usbf_rule book



A frame begins after the point or points have been determined at the end of the previous frame.  A player has one minute to put the pallino in play.  It is customary to roll out the pallino as soon as possible so that games proceed without wasting time.  If players cause delays in the game they will be given a warning by an official.  The USBF Open Rules state:
“If an official issues a one-minute warning and delays continue, the “burned ball” rule should be placed in effect and one of the offending player’s balls will be removed from the court.”

Regulation bocce courts can be made from mixtures of various surfaces including dirt, clay, cement, asphalt, and synthetic resin. Note: Non-Regulation courts are made from grass, carpet, or synthetic turf; however these surfaces are often used as substitutes in the recreational form of bocce known as “Open Rules”. 

There are times when there are a lot of teams signed up to play in a tournament and not enough courts to allow games to be played without a time limit. At these times, the tournament director can put a time limit on the games; usually 45 minutes. All games start on all courts at the same time so only one time clock will determine the end of those games. When games are timed, the tournament director will announce when the games are approaching the time limit about 5 minutes before time actually runs out.

When time runs out, all games are allowed to continue play until the frame in which time is called is finished. No new frames may be started after time has been called. The winner of the game is the team who has the most points when time is called.

When the game is tied, a one-roll playoff is played. Each team picks his best player to roll a single ball at the pallino, with the closest ball to the pallino winning the game for that team.

Sometimes a coin is tossed to determine who rolls the pallino and first ball. This allows an advantage to the team who might know the weakness of the other team; what is the place on the court the other team has the most trouble with. To avoid what might be considered an unfair advantage, the tournament director will throw the pallino, with the team who won the coin toss the first roll after the pallino has been placed.

In most cases, even though all the games leading up to the two team final may be timed, the final match is allowed to be played without a time limit. 

A burned ball is a ball that is taken out of the court for the duration of a frame, or, in some cases, the entire game. There are several reasons a ball might be “burned.”

1. USBF rules require that in order to be a valid roll, the ball cannot travel the length of the court and hit the backboard without first striking the pallino or another ball. In this case, the ball is “burned,” or removed from the court until the start of the next frame.

2. If a ball is thrown with enough speed that when it strikes the pallino or another ball, and leaves the court, it is burned until the start of the next frame. This is true when the ball stays out of the court, or when it returns back onto the court a moment or so after leaving. Normally, this problem might occur when a player “shoots” the ball; that is, when the player starts several steps behind the foul line, takes three or four steps, and releases the ball raffa style with enough force to hit an inside ball away, or hit the pallino to another part of the court. It will be noted that if the pallino leaves the court, the frame is ended and a new frame starts from the same side of the court, with the same team throwing the pallino to start the frame as if the cancelled frame didn’t happen.

3. Rules state that once a ball has crossed over the foul line, it is in play. It is very important that if a player crosses the foul line for any reason, all balls must remain behind the foul line. If a player carries a ball with him or her, the ball is burned for the remainder of the frame. The reason being that once a ball crosses over the foul line it is in play, and by the act of carrying the ball, the player in interfering with a ball in valid play.

4. The one instance where a ball is burned for an entire game is when a team is playing without a complete team. If a game being played is a four-players-per-team game, and one of the players is missing for the entire game for any reason, the make-up of the team is that two of the players play at one end of the court as usual, while the third player plays by him or herself at the other end. Although the side with two players play with two balls each, the side with the single player must burn one ball, and that frame will be played with the single player playing with three balls. This continues for the entire game when the frame is played from the side with the single player.

Volo and Raffa are internationally sanctioned sports in over 50 nations and have a common union in the CMSB (Confederation Mondiale des Sports de Boules) based in France. 

When shooting a ball, it is legal for any part of the foot to land on the foul line, even if it is the heel. As the shooter moves forward in his throwing motion, is the play fair or foul if the players heel lifts off the foul line?

This is an age old question and is always a fun one.  The actual answer involves what the rules call the “forward foot.” When making a throw there are two positions of the feet.  One is planted and the other is in the air and is called the forward foot.  As long as the planted foot is on the line when the throw is initiated and the forward foot is still in the air or does not touch the surface, the throw is valid.  The rules do not address the toe, sole or heel of the foot.

In summary, if the planted foot is on the ground and any part of the foot is intersected by the plane of the foul line the throw is good. It does not matter that the heel lifted during the completion of the throw.

The USBF Open Rules on this website say: 
 A team not present within 15 minutes of scheduled start of the game will forfeit the game. 

Clubs may have house rules that govern late show ups. We have seen tournament protocol where teams have been granted a certain number of points every five minutes until the maximum are reached. An example might be to award 2 points every five minutes that a team is late. After 30 minutes the game would be scored as a 12 point victory for the team that was present. This is somewhat lenient and gives a team a chance if they were late due to reasons beyond their control.

The final decision on forfeits should be up to the club or organization hosting the tournament. But it must be kept in mind that awarding less than the maximum points to the team that is present penalizes them unfairly in the event that points are used in tiebreaker situations, whether in tournament play or end-of-season league play. The team may have been able to score the maximum number of points had the game actually taken place. Awarding maximum points for the forfeit gives them the benefit of the doubt.

