Italian bocce ball (A.K.A. Italian lawn bowling) is an age-old sport consisting of a combination of mental and physical skills you wouldn’t see in many other sports. Throwing a ball into the centre of a small court is not the game you thought it was and today, it’s going to be the game you play.
Using strategy and physics to calculate your throws, you need to beat your opposing team and win the pallino ball point. But, it’s not as easy as it might first sound. Here at The Hobby Kraze, we like to bring everyone one step closer to their hobbies that bring lasting joy and meaningful play.
So, whether it’s going head-first into a sport you’ve never tried or discovering new ways to enjoy things you already do, there’s a whole world of hobby adventure out there waiting for you. And, if calming play between two teams, some light bowling and a bit of strategic placement is for you, then read on!
So, to get you through all the not-so-complex bocce ball rules and ways you can learn how to throw a bocce ball for points, here’s everything we’ll be covering today:
- The Basics of Bocce Ball
- Where the Idea Stems from and How We got to Modern Bocce
- All the Reasons that Bocce is a great Game to Play
- Finding the Right Italian Bocce Ball and Pallino Ball for your Kit
- The Bocce Ball Rules and Step-by-Step Game Play
- Some Bocce Terms and Definitions from the BSA
- The Best Places to Enjoy a Game of Italian Bocce Ball
Before we get started with the beginner’s guide to bocce ball, the team here at The Hobby Kraze wanted to clear something up.
Bocce ball is a game very similar to – and often confused with – another ball sport called petanque. Not only this, but both of these sports are named ‘boules’ games as it is the French word for balls. And, some travellers have picked up the name to mean bocce or petanque.
So, there is a rather confusing community of people who call bocce ‘boules’ and people who call petanque ‘boules’ yet they are very different games.
For example: the main difference would be the way bocce ball rules state how to throw a bocce ball. In bocce, it is more of an underarm bowling action. Whereas with petanque, players will use more of an overarm baseball throw directed at the pallino (we’ll cover this term later on!).
Long story short; if you are ever asked to play a game of boules, always question whether they mean bocce or petanque; just to make sure everyone is one the same page and knowing how the ball will hit the ground running.
The Basics of Bocce Ball
company while trying to score points in rounds by bowling their ball closer to the pallino.
A pallino is a small white ball (notably smaller and heavier than the other balls in play). It is thrown into the ring by the starting team. Then, the rest of the game is based around making sure your bowled Italian bocce balls remain the closest to the pallino. When all balls from both teams are in the ring, the point is called and the next round begins.
All-in-all, this beginner’s guide to bocce ball is here to bring you a calming sport where there is no contact, no violence, no large pitches or fields and no need for innumerable quantities of expensive equipment to get you to the end of the hobby adventure.
Yet, it is still a competitive sport for all to enjoy.
You’re most likely to have been introduced to the existence of Italian bocce ball on holiday in Europe or while waiting for your restaurant to ready your table for a meal with the family. It is something that can be simply picked up and left as there is no strain on a player to remain in the career of bocce ball rules.
Where the Idea Stems from and How We got to Modern Bocce
So far in this ultimate beginner’s guide to bocce, we’ve called it ‘Italian bocce ball’ and while there is nothing wrong with this statement and we will likely continue, it is not called Italian bocce ball because it was invented in Italy.
On the contrary, bocce ball can be traced all the way back to our favourite hobbyists in history: The Ancient Egyptians. We know this to be true due to the vast numbers of hieroglyphics that depict the game of bocce played between everyone from the royals to the Hebrews.
All of this started in around 5200 B.C. before migrating through to China and the Middle East and then taken along the Silk Road to other historical cultures such as the Greeks and Romans. Within this origin story, anyone would play; young, old, man, woman, rich, poor and so on. Yet, it is the core heritage and popularity in the Roman Empire that dragged through to modern day Italy that leads us to refer to the game as being Italian bocce ball.
In fact, since it’s growth in modern centuries, bocce ball has repeatedly been a part of the Olympic Games.
