OFFICIAL RULES OF PLAY
These are the Official Rules of “Open” Bocce in America.
- A court must be 60′ x 9′ in order to hold USA Bocce sanctioned events.
- The recommended dimensions are 75′ x 10′ — to 91′ x 13′.
- Bocce courts can be played on various surfaces; all with different advantages and disadvantages. Surfaces (or mixtures of surfaces) include synthetic resin, DG, clay, groomed grass, carpet, oyster shell, or synthetic turf. Synthetic resin is the highest quality surface.
- 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.
- 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. Either is USA Bocce approved.
- USA Bocce feels there is an advantage in ‘open bocce’ in having “flat” railings — creating strategies and gaming around playing the rails effectively.
- Regarding back rails, some clubs use ‘dampers’ to deaden the balls against the back rails. All back rails architectures are legal. (See rules regarding hitting the back walls.)
- Official USA Bocce balls are 107 mm in size and 920 grams in weight.
- Pallinos can vary in sizes and weights. 50 mm pallinos are recommended.
- Players or teams with their own (unique) balls is not only accepted, but encouraged.
RULES OF THE GAME
- A set of 8 balls (four for each team), with 2 different colors and a target ball; called a pallino.
- 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.)
- A frame is a mini-match inside a game. In each frame, all balls are thrown, with the objective of having as many of your balls closer to the pallino than your opponent’s closest ball.
- Eight shots make up a frame, 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 his/her 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.
Tossing the Pallino
- The pallino must pass (or be resting on) the middle line — and cannot hit the back rail.
- 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 player that rolls the pallino does not have to roll the first ball.
- 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 a ball. 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 thrown 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 a ball, both feet must be inside the court unless that player has a significant physical impairment.
Backboards and Sideboards
- If a pallino or ball hits the backboard (back rail) 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.’
- 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 team hits the backboard on their first roll (without touching the pallino), the team 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/when they do, the turn goes to the other team. This continues until all balls are played.
- After the pallino is in play, a ball does not need to cross the center line.
- 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.
“Rolling the Bay”
This new rule began in California – and is aggressively spreading across clubs throughout the country. “Rolling the Bay” is now used in all USA Bocce sanctioned events and tournaments. (USA Bocce highly recommends adapting the “Rolling the Bay” into play; clubs and leagues that have adopted “Rolling the Bay” can’t imagine it any other way — calling it “the 3-point shot of bocce” on the last shot of a frame. It’s a bit like ‘doubling down’ on a frame’s last ball — adding a new, exciting dimension to “Open” bocce.
- You may choose to “Roll the Bay” only on the last/eighth ball of a frame — and you can only ‘Roll the Bay’ when your team is already in a position to score at least one point.
- Two things must happen to successfully “Roll the Bay.”
A. A player must declare he/she is “Rolling the Bay” (by announcing it to the players, or by touching his/her hands together over his/her head.)
B. The shot must add an additional point to the player’s/teams’ score for the frame.
- If the player successfully ‘Rolls the Bay,” the player/team gets a ‘bonus’ point — in addition to the points they would have earned in the frame. (As an example, Let’s say you had 3 balls closest to the pallino before you throw the last ball. If you successfully “Roll the Bay,” you don’t get 4 points – you get 5 points in the frame.)
- If the player doesn’t meet these requirements, the team loses a point from their ‘normal’ score in the frame.
- A rare specific regarding “Rolling the Bay… ”Let’s say you “Rolled the Bay,” and your shot not only didn’t get an additional point, it gave the opponent points in the frame. The opponents get the ‘normal’ points – plus a ‘penalty’ point.
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.
- Games are often played to 7 (best-of-three games), or a single game to 9, 10, 12 or 15. (In order for matches to last an hour, many leagues’ matches are best-out-of-3 games to 6 points.)
- There is no ‘win by 2’ in bocce.
- There is no bonus point for ‘kissing the pallino’ on a shot.
- 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 USA Bocce is a laser 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 frame rolls in the next frame.
- There are no restrictions regarding where you can walk on the courts. As with a putt in golf, it is legal to size 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 (capos) should be the final voices. Under no circumstances should ‘fans’ weigh-in on match rulings – and their opinions should never influence a decision on a court.
- If balls are accidentally moved or picked up, return them to an appropriate position.
- If a player rolls the wrong colored ball, replace the balls with the correct color.
- If a player/team rolls out of turn, (and the opponent acknowledges the mistake before a second ball is thrown) the opponent can either a)choose to allow the ball to be played, b) replace any moved balls back to the approximate spot, and correctly roll a new shot.
- Same rule applies if a player rolls an extra ball.
- If a team or 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 balls, in good faith, where the balls would have likely come to rest.
- If a moving ball accidentally hits a player on their own team, the opposing team may choose to either place the balls, in good faith, where the balls would have likely come to rest — or ask the player to re-roll.
If you find any omissions, have any suggestions, ideas — please contact USA Bocce.