Burlington Bocce Club Rules of Play

The Burlington Bocce Club rules have evolved over years of play on these courts and are largely based on United States Bocce Federation Open rules.             

updated APRIL 2017


Play here is usually singles or doubles.  In doubles all four players start on one end, with each player throwing two balls. The order in which players on a team throw their balls is a team decision, but each player cannot throw more than two balls. At the end of a round, players move to the other end of the court. Doubles can also be played with one player from each team at each end.  In this case each player throws four balls and stays at the same end at the end of the round.  Play them resumes from the other end. Players on the non-playing end of the court must be off the court when the other end is throwing.

Tossing the Pallino

The pallino is tossed from on or behind the foul line by the team (T) or individual (I) with the honor.  The pallino must stop before the opposite foul line and after the mid-court line. If a player fails to properly toss the pallino, the other side (I or T) throws the pallino.  If successful, the first ball is thrown by (T) or (I) having the honor at the start.  If unsuccessful, the pallino is centered between the rails and the midline and far foul line.  The first bocce ball is then thrown by the T/I that had the honor at the start of the frame.

Starting the Game and More

Who rolls first is decided by a flip of a coin. The coin-flip winner selects the color of balls to be used and which side will throw first.  If the first thrown bocce hits the back wall without hitting the pallino, that ball is dead and the player throws again until a fair throw is made.  A ball may rebound off the rails and come to rest against a rail.  After the first throwing side gets a ball in fair, the other side throws until it gets a ball closer to the pallino or is out of balls. This continues until both sides have used up their balls. The side with ball or balls closet to the pallino wins the round and throws the pallino into play from the other side of the court.

When there are teams, consecutive or alternating throws by teammates shall be at the option of the team.  Players may use the sidewalls at any time.  A thrown ball is out if it hits the rear wall without hitting the pallino or another ball.  It must be removed from the court. 

If a player rolls the wrong color ball, simply replace it with the correct color when it comes to rest.  If a player rolls out of turn or plays more than two balls (if playing on a team of two, with both sides on same end of court), the other side may leave all balls as is or remove the illegal ball from play and return all balls that have been moved to their approximate position before they were hit by the illegal ball. The Rule of Advantage applies*.

Foul Lines

Players may step on, but not over the foul line before releasing the pallino or their ball.  If a player fouls the ball thrown is removed from play.  The opposing side then invokes the Rule of Advantage*.

Balls Kept in Ball Holders

Balls must be kept in ball holders until it is a player’s turn to play a ball.  Balls not kept in holder will be declared dead balls until the next frame of play.

During a round a player may not carry a ball over the foul line.  Violations will be penalized: the carried ball is dead until the next frame of play.


Only one team scores in a frame.  One point is given for each ball that is closer to the pallino than the closest ball of the opposing side. However, when bocce ball and pallino are kissing (i.e., there is no space between the balls) at the end of a frame, two points will be awarded for this.

If at the end of a frame the closest ball of each side is equidistant from the pallino, no points are awarded to either side and the game resumes from the opposite end of the court, with the same side tossing in the pallino.  The tournament director, or the sides in a non-tournament game determine the number of points for a game.

When bocce ball and pallino are kissing (i.e., there is no space between the balls) at the end of a frame, two points will be awarded for this.

Balls Hitting the Back Wall

A ball hitting the back wall is dead and must be removed from play unless it first hits another ball in which case all balls are valid.  If a thrown ball does not first touch another ball and hits the back wall and then strikes a stationary ball, that stationary ball shall be replaced to its approximate position.  The thrown ball is removed from play.

Pallino Hitting the Back Wall

Once the pallino is in play, it remains in play even if it hits the back wall during the game.  However, if the pallino is knocked out of the court, or is knocked in front of the centerline, the frame will end and play will resume from the opposite end of the court, with the same side tossing the pallino.

*Rule of Advantage:

The opposing side decides whether all objects including the thrown ball are left as is after the foul, or if the thrown ball is removed from play and all other balls are moved back to their positions prior to when the ball was thrown.

Shooting Volo

Volo shooting is lofting the ball in the air beyond the centerline of the court.  The tournament director may disallow volo shooting for safety and court protection.

Measuring and Disputes

Sides may request a measurement at any time by the referee or tournament director. The tournament director will resolve all disputes.  If there is no referee or tournament director, sides may measure at any time.

Court Grooming

At the end of the game or the start of a new one either side can elect to or have the court groomed.  This may be just sweeping, or leveling and sweeping. Permission of the other side is not necessary.

Throwing-Time Limit

An individual player has 30 seconds to throw from the time of the start of a round and from the finish of the previous person’s throw during a round.  If a measurement has been called for the player has 60 seconds to throw from the completion of the measurement.  If a player wants to walk down the court to inspect the lie of the balls, no measurement, the player has a total of 60 seconds from when the balls come to rest from the previous toss to when he or she throws his or her ball. The first violation results in a warning, while for each following violation one of the player’s bocce balls is removed from play for the round.

Interference with Thrower

It is bad sportsmanship to interfere with the thrower through excessive movement or distracting sounds.

Coaching Player/s During a Match

Teammates may coach each other in ways that do not interfere with play.  Spectators may coach players, as long as it does not interfere with play.  Referees may not coach anyone as long as they are refereeing a match.  Tournament officials (director, assistant director) may not referee at any time while the tournament is in progress.