To top it off, there are some sources that argue the popularity of bocce as a worldwide sport and game. With some firmly stating it is the third most popular sport after the likes of football and golf. However, other sources of popularity would suggest it would lie within the top 20 all time worldwide sports. After you’ve had your play, how popular do you think Italian bocce ball should be? Share your thoughts with the team on The Hobby Kraze’s social media.
All the Reasons that Bocce is a great Game to Play
Using all of the fabulous bocce ball rules in order to aim for the pallino ball is both a game and a sport. And, it doesn’t have to be taken seriously. When you’re not at an Olympic level (or, simply don’t want to become an Olympian Italian bocce ball player) then there’s no need to make the game something it isn’t.
However, because of its physical nature, it also allows you to get those vital body movements going and the heart pumping. So, not are you only using your head for strategical aim, you’re making sure your body sees the benefit of hobby adventures without having to join a competition team or sport.
There are many other positive aspects to the bocce ball game, too. Luckily, one fun-loving member here at The Hobby Kraze has put together a list of everything you could gain just by playing a couple of games of bocce ball. Have a look:
- You can release happy hormones and endorphins
- You’re keeping active
- You can lower blood pressure
- You’re using your mind for strategical advantage
- Keeping your mind and body active holds Alzheimer’s at bay
- It’s great for practicing your aim
- It can bring you together with friends and family
- There are tournaments around the world for you to travel and explore
- You can become part of a team at nationals if you want to
- It is a very affordable hobby to pick up
- There’s no need for expensive tools or attire
- You don’t have to head to a specified playing field and can play anywhere
- There’s no limit to how many or how little points will call the game
- It something you can pick up, put down and revisit later
- It allows all players to geta. Breath of fresh air
- It’s something you can also play with your grandparents
- When waiting for a restaurant abroad, you’ll be the person in demand
- It can help you improve flexibility for lower down bowls
- You’ll be improving your hand-eye co-ordination
- It makes use of mental and physical capabilities
- You can play in teams of 1, 2 or 4
- It’s a game that helps you socialise at bars or in the park
Finding the Right Italian Bocce Ball and Pallino Ball for your Kit
Bocce ball rules don’t truly cover the entire equipment stash you should have when playing Italian bocce ball. They generally state the specifications of the balls use, the court you’ll be playing in and how to throw a bocce ball.
So, it really is an easy and affordable hobby to pick up where the investment is reasonable. For example: a bocce ball set in the UK is around £70, in the US you can expect to find a set at around $40 and in Italy, you can find your first Italian bocce ball set for around €40.
Otherwise, here’s what you can expect your bocce ball bag to hold:
- 4 Bocce Balls (per team)
- 1 Pallino Ball
- A Court
- A Scoreboard
- A Pen
- A Bocce Cup Measurer
- Measuring Tape
- Referee Flag
- Court Brush
- Court Scraper
- Comfortable Clothes
- Hard-Wearing Boots
- Sun Cream or Umbrella
- Camera (to capture the fun)
When it comes down to finding the right types of bocce ball for you, it can really be a testament to personal choice. There are some balls that have lines on them for nothing more than design. Yet, others will be a perfect wood finish and shine varnish for the games that will be played indoors with family.
In order to make the game as friendly as possible, try and find a set of 8 bocce balls where not only the colours are different, but the hues are too. In Italian bocce ball, your standard ball set (apart from the pallino ball) features four red and four green balls, all with white sports lines over them. However, this has proven to be a difficulty for colour-blind players.
So, finding balls that are light and dark as well as different colours ensures everyone will be able to join-in on the fun. And, as this is the beginner’s guide to bocce ball, we make it our job to confirm every player is happy and safe.
In order to know which size ball you should buy, the standards say each of the 8 balls should be around 107mm in diameter. They should also have a net weight of 920 grams per ball. As mentioned, some of the more aesthetic sets can be made of hard wood but your generic set will be made out of the same durable plastic as a bowling ball.
Then, when it comes to the pallino ball, it will be white or silver and considerably smaller. However, there is no standardisation to the ball; as long as it is distinguishable from the 8 balls played throughout the game, it’s in.
