After willingly putting yourself in quarantine due to winter’s long nights and low temperatures, it’s finally time to enjoy your backyard the way you were supposed to at the first signs of spring. And while BBQ parties seem like a great way to kick things off, a match of bocce ball can be ten times funnier.

Despite being relatively unknown, this outdoor game dates back to the Roman days when a couple of balls were enough of an excuse to head outside, play and have the time of your life. The good news is that fast forward to today, bocce ball is still considered one heck of a way to enjoy a beautiful sunny day with your friends or family – and perhaps a cold beer in your hand. Let’s get the (bocce) ball rolling, shall we?

What You Need to Play Bocce Ball

Also known as bocci, bocce ball is probably one of the most accessible outdoor games in the book. Requiring nothing but a bunch of balls and enough space, this outdoor activity is a go-to option if you have no equipment available but still want to get your game on. Bocce ball is even friendly to the little ones around the house thanks to its simple set of tools. So, here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2 teams. According to the official rules, bocce ball can be played by two single players who compete against each other or by two groups of 2 or 4 players each. Even though no one will stop you if you want to include 5 or more members on each side, veteran players do not recommend it as the number of balls will not match the number of players. That basically means that some participants will not have the chance to bowl.
  • 8 bocce balls. Usually weighing about 2 pounds each, bocce balls come in two different colors; red and green. So, in a standard version of this game, four of the balls are supposed to be green and the other four red.
  • 1 jack (pallino). Unlike bocce balls, pallino is a small target ball -usually at the size of a golf ball- which is always thrown at the beginning of the game.

The Basic Rules of Bocce Ball

Bocce ball is one of those outdoor games that don’t like getting bogged down in the details. Hence, the super easy rules. So, between setting up a clean and homely bocce court with the simplest tools ever and just throwing the balls as far away as possible, this game is a child’s play (most of the times, literally).

  • Step 1

Set up the court. Even though the official rules of bocce ball call for 13X90 rectangular playing space, you can always adjust your soon-to-be playing field based on your backyard’s size. Just make sure the length of the DIY court is roughly six times longer than its width. You can use string, sticks or even spray paint to pinpoint the court’s boundaries.

Also, make sure to draw a foul line 10 feet away from the bottom of the baseboard. This line will serve as a point beyond which players cannot step when they bowl the balls. Lastly, plant a peg or stake at the center of the court.

  • Step 2

Choose your teammates and assign the balls. If you’re playing solo, then you get to bowl all the four balls of one color. However, things are different when you’re partnering up with other players. In 2-member teams, each player gets assigned with just two balls, and in 4-player teams, participants get to throw only one bocce ball.

  • Step 3

Decide which team will bowl first. You can flip a coin, play a round of rock-paper-scissors or just randomly decide who’s going to make the first throw. The truth is that it doesn’t really matter since both teams must throw the pallino at the beginning of the game.

  • Step 4

Throw the pallino into the court. The team which was selected to bowl first or won the coin toss gets two shots to throw the pallino into the court. This shot is considered successful if the target ball not only passes the peg planted in the middle of the court but also stays within the boundaries. If the thrower of the starting team fails to toss the pallino into the play twice, then a member of the opposing team gets a shot.

  • Step 5

Throw out the first bocce ball. The team that successfully played the pallino into the court gets to throw out the first bocce ball. The goal is to bowl the ball as close to the pallino as possible. Make sure you never cross the foul line, or your shot will not count.

  • Step 6

Let the opposing team throw out their first bocce ball. Now, it’s time for the other side to play their first bocce ball into the game. Again, the thrower needs to bowl his/her ball as close to the jack as possible.

  • Step 7

One of the teams gets to throw the three remaining balls. The team which managed to bowl their bocce ball the farthest from the pallino has to bowl the remaining three, one after the other. That is their final chance to reach the jack. If your shot is accurate, there is a high chance you hit the pallino. If you do so and you move it, it’s no big deal. But, if your ball touches it, this is called a “kiss” or “baci” which is worth the most points.

  • Step 8

The other team gets to throw their three remaining balls. Then, the other members of the opposing team go ahead with their three remaining shots and try to place the balls as close to the jack as possible. At this point, all 8 bocce balls are clustered at different distances around the pallino. The first frame is officially over.

  • Step 9

Count the score. This part may be a little tricky. Players of both team measure and check which bocce ball is closest to the jack, also known as the “in” ball. Once they do figure that out, they count the points. But, only the team whose ball is closest to the pallino gets to collect points. Meanwhile, the other doesn’t score any. The scoring system goes like this: You collect two points for every bocce ball that “kisses” the jack and one point for every shot that is closer to the pallino than the closest ball of the other team.

  • Step 10

Switch ends and continue playing in frames. After you’re done counting the score, switch ends on the bocce court and play another frame. Continue switching ends between frames until one of the teams wins.

  • Step 11

The first team to score 12 points wins. Continue playing in frames until one of the two teams collects 12 points. Alternatively, you can agree upon a different winning goal with the other players which is usually set at either 15 or 21 points.

The Not-so-Basic Rules of Bocce Ball

You’ve learned everything you need to know to play bocce ball in your backyard. That’s great! But, do you want to know what’s better than great? Awesome! The following three out-of-the-box rules will help you turn any match of bocce ball into a lifetime experience.

  • Every player has the chance to “spock.” That means that all players can hit their own balls and get them closer to the jack. This tactic can also be used to bowl the opponent’s balls farther away from the pallino.
  • Bowling is not the only way to play the bocce balls into the court. You can also throw, roll or even bounce them. It’s up to you. Most experienced players suggest you throw the balls underhanded. So, you basically cup the underside of the ball and either bowl it to the ground or throwing it into the air.
  • If you or other members of your team cross the foul line twice, then you get a penalty, and the frame is abruptly ended. So, the team that committed the foul will not get any points while the other side can go ahead and complete the frame.

Final Thoughts

With that hot weather upon us, spending time outdoors is a given. And since reading a book or tanning can get too boring too fast, finding a fun and creative way to spend your time becomes a necessity. A match of bocce ball is the easiest and funniest way to enjoy the summery vibe of your backyard with your nearest and dearest. The best part? You can still pair it with some sweet or boozy treats for a more adult version. So, let’s get this show on the road – or lawn, for that matter.