Bocce (pronounced botch-ee) is yet another game we found to play with our families for fun. It’s great because it involves the outdoors and is quite similar to some of the games we have already played, namely croquet and horseshoes. I especially love it because the playing field can be anything from an actual designated bocce area, a beach, the park, or your own back yard. You can play bocce anywhere and you aren’t restricted unless you want to play by the actual dimensions.
Bocce Ball Scoring
The bocce ball rules are simple enough to learn, but it can still be complex to fully understand how everything works. From scoring to strategies, the game is elaborate enough to play for years and still pick up a few techniques. Below, I have outlined how bocce ball scoring is. I have also included a handy scenario guide to demonstrate how these rules apply in a standard game of bocce ball.
You throw a white ball, called the pallino, down the middle of a decently sized playing field. Now there are two colors of balls you could choose from, red or green. Playing casual, you alternate turns throwing your ball. In tournament style, if you toss a ball and are now on the inside, you get to toss again until either all of your balls are exhausted or you are no longer on the inside. The aim is to get as close to the pallino as possible. If your red or green ball lands closest to the white ball, then you are considered “on the inside”. Likewise, if you are the player whose ball is further away, you are considered “on the outside”.
Now each side, red or green, gets 4 balls to throw. You can play this how you like. Typically, bocce ball is a 2-player game, with each player getting 4 balls to throw in a quick game. But you can modify the game to your desires, playing up to 8 people total, 4 on each team with each getting one chance to throw the ball. The goal of each toss of the ball, remember, is to get as close to the white target ball as possible. This means you can aim for the actual pallino, or you can try to move your opponent’s balls out of the way, which makes for a pretty hilarious game. This also means you could use other strategies, like “blocking”, which is a technique that involves not quite aiming for the pallino, but instead making a wall around it so that the opposing team struggles to get close to it.
When each of the team’s 4 balls have been tossed, we come to evaluating who got closest. Points are distributed based on closeness to the pallino. I will illustrate this through scenarios, plus there is an accompanying video at the end for those new to playing bocce.
Scenario 1: Pallino>Red>Red>Green>Red>Green>Red>Green>Green. In this scenario, the red team got two balls that were 1st and 2nd closest to the pallino, with the 3rd closest being a green ball. The red team gets 2 points for that round because they had two of the closest balls before the opponent had the next closest.
Scenario 2 (shown below): Pallino>Red>Red>Red>Red>Green>Green>Green>Green. So let’s say that the green team isn’t doing so well and shoot 4 balls that weren’t close to the pallino. This means that the red team had 4 balls “on the inside” before the green ball came next closest. For this round, the red team won 4 points.
You play rounds like this until one team reaches a point threshold. It is usually 20 or 21 points, but you can modify this depending on what you and your family like. When our family plays against Richie’s, we typically do 2 players against 2 players (2 balls per player) and go to only about 10 points, since the game takes longer because we’re waiting for other players to get ready, aim, shoot, etc.
Quality of bocce ball sets
With all that out of the way, we need to talk about quality. This is one of those things where you really should not skimp out on purchasing something decent. Like I said before, the game of bocce practically revolves around hitting the balls with other balls. You are going to be tossing them from pretty far away as well. While you will not necessarily be tossing them high in the air for direct impact like the pros do (see accompanying video), even rolling them across the ground and hitting the pallino or other balls can dent your equipment. With the exception of playing bocce at the beach, the fields you play in will likely be firm enough to put damage on the bocce balls over time.
I highly advise against buying cheaply made ball sets. With that said, I disagree with a lot of articles that completely disregard bocce ball sets under $50 or some other unnecessary budget restriction. You absolutely can purchase a set for under that price range. We basically started off with the typical set that retailed online for exactly $35 and were satisfied with it! The thing to note here is that this cheap ball set was not cheaply made. It wasn’t the best obviously, and we have since purchased heavier-duty and more premium bocce balls, but it did not break or even dent during the 4-week span that our families have played with it.
Bocce Ball Set Regulation Size:
Of course, with quality needs to come standards. The Bocce Standards Association is a group that tries to standardize everything to do with bocce. This includes the tournaments, the playing fields, and the equipment. The standard size for bocce balls are as follows:
For tournament-level bocce ball sets, the regulation size is anywhere from 100mm to 115mm in diameter.
However, for most other casual bocce ball sets, the regulation size is exactly 107mm in diameter.
What is the best ball bocce set?
Let’s get started! These could be played anywhere, so you could play backyard bocce, beach bocce, or bocce at the park. As relative newcomers to the sport (playing frequently for several weeks), we went after budget bocce sets, since spending over $100 on something we potentially would not enjoy didn’t seem like a reasonable idea. We started off with the cheapest set, found first on the list, and ended up buying some of the more premium options.
Park & Sun Sports PRO Elite Set
This one is a little pricier than the first set I ever purchased, but it definitely has a professional feel to it. With the PRO Elite set, you get 8 total balls, not including the standard pallino.
The thing with this set is that there are 4 different colors (2x blue, 2x yellow, 2x red, and 2x green). It makes it easier for teams to split up. When we do our 2v2, for example, I had my daughter take 2 of the blue while I took 2 of the red. Richie’s daughter would use 2 of the yellow and he would take the green. It made it pretty simple to identify whose ball was thrown, and we were still able to participate in teams, though we had to keep track of the team colors (my family’s side was blue+red while Richie’s was yellow+green). It is slightly more complicated than any other traditional set, where it is uniformly green balls against red balls, but it worked nonetheless.
People often ask “who makes the best bocce ball set?” and while that question is tough to answer, Park & Sun did an impressive job with their PRO Elite set. Specifically, the minor details on the individual balls were well-done. For instance, the scoring patterns on the balls themselves are grooved in rather than merely painted on. That along with a slightly heavier weight made the PRO Elite set feel a lot more expensive than it was. Also, to note, Park & Sun Sport’s PRO Elite set balls are each 109mm, slightly larger in diameter than the regulation size bocce ball sets at 107mm.
The PRO Elite set also comes with a handy carrying bag and a distance marker. Any set that cost over $50 should come with its own carrying case, but unfortunately some of the sets we were considering did not. Parks & Sun Sports packs it all together and even throws a distance marker on top.
Trademark Games’ Bocce Set
We have heard little about Trademark Games products, only knowing about them through their croquet set when we were looking for one to play with. But their bocce ball set was immediately one of the most affordable options available at the time, which again targeted us as beginners.
Two days later and we were ready to play with our new set. It came with eight 3.5″ balls total, four for the red team and four for the green team. It also came with the standard 1.5″ diameter white pallino. The playing balls are much smaller than regulation size. However, this could be perfect for those new to the game or introducing it to family.
Four of the green balls are separated in pattern (2x stripes and 2x circle), which makes it easy for our families specifically because we like to play 2 players against 2 players. We are able to know who threw which ball and who got closest. It is fun to have patterns with equipment; in fact, as of this edit, I just found out that there are bocce ball sets that glow in the dark.
The balls themselves are made with a firm poly-resin composite. In our fairly extensive 4-week period of playing with this set alone, we have yet to come across a single dent or crack. Keep in mind that by no means should you play on any rocky or concrete terrain. Any bocce ball set under $100 will instantly crack. Play on milder terrains like grass, dirt, or sand. For the latter, I am almost certain any ball set will work, but if you aren’t too sure, I would try searching for something like “best bocce ball sets for the beach” or similar.
Franklin Sports Bocce Ball Set Vintage
The Vintage set by Franklin Sports is probably my favorite set to play ever. I have nothing but good things to say about the entire set since purchasing it last week. The first thing you will notice upon purchase is that the balls are not the standard green and red. Instead, they are these beautiful silver- and gold-striped balls. They remind me of some of the bocce tournaments I watched over YouTube. Also, the traditional bocce balls were very bland in color (they actually used to just throw plain rocks, which were gold-ish in color), and I like to think these are a modernized version of them. I absolutely adore their design.
The balls are 113mm in diameter, so slightly larger than standard size but right in line with tournament regualtions. The pallino is also 60mm rather than 50mm. I would say for that reason, they are highly targeted toward an adult audience.
One of my favorite touches to the whole Vintage set is the deluxe carrying case that comes with it. Not only can it hold these larger and heavier balls, but it is also wooden. How neat is that? It looks a lot like a treasure chest, so it doubles as a nice display/storage case for when you aren’t playing. It is a little harder to carry considering its cubic shape, though. As far as looking for a bocce ball set for sale go, there aren’t many better options than a bocce set with a wooden case and beautifully crafted balls.
As promised, below is the video. I didn’t make it, but it does a good job serving you with information on the basics of bocce, some of the scoring, and a little bit on how you pitch. Note that it really is just for those new to the game.
Gary is a proud father and grandfather. He has two sons and five grandchildren. As a retiree, spending time with family seemingly is the only priority. His hobbies include playing fetch with dog Harrison, teaching his grandkids how to play sports, and jogging.