Some Bocce Terms and Definitions from the BSA
Straight off the bat, we should probably explain that BSA stands for the Bocce Standards Association.
They are a US-based online association and community of bocce players that help to gather all the necessary terms and knowhow of the bocce ball rules. So, they are a good place to head to with the team if you’re looking to go toward a national level with your Italian bocce ball playing skills.
Here’s some other tricks and terms you might come across in the jargon of bocce:
When the coin is tossed and the two teams know who is throwing the pallino ball, then they have the advantage. This is because they are able to throw or bowl the pallino ball to wherever in the court they feel will give the best opportunity to win the point. It also gives the first throw with the bocce ball when the pallino ball has landed.
With the court, there are often four walls made of wood or even a boundary drawn on the floor. Calling a short side ‘A’ and in a clockwise fashion calling a lengthwise side ‘B, the next short side ‘C’ and the final side ‘D’. You and the opposing team will both be at A and the backboard is C.
- Bank Shot
Also referred to as the act of banking, it means that you are able to bowl the ball into the court, using the sideboards to bounce and get closer to the pallino ball.
- Bocci or Boccia
These are other names used around the world to refer to the bocce game. In Italian, ‘boccia’ means to bowl. And, when shortened to fit modern global cultures of bocce ball, it simply means bowling ball. Hence, the way the bocce ball rules state knowing how to throw a bocce ball with a soft underhand or bowl.
- Dead Ball and Live Ball
As per the bocce ball rules, if a ball is disqualified by an official due to a technicality, then the ball is called a dead ball and is not counted in the point. On the other side of the coin, a live ball is a bocce ball that is in the game and legitimate to be counted.
Also known as a frame or a round, this refers to the match point. After both teams have rolled all their balls, the points are counted and that is the end. A new ‘end’, ‘frame’ or ‘round’ then begins and teams can throw their balls to gain a new point.
A foul is called when a player violates the Italian bocce ball rules. Whether it’s stepping over the foul line (side ‘A’ where you throw the ball from), having a ball go out-of-bounds or going over the line when releasing the ball. It results in a foul and the ball is then classed as a dead ball.
- Half Court Marker
The half court marker is a line that connects sides ‘B’ and ‘D’ equidistant and parallel to sides ‘A’ and ‘C’ of the court. This is placed to help understand the layout of the court for strategic throwing to the pallino ball.
- Hitting and Spocking
Both are a strategic offense move in bocce where the aim is to hit the opponent’s bocce balls that are close to the pallino ball. This helps free the ball in order for your team to get close and win the point. Another form of hitting is to hit the pallino ball in order to free it.
- In Team and Out Team
During the round, there will always be one team who has their ball closest to the pallino ball. In this case, that team is the in team and the team furthest away is the out team. This is interchangeable throughout the game as hitting is used.
- Initial Point
After the pallino ball has been thrown by the advantage team, this same team can throw their first bocce ball. When they do, this bocce ball is automatically the closest to the pallino and the team has the initial point, however, they may lose the point if the other team gets closer.
Much like the bocce has many names, so does the pallino ball. However, there’s more. Many different countries have their own reference to the pallino ball such as: the boccino, bullet or target. The jack is the smaller ball thrown
into the court and used to decipher the point.
This is a term used to describe a bocce ball touching the pallino ball. Sometimes, especially in Italy, this act is called ‘baci’.
Lagging is the main technique you’ll master when learning how to throw a bocce ball after this ultimate beginner’s guide to bocce ball comes to a close. It is the manoeuvre of bowling the bocce ball into the pallino ball to aim for a point. This technique is also called pointing. There are some varied ways to release the ball from the hand, but the overall principle within the bocce ball rules is to roll the ball into the court.
- No Point
Just like many other team sports out there and played across the globe, there are times when the two opposing teams can tie. In this case a ‘no point’ is called. After this, the team who threw the last ball must re-take this shot.