The rules on forfeits should be announced or posted prior to the start so that everyone is on the same page! Whatever protocol might be in place; USBF rules or house rules, USBF rules forfeits are scored as complete games – usually 12 to 0. 

A player who rolls a ball out by mistake instead of the pallino at the start of a frame has played a ball out of turn.  USBF Open Rules state:“If a player rolls / shoots out of turn or plays more balls than allowed, the opposing team has two (2) options:  Leave all balls as they rest, or remove the illegally thrown ball from play and return all other ball(s) to previous position(s).” 

A regulation Volo court is 27.5 meters long and 2.5 to 4 meters wide. A regulation Raffa court is 26.5 meters long and 4 to 4.5 meters wide.  

Volo balls range from 90 to 110 mm in diameter and 900 to 1200 gms. in weight depending on a players’ preference.  Women and children (under 14) can use smaller and lighter balls with a minimum diameter of 88 mm and 800 gms.  A Volo pallino must be made of wood and be 35 to 37 mm in diameter. Raffa balls 107 mm in diameter and weigh 920 gms.  A Raffa pallino is made of plastic, 40 mm in diameter, and weighs 60 gms. 

USBF Open Rules require that balls be 107 mm and 920 grams in size and weight. Women and children may use 106 mm and 900 grams in size and weight, but men must use the larger 107/920 balls.

The pallino must pass across the center line without hitting the back wall in order for it to be a valid throw.  If the pallino does not pass over and clear the center line the other team will roll the pallino, and so on until the the pallino throw is valid.  The team that first attempted to place the pallino will play the first ball.

A ball is valid as soon as it passes over the foul line, or lag line.  A ball does not have to pass over the center line to be considered valid and in play. Balls cannot hit the back wall without first striking another ball or pallino. 

Note:  When a player wishes to approach the center to meet with a team mate or to view the situation closer, it is very important that they do not carry a ball in their hand over the foul line.  When the ball passes over the foul line it becomes in play and if the player is holding the ball, the ball is nullified.

The illustration above shows that the pallino has not completely crossed over the center line.

Yes. There are two main reasons to cross, and they both require the same first step: ask the captain of the opposing team for permission. If you are on a four player team, with two of your teammates playing from the opposite end of the court, it is common to meet at the center line to discuss strategy. But what if you’d like to take a closer look at the way the balls and pallino are situated? Ask the captain. What if you are playing triples, doubles or singles open, where the entire teams are on one end of the court? First, ask the captain.

Although it is a rule that you must get the opposing captain’s permission to cross over the line, it almost seems like no more than a courtesy to ask permission. But it is a real rule, and there is an instance where the captain might say no: time.

Some teams meet in the middle quite often during a game. It isn’t against any rule, and permission needs not be asked to meet in the middle, but sometimes it starts to get aggravating to the other team when time is wasted by too many of these meetings. Particularly if you’re playing in a timed game.

 Games are timed in instances when there are too many teams and/or not enough courts. To keep the tournament flowing, tournament directors have the right to time games. If time is running out on a game, and your team is ahead, the opposing captain may perceive that you’re asking for permission to cross the center line to stall for time, particularly if you’ve asked permission several times toward the end of the game. The opposing captain has every right to refuse permission.

Although meeting at the center line doesn’t require permission from the opposing captain, it should be kept to a minimum, even if the game isn’t timed. Not only is it a time waster, but it is very aggravating, not only to the opposing team, but also to the two teams waiting to play their match on your court when the other courts have finished their games and new teams have already started their game on those courts. 

The closest bocce ever came to being in the Olympics was in the 1900 Paris Games when “Volo” was played as an exhibition sport. There have been a number of efforts since then to get bocce into the Olympics.
There has begun a new concerted effort to get bocce back into the Olympics for the 2024 games. The three disciplines that will hopefully be included are Petanque, a French variation of bocce, Boule Lyonnaise, or what we call Volo, and Raffa.  To learn more about this effort, and to become a supporter of the effort, click on the Boules Sport logo to the left. 

In an effort to maintain the privacy of those who volunteer to give their time as officers of the USBF National Board and the three sector boards in the United States Bocce Federation, we will not publish the email addresses of those board members on the website. This is not an effort to protect our officers from honest inquiries from bocce enthusiasts, but an effort to keep their email addresses out of the reach of those who have no interest in bocce but may attempt to contact a member of our board for their own nefarious reasons, including spam.

 A central hub for USBF officers has been set up to receive any messages any individuals may send to our sitting officers. The email will be forwarded to the officer as named in the email. Should you choose to use our email hub, please send your messages to:

Be sure to indicate to whom your message is intended.

If your question or comment isn’t for a specific board member, you also have the option of sending a message through the “Contact Us” portal.

A player may bring two balls to the line when making a play but can only play one ball at a time.  If the player advances the second ball across the foul line while holding the ball, the ball being held becomes void and must be taken out of play for that frame because the ball becomes “in play” as soon as it crosses the foul line.  If a player is holding the ball, he has interfered with a ball “in play.”  For that reason, as a general guide line, it is best to only bring one ball at a time to the foul line when making a play.

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