Games can be played one-on-one, with pairs, 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).
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 as possible closer to the pallino than your opponent’s closest ball.
Frames make up a game, games (in many cases) make up a match.
Matches, at many clubs, are 2-out-of three — with the first two games to 6 points, and the tie-breaker game (if necessary) to 5 points. This time-frame works well in a one-hour window per match.
Whether games are one match to 9, 10 or 12 — or two-out-of-three (as described above) is at the discretion of a club.
There is no ‘win by 2’ in bocce.
BEGINNING A GAME
Flip a coin to see who rolls the pallino to start a match. Or at some clubs, a player holds the pallino behind his/her back and the opponent guesses which hand has the pallino. All work. 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. Toss the pallino underhand; just as you would any other shot.
- Once pallino is in play, the pallino can be knocked anywhere on the court except back over the center line or out of the court (frame ends, play resumes at the opposite end, and the same team throws the pallino).
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 or gently remind your opponent of the rule. In the very extreme of the rules (and not suggested), after a warning issued, if the same player fouls again, the ball would be removed from the court, and other balls will be replaced to their original position.
Also, when a player releases the pallino or bocce ball, both feet must be in 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 POINTS AND WINNING POINTS
The object is to get your ball as close as possible to the pallino, establishing ‘point.’
Regardless of who through 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 his/her first roll (without touching the pallino), he/she throws 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 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. With that in mind, 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.
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 making 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.
Many clubs have varied ‘house’ rules regarding walking past centerlines, etc. ABA establishes 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” (THE 3-POINT SHOT OF BOCCE)
Endorsed and encouraged by the ABA, this added ‘rule’ has absolutely taken off on the west coast – 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.’
3 things must happen to successfully “Roll the Bay.”
- A team must already be in position to score at least one point.
- A player declares that he/she is “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.
(As an example, let’s say it’s the 8th ball of a frame. The team rolling the 8th ball has 2 points in position for points. He/she decides to ‘Roll the Bay.’ If successful, he/she gets 4 points – instead of 3. If unsuccessful, he/she is 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.
- 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 his/her own team, the opposing team may choose to have the player re-roll. In all of 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 center line.
- Teams can play with their own balls.
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For any questions, specifics, or recommend additions to the American Bocce Association’s “Official Rules of Play,” please contact the American Bocce Association.