Get Out and Play: Bocce Ball

By: Alere Staff

  Bocce ball is a fun, strategic game that has ancient lineage. The game was first documented when Sir Francis Petrial, an English scientist studying an Egyptian tomb, found a painting of two boys playing the game that dated back to 5200 B.C.1 From there, it appears the game spread throughout the middle east, getting picked up by the Greeks who passed it to the Romans. By 1519, bocce ball became a public game played in Flanders, Holland and Belgium, where people would play it in the streets.

In 1896, the first Bocce Olympiad was held in Athens, making bocce ball a part of the international sports arena.1 Bocce ball can still be seen as a relatively new game to America but has shown to be a calming, competitive way to spend a few hours outdoors in the company of friends and family.

Playing the Game

Over the centuries the game of bocce has changed constantly. In the beginning, it might have been played with rounded rocks or coconuts instead of the composite or metal balls of today.1 It has even been called a variety of names including lawn bowling, nine pins, skittles and pentanque.1Whatever you decide to call your bocce ball, the game is played with eight large balls and one smaller target, or object ball, called a pallina.2 There are two teams in a bocce ball game with each team having one, two or four players. Each team has four balls that are a different color or pattern than the opposing team.

Starting the game with the toss of a coin, the game begins when the pallina is tossed, or rolled, making sure it passes the center line of the court and stays within the court boundaries. If they are unable to achieve this toss, it is given to the other team.2  The goal of the game is to throw balls as close as possible to the pallina. Players can knock out either the pallina or another ball to gain a more favorable position. A point system is used to score and determine which team is the winning team.

Some common rules of bocce ball include2:

  • All balls must be thrown underhanded.
  • No crossing the foul line when tossing your ball. You only get one warning. If you receive two warnings for crossing the line, the other team is awarded points.
  • Any ball that goes outside the court boundaries is a “dead ball” and removed from play until the end of the frame.
  • Points are awarded at the end of each frame.

Backyard bocce ball sets are available at most discount retailers and online. Playing bocce ball is a great way to get you outdoors and socializing with others. It also helps you to exercise both your body and mind. So, call up some friends or family members and get out there and play!

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  1. Ferrari, P. A Brief History of Bocce. World Bocce League. 2012. Retrieved from website:
  2. Backyard Basic Rules. Retrieved October 26, 2015 from the website: