significant physical impairment.

Backboards and Sideboards
If a ball hits the backboard without first touching another ball or the pallino, it’s a dead ball and removed from the court.

If a ball hits the backboard illegally and then strikes any stationary balls, the stationary balls are placed in their approximate original positions.

Players may use sideboards at any time.

Establishing Point and Winning Points
The object is to get your ball as close as possible to the pallino, ‘establishing point.’

Regardless of who threw the pallino, any player on the team can roll the first ball.

Team members can choose to shoot in any order they’d like; as long as each player throws an equal amount of balls. (If there are 3 players on a side, 1 player can roll 2 balls.)

If the first player hits the backboard on their first roll (without touching the pallino), they throw again until establishing ‘point.’

Then it’s the other team’s turn to try to make ‘point’ by getting their ball even closer to the pallino.  The second team continues throwing balls until they make ‘point,’ (rolling one inside the first team’s ball).  If they do, the turn goes to the other team. This continues until all balls are played.

After all the players have thrown their balls, the team that has the closest ball/balls to the pallino is awarded points. One point will be awarded for every ball that is closer to the pallino than the closest competitor’s ball.

You can score between 1-4 points in a frame (with the exception of incorporating “Rolling the Bay”; covered later in the rules).

Start a new frame at the other end.

Balls Knocked Off the Court
In the unusual event that the pallino is knocked out of the court or it is knocked in front of the centerline, the frame will end, no points are awarded, and the games will resume from the opposite end of the court – with the same team tossing the pallino.

If a ball is knocked off the court, it’s out of play.

Scoring
Games are often played to 7 (best-of-three games), or to 9, 10, or 12.  (Many leagues’ matches are 2 games to 6 points, and a playoff game to 5 points.)

There is no ‘win by 2’ in bocce.

Measuring
All measurements are made from the closest dimension of the bocce ball to the closest dimension of the pallino.

There are varied measuring devices; but the Official measuring device of the ABA is a Bocce Beam. 

Balls can be measured at any time – but keep measuring to a minimum. Be nice.

Once players have agreed on a measurement between two balls, if those balls haven’t been moved, you can’t ‘re-measure’ the balls.

If players have decided two balls are too close to make a decision, it’s a ‘tie.’ Since a team must establish ‘point,’ the same team rolls again until they definitively establish point. If a frame ends in a ‘tie,’ no points are scored in the frame, and the same team that rolled the pallino in that frames rolls in the next frame.

Court Etiquette
There are no restrictions regarding where you can walk on the courts.  As with a putt in golf, there is nothing wrong with sizing up a shot by looking at the ‘lay of the land.’  Yet it’s all about balance, and being respectful of the time and the importance of the pacing of a game.

When decisions are challenged in a match, team managers should be the final voices.  Under no circumstances should ‘fans’ weigh-in on court rulings – and their opinions should never influence a decision on a court.

“Rolling the Bay”
This added ‘rule’ has absolutely taken off in California – and is played in clubs throughout Southern California and the San Francisco Bay area.

Clubs and leagues that have “Rolling the Bay” in their Open Bocce games can’t imagine it any other way. They call it “the 3-point shot of bocce.”

It’s a bit like ‘doubling down’ on a frame’s last ball.

Only on the last and eighth ball of a frame, a player may choose to ‘Roll the Bay’ – and you can only ‘Roll the Bay’ when you are already in a position to score at least one point.

2 things must happen to successfully “Roll the Bay.”

  • A player declares that they are “Rolling the Bay.”
  • The rolled ball must successfully rest inside of the opponent’s closest ball; adding an additional point to the frame.

In this case, the team gets a ‘bonus’ point. If the player doesn’t land inside the closest opponent’s ball adding a point to their score, the team loses an ‘extra’ point.

(Here’s an example.  Imagine it’s the 8th ball of the frame, and a team has 2 points in position for points.  The player chooses to ‘Roll the Bay.’ If successful, they get 4 points – instead of 3. If unsuccessful, they are penalized a point, getting only 1 point in the frame.)

A rare specific regarding “Rolling the Bay.”

  • Let’s say you had 1 point in position for a point before you declared “Rolling the Bay.” Let’s say your shot not only didn’t get an additional point, it moved the pallino giving the opponent 2 points in the frame. The opponents get the 2 points – plus the penalty point = 3 points in the frame.

Specific Circumstances

  • If balls are accidentally moved or picked up, return them to an appropriate position.
  • If players role the wrong colored ball, replace the balls with the correct color.
  • If a player rolls out of turn, return the thrown ball and replace any moved balls back to the approximate spot before the ball was thrown.  If a player rolls out of turn and neither team notices the error until after another ball is played, continue play and let it go.
  • If a moving ball accidentally hits a player on the opposing team, a player can either choose to re-roll; or teams place the ball, in good faith, where the ball would have likely come to rest.  If a moving ball accidentally hits a player on their own team, the opposing team may choose to have the player re-roll. In all these cases, all affected balls are put back to their previous positions.
  • After the pallino is in play, a ball does not need to cross the centerline.
  • Teams can play with their own balls.