A volo is a hard thrown ball that takes some air before hitting/spocking a ball in the court. The aim of this manoeuvre is to gain the point advantage. However, it can end in a foul and dead ball as it is generally frowned upon in the bocce ball rules. This is because it can cause damage to the balls, the court and the other players.
The Bocce Ball Rules and Step-by-Step Game Play
So, you’re ready to play the game, you say? Well, luckily, the team here at The Hobby Kraze have got the ultimate game run-through for you.
The game all starts with the flip of a coin (or similar object that can be used to decipher the advantage).
But, before the game can even start, you need to have your team play mapped out. There are two teams in each game. In each team there can either be 1 (singles), 2 (doubles) or 4 (quads) players. And, overall, each team has four balls.
In a game of singles, each player gets to roll all four balls before a point can be called. In a game of doubles, each player can roll two of the team’s four balls before the point is called. In a game of quads, each player can only roll one ball before the point is called. This is because each point round consists of the roll of a pallino ball and then 8 ball rolls thereafter.
When you’ve decided what size game you’d like to play, it’s time to get that shiny coin out. One team will call heads, the other will call tails and whoever predicts the landing gets the advantage.
The advantage team needs to lag the pallino ball into the court. The best place to aim for the pallino ball to land would be just past the half court marker. This allows for a good throw to be used in the game while giving space for the bocce ball to be spocked away in the case the team is no longer the in team.
When the game gets going there are two ways the turns can be played. Either, a team plays all of their balls at once, then passes the turn to the other team to throw all of their four balls. Alternatively, the team players can take it in turns, making the advantage team take the first throw, the opposing take the second, the advantage take the third and so on.
The aim, as mentioned, is to roll all four balls as close to the pallino ball as possible. If your Italian bocce ball is kissing the pallino ball, you’re most likely to win the point.
When all the balls have been lobbied into the bocce ball court, the measurements can be taken to see who gains the points.
In order to calculate the points, you first need to measure which ball is closest to the pallino. Sometimes you’ll find two balls of opposing teams equidistant to the pallino, in which case it’s a no point.
Otherwise, whichever team has their ball closest to the pallino gets the first point. If the second closest ball is from the same team, they get two points. If the third closest ball is from the same team they get three and if the fourth closest is also from the same team then they get four points and the losing team really need to revaluate their choices in life.
However, if the second ball closest to the pallino ball is from the opposing team to the team whose ball is closest, then the team whose ball is closest only gets the one point and the other team gets none.
That is then the end of that round. Another round will then begin, and the games can continue until one team reaches a certain pre-established number. In terms of national games and games abiding by the BSA, it is the team who first reaches 16 points to win the game.
The Best Places to Enjoy a Game of Italian Bocce Ball
While far more common in Italy and the US, the UK is also an opportune ground to learn how to throw a bocce ball and aim for that pallino. When it comes to finding a good spot for a game of bocce ball, your best bet is to head to your local park on a warm sunny day.
The reality is that it can be played on most grounds: grass, Astroturf, concrete or soft and flat sandy surfaces. Surfaces that would be a bad consideration include: gravel, stones, uneven surfaces, a road, brick, cobblestones, and mud. Simply because they can cause drag and change the direction of your bocce ball’s travel.
Alternatively, if the weather isn’t so great and you fancy meeting up for some drinks at a bar, there are many amazing pubs around London that house space for games of boules. Whether it’s petanque or bocce you want to play, you can enjoy it with your friends, a jug of your favourite juice and some waning aim.
And, that concludes our ultimate beginner’s guide to bocce ball and it’s wonderful relaxing nature as a sport.
So, whether you’re looking to be the person who brings all the bocce know-how to the match while waiting for your table at a restaurant, or you’re wanting to head for a competitive game enjoyed among close friends, let us know if this guide to learning how to throw a bocce ball has been useful!
Alternatively, have a look at some of our other hobbies as part of our ultimate beginner’s guide collection specially written by the team here at The Hobby Kraze. With everything from indoor activities such as The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Stamp Collection to the outdoor adventures close to home with The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Hiking.
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