Jeff Ayers Explaining the Rules
“The game of bocce is a crucible in which age and social class fuse and disappear. On the court there are neither young people nor old people, neither workers nor managers, neither laborers nor students. The beginner can play with the veteran and the mechanic with the lawyer. The exceptional democratic spirit of the game of bocce is the basis on which its deeply peaceful character is founded. It is often the beginning of long friendships.”
– Federation International De Boules, 1960s
The overall object of linear bocce is the same as traditional bocce: to score points by rolling your balls closer to the pallino (smaller target ball) than the other players. Multiple points can be scored if a player has more than one ball closest to the pallino.
The main difference between traditional bocce and linear bocce is that instead of playing back and forth on a confined course, linear bocce goes continually forward. In traditional bocce, each player or team has four balls. Because the North American Linear Bocce Tournaments have so many participants, each player uses only three balls. Groups of up to six players start out in staggered positions along the course. Every player is playing for him or herself, unless two people are on a team and share three balls.
The initial throwing order goes from oldest to youngest, with the oldest player tossing out the pallino and following up with the first shot. (If the pallino is thrown in an out-of-bounds area or is not visible to the players, it may be re-thrown or placed in a more suitable spot.) All shots must be thrown underhand. The player whose ball is closest to the pallino does not throw until another player beats that shot. If, once everyone has thrown all their balls except the point holder, he or she may choose not to throw and take the point(s) in order to avoid knocking another player’s ball closer.
If a player’s ball is touching (“kissing”) the pallino, that scores two points. If two or more players’ balls are kissing the pallino, no points are scored. If two or more players are exactly the same distance from the pallino, no points are scored. The person who earns the point(s) throws out the pallino and first ball of the next round. As the game progresses, throwing order goes from most points to least points.
Cars that travel the alley always have the right-of-way and play may need to be stopped or balls moved to allow their passage. Residents of the neighborhood and their families are encouraged to watch, so be respectful and refrain from boisterous profanity.
Bocce has always been a very social game; participants often enjoy wine or beer as they play. If a player needs to visit a restroom, another player (or players) will throw for them. It is a matter of honor to throw as well as possible when filling in for another player.
Linear bocce tournaments are timed. At the end of this time period, the player in his or her group with the most points will advance to the first round of single ball shoot-offs. (If there is a tie among a particular group, all top scorers may advance.) In the shoot-off rounds, the pallino will be thrown out by the Linear Bocce Commissioner and each player will have one ball to beat all other finalists in that round. Usually two preliminary rounds are needed to accommodate the number of players. The two winners of the preliminary shoot-offs will face each other in the single-ball championship round. Players, friends and family are then encouraged to gather at the Red Key Tavern, where a trophy ball hand-crafted by the renowned Jeffrey Lee Ayers will be presented to the winner.
What Players Should Bring:
* 3 bocce balls per player or team. Since many bocce balls look alike, players are encouraged to personalize their balls by painting them or using other markings.
* 1 pallino per group. Just like bocce balls, pallinos come in many sizes; larger ones are better suited for alley-style play. A baseball makes a great alley pallino.
* It’s nice if someone in each group has a measuring tape for shots that are close.
* Players may bring coolers with adult beverages. Often wagons or other wheeled conveyances are used for convenience.
* The North American Linear Bocce Association asks that players wear some sort of neck-wear: scarves, ties, ascots, bolo ties, bandanas, etc. Linear bocce is played in a public alley that runs through a wonderful neighborhood; such neck-wear is a sign of decency, decorum and respect.
* Decisions of the commissioner, Will Higgins, and his designated course marshal Jim Kelly are final and cannot be argued with.
Full cannoli: when a player scores points with every ball he or she throws in a round.
Scrupert: when a player who is holding a point throws for an additional point, but makes an unfortunate shot resulting in another player’s ball taking the point.
Cobra: a throwing technique using backspin to more accurately position a ball; throwing in this manner, the player’s arm and hand will resemble a cobra poised to strike.
Kissing the pallino: when a player’s ball(s) is touching the pallino for a score of two points; referred to as a “kisser” or “leaner.”
Bocce Marshals: experienced alley/linear bocce veterans who travel up and down the course answering questions regarding starting points, rules, scoring, stopping time, etc.
Linear Bocce Commissioner: Will Higgins, who will serve as the tournament organizer, course manager, final arbiter of any contested issues and host of the trophy ceremony.
The goals of linear bocce are to have fun, to enjoy the beautiful outdoor setting, socialize with others and to take part in a friendly, spirited competition. It is also the hope of everyone involved in these tournaments that you will bring this game back to your own yard, alley, neighborhood, park or anywhere else that bocce balls can be rolled.