The first example of bocce ball is dated to the year 5200 BC, discovered in a painting from an Egyptian tomb that showed two young boys playing the game. It spread throughout the region and was later adopted by the Greeks and Romans, still remaining popular into the Middle Ages.
Around 1300 AD, the game of bocce ball was prohibited to only the lower classes of society, as it was believed that this game took time away from more “noble” pursuits such as archery and training for war.
It has been reported that George Washington was an avid fan of bocce as well, with some evidence showing he had installed bocce courts at his estate at Mount Vernon.
Playing Bocce Ball with George Washington in the popular Assassin's Creed 3 video game, set during the American Revolution.
In 1896, during a resurgence of popularity, the first Bocce Olympic event was held in Athens, Greece. Bocce has been a part of international sports ever since.
Bocce is a popular sport due to the limited equipment needed, ability to play anywhere there is a large, open space, and that it is not limited to a specific age range: it can be played by young children, senior citizens, and everyone in between!
You don’t need much to play the ancient game of Bocce Ball.
- Balls: most bocce ball sets will come with 8 balls. These 8 balls are typically divided into 2 colors (4 balls in each color) or 4 colors (2 balls in each color). Official tournament-sized balls must measure 107-110mm in diameter.
- Pallina: also called the jack or cue ball, this is the target that each team will aim for in order to score points. The pallina must have a diameter of 48-63mm and the color must be easily distinguishable from the bocce balls.
- Measuring device: in order to determine which ball is closest to the pallina, it is recommended to have a small measuring device. A retractable steel or cloth tape measure is the most common measuring device, but you could also use your foot or a stick and eyeball it if you are not playing in a tournament.
Setting up for a bocce ball game can be as casual as playing on a large grassy area to using the official court dimensions used in tournament play.
Most people will play in the backyard, so the official court dimensions may not be accessible.
After determining who will go first (rock, paper, scissors is a good way to figure this out!) a player will roll or toss the pallina into the grass.
After tossing the pallina, that player must go first in attempting to roll or toss their bocce ball to get closest to the pallina. Each player will toss one ball, then the sequence will start over again until all the balls have been tossed.
Balls must be tossed underhand (released below the waist) but you can try to knock your opponent’s balls out of the way with your toss or even use your toss to move the pallina ball around the court, effectively removing your opponent’s balls from the opportunity to score.
At the end of the round, the player with the ball closest to the pallina will be awarded a point.
Depending on house rules, two points may be awarded if the bocce ball is touching the pallina ball at the end of the round.
Games are typically played to 12 points, but if you are playing in the backyard, 11, 15, or even 21 points may be the final score. House rules make the game more fun for all.
Tips for Beginners
- Keep a consistent form! Some people switch up their form based on the situation. Although this makes sense on the surface, and you may have some switch tweaks to your form, it is usually best to keep a consistent throwing motion with your tosses to take one more variable out of play.
- On the first tosses, or if you have a clear path to the pallina, a low roll to “run up” on the pallina is usually the best approach. This will force your opponent to try to roll the ball closer or try to knock your ball (or the pallina) around to eliminate the potential scoring opportunity of your toss.
- Bank shots are allowed! If you are not making the first toss, you can try to bank off your opponent’s balls (or your own) in order to get closest to the pallina.
If you are planning to play in the backyard with a group of friends at your next BBQ or cookout, we recommend the 90mm Backyard Bocce Ball Set.
Although this is not the official tournament size, this set comes with 8 balls in 4 different colors (2 balls of each color) so you can play with 4 or 8 players with ease.
For more serious players who are interested in tournament play, we also offer a 107mm Official Size Bocce Ball Set which includes 8 balls in 2 different colors (4 balls of each color) so you can practice for officially sanctioned bocce ball tournaments.
Both sets come with a convenient carrying bag, pallina ball, and measuring tape to solve any scoring disputes.