8 tips for mastering the game of bocce

Bocce is the ultimate Spring sport: it’s leisurely yet challenging, and it’s outdoors -- basically it’s baseball with less butt-patting. Because we weren’t kidding about the challenging part, we asked some experts for tips to get you equipped to crush this ancient pastime.

Playing bocce

Stay Relaxed
As you'd expect of something invented in Italy, bocce is a game for the casual gentleman, at home on either a tournament court or a common yard, which means you should look good yet relaxed while playing (and probably have a drink in one hand). Throw on a pair of 501® jeans and you'll be fashionable without trying too hard, while also maintaining the lower-body freedom to execute the next-level tosses we're about to teach you.

Your jeans are right here

The bocce pallino

You Don’t Know Jack
The first play involves tossing the “pallino”, or jack, the small white ball that serves as the bullseye. Try to place it as far downcourt as possible -- connect with the backboard (if there is one), and your subsequent toss can prevent your opponent from getting behind you, forcing them to play around or knock you out of the way.

The bocce bowl

Get in Your Victory Stance
Aside from an overhand skyhook, there’s no wrong way to throw -- just ungraceful ways. “Everybody has their own style”, says pro bocce referee Ross Flatt. If you’re a stander, lead with your throwing foot while keeping your legs shoulder width apart. More into crouching? No judgment here, just get your throwing knee down while leading with the opposite leg.

How to hold a bocce

Give Yourself A Hand
Don’t just clamp your mitt around the ball and throw for the fences. According to United States Bocce Federation champ Lio Giannotti, “If you’re looking to roll close to the pallino, use your thumb and index finger to squeeze the ball while it’s cradled gently in the rest of your hand”, like a very, very, very small child.


Be A Spin Doctor
Your first impulse will be to mimic a softball pitch, palm up. But you didn’t come here to play softball -- you came to play average-to-mediocre bocce since this is your first time and you don’t want to set the bar too high! For better positioning around the pallino, toss the ball palm down -- you’ll give it more spin and halt it more acutely.

The puntata

Bowl Them Over
Okay, you know how to throw so let’s get to your crucial first play, a “puntata”: a close-to-the-ground roll ideal when there’s a clear path to the pallino. As Giannotti counsels, “Your arm is moving like a pendulum, from your elbow down in the wrist and forearm, while staying balanced, and keeping your head still". To ensure the necessary range of motion for upper and lower arm, leave the leather at home and gear up with something with give like the Levi’s® Trucker Jacket.

Grab that jacket

A bocce game in play

Get Grounded
Now’s a good time to actually notice what surface you’re playing on. For sand or shell, rolling is going to be impeded, so give your subsequent throws loft; whereas asphalt or grass is perfectly suited for a long-distance roll. Of course, all of these strategies change when it’s wet, but if you’re so committed that you’re playing in the rain, you probably already know what you’re doing.

The raffa in action

Knock Out
You’re down to your last ball, and your opponents’ surround the pallino. Your move is the “raffa”, where you rush the foul line and hurl the ball just for the sake of knocking everything out. Two key elements: the run up and the follow through. “The harder and the longer you want to throw that ball, the more follow through you want to have with that throwing arm”, says Flatt. Now bring on the celebratory butt pats! Or don’t, it’s not baseball.