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International Bocce Rules

The following photos are from the 2002 North American Bocce Championship held at the Highwood, Illinois Bocce Club. A brief synopsis of play follows - for more info go to Back Issues and click on Issue #40.

These rules are for Punto, Raffa, Volo play - for the other style of International play (Volo), click on the Volo Play navigation button (to the left and below).

International rules are much more stringent than we back-yard bocce players are used to, but the skill level and excitement is undeniable. This is the game that promoters hope to see in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing (the Chinese LOVE bocce and have the option of selecting a new sport when the games are held in their country).


Players who want to hit another ball away must call their shots. The referee uses chalk to mark the positions of all balls and the pallino. You must call which ball you will hit and whether you will do so via raffa or volo. If you declare that you will raffa one ball and hit another by mistake, the Rule of Advantage applies. That is, your opponent can decide to let the play stand, or put the displaced balls back where they were, and remove the raffa attempt from play.


If you call a volo shot, the referee traces an arc 40 cm in front of the ball you intend to hit. Your ball must land within that arc for it to be a valid hit. If not, the Rule of Advantage applies.

If you hit the backboard without first hitting another ball, your ball is dead and removed from the court.

You may not hit the sideboard. If you do, the Rule Of Advantage Applies.

You must ask the referee's permission to come down court to view the positions of previously played balls. Fail to do so and you forfeit one ball.

Displacing another ball even when you are pointing can create a Rule of Advantage. If your ball taps another ball causing it to move a distance greater than the length of the tool (70 cm) the rule applies (with these fast-playing surfaces, it doesn't take much of a hit to move a ball 70 cm).

Moreover, if your ball moved the pallino just a short distance and caromed off to hit another ball and that ball moved more than 70 cm, the other team has the option of putting the pallino back to its original position, but the displaced ball stays put.

Bersaglio - when a ball is within 13 cm of the pallino or when two balls are within 13 cm of each other a bersaglio exists. This means you can call your shot and hit either of the two balls to make a legal hit.

These photos showcase the North American Bocce Championships held at the Highwood (Illinois) Bocce Club in October, 2002. They highlight bocce's International style of play.

A brief opening ceremony and photo op preceded the action between men's and women's teams from the USA and Canada.

Top players from the USA and Canada prepare to compete.

These courts are 86' by 10'. Note the heavy duty swing boards and the tiny pallino used in international play.

Joe Giolli holding court. Called the "bocce player's bocce player" by many, he is willing to coach and help any player get to the next level.

The referee marks with chalk the position of all balls. Players call their shots when they attempt a hit and, if they strike the wrong ball, all displaced balls may be put back to their original positions.

The measuring device used in international play. It is 70 cm in length. There is a sliding section that can go down to 40 cm (shown here) to trace arcs for called volo shots and to 13 cm to check for bersaglio. See Joy of Bocce Weekly Issue 40 for details.

The referee scribes an arc 40 cm in front of the target ball for an attempted volo.

After players have rolled their allotted balls, they are to move down court and take a position so that any displaced balls will not strike them.

Strategy and tactics are the key to this level of play. Players may ask the referee's permission to come down court to examine the positions of previously played balls.

Excellent form and lots of practice make for an outstanding pointer.

Players improve accuracy by following through and continuing to move in the direction of their roll after releasing the ball.

Many skilled pointers study the target and gauge the distance, then pick a spot in front of them to focus on as the release point.

The fast-playing synthetic courts called for deft touch, and these players have it!

Jose Botto, the acclaimed young bocce star shows off his pointing form. Notice that international rules allow you to step on but not completely over the pointing line.

Some pointers move forward after releasing the ball, others remain stationary.

Many good players release the ball directly in front of the body.

And other equally good players release somewhat away from the center of the body.



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