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We look at, The sports history/The Sport history in the UK/The future/The Boule/Boule or Petanque?​ and Helpsheets including How to play, a simple guide.​


Introduction to Petanque


2 The leisurely sport of Petanque.


We all know Pétanque is the French sport and is popular throughout mainland Europe. The sport has been played in the UK for over 40 years and Pen-Y-Coed Pétanque have helped many players and clubs with advice on equipment and Helpsheets ranging from Piste Installation to Boule selection. Here we look at the sport, it’s history, rules and its growth in Great Britain


Petanque is the fastest growing sport in the UK. and the playing season starts for many in the warmer months of May and June when ( we hope ) the suns warmth will ensure the chilly boules of the hardy winter players no longer give an icy stab to the fingers.  For the more serious among us who dream of playing for England in the World Championships the first qualifying heats will be held in the Spring. England Petanque, World Championships? surely in England it’s just a fun game played on the Beach. You will soon see there is a lot more to boule in the UK than meets the eye. 


Petanque or Boule owes its extraordinary growth this side of the Channel due to the fact it is the sport that everyone wants to play. Many have seen the game on the continent but were unaware the sport is played in England.  The game is ideally suited to those among us who wish to be fitter but require an activity that is accessible at their level. No great strength is required just a keen eye and most importantly a cunning mind. The sport of Petanque can be played by young, old, disabled, in fact by the spectrum of abilities.  The sport is ideal for people getting to know each other in a open environment without the need for expensive clothing as with Bowls. Those of us lucky enough to play the game know throwing metal balls around is fun, skilful and  thoroughly enjoyable.


Petanque ?  Visitors to France may be puzzled by the game of boule being played in the local village squares. Huge cheers erupt from the players, bursts of laughter shatter the peaceful village scene, but what is going on ? What are the rule's and how can they tell who's boule are who's, who's side are they on and why do the rule's seem to change throughout the game. Well, let us look at the History of the game, the development of the sport, a glimpse of the current game, a look at the boule themselves and the future.


Beginnings  First seen in Ancient Egypt, later in Greece and modified by the Romans to a "target" game the early versions of boule were stones. Large stones were thrown at a smaller target stone and the closest stone won! Vast sums of money were wagered on the game. The stones and the wagers remained a feature for many years and the game of "Stone throwing" was banned by Charles V in 1369. Stones were replaced by cannon balls in the 16th and 17th century and this leads us to one of the biggest English sporting controversies of the modern age.


In 1588 Sir Francis Drake was playing Bowls on Plymouth Hoe. Bowls?  If one examines the contemporary paintings Drakes group were playing with small metal cannon balls on a gravel surface. Some paintings even show Sir Francis tossing the ball, not rolling it. This is more like Boule than bowls. We know Bowls requires a flat playing surface and the first lawn mower was invented in 1832, 300 years after the Spanish Armada! Boule became so popular with the working classes that it was outlawed (Again!) by Parliament. This may explain why the sport died out in England but existed in France where they played and adapted the game to Pétanque.



Boule or Petanque?  Boule is a generic term covering many ball and jack games i.e. Boccia, Pétanque, Boule Lyonnasie, Jeu Provencal. Boule Lyonnaise is a game similar to Lawn Bowls and many readers may have witnessed this amazing sport. The game is played over long distances and a run up is required to launch a metal boule up to 17 metres. Just take a moment here to imagine an English lawn bowl thrown through the air to remove an opponent’s bowl, hitting the bowl without hitting the ground first. Some shot!  The athleticism required to play the sport is best left to the dedicated sportsman. However, the sport of Lyonnaise is the direct relation to Pétanque. A master of the sport in Lyon suffered from arthritis in his later years and found the running and throwing difficult to maintain with accuracy. In 1910 he devised a game where you stood with your feet together in a circle. With no run up allowed the game was played between six and ten metres from the circle. The game caught on very quickly and Pétanque was born. One of the few sports played at World championship level created by a disadvantaged person. With this beginning the sport is indeed suitable for all.


Recent History  The modern history of the organised sport in England starts in 1974. A group of enthusiasts at Sam's Hotel, Shedfield, Hampshire, having enjoyed Petanque on French holiday’s started playing on the cricket club drive opposite the hotel whilst enjoying their Sunday lunch time Pint(s). From this small beginning and with great help from Pernod a team from the UK competed in the World Championships as early as 1975.


Now  Petanque is now increasing in popularity though out the country at an alarming rate. Kent is without doubt one of the strongest areas, however the sport has its foundations in every area of the UK from Scotland down to Cornwall.


The sport however is now played in every area of the UK. Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England play a Home Nations every year. There are over 320 clubs in the UK with an estimated 20,000 regular players. Some of the fastest growing regions are East Anglia, Essex, Hampshire and Lancashire.


The question is, why has the sport come back across the channel where over 500,000 Frenchmen make Petanque the 2nd largest participant sport in France behind cycling?


The facts speak for themselves. The cost of a set of three competition boule with jack is under £80 and that's it, nothing else is required, thus Petanque is one of the least expensive sports to play. The sport requires a gravel or stony surface approximately 4M x 15M, any gravel drive or pub car park could suffice. The rules are very straight forward but the tactics involved can make chess look simple. The first team to score 13 is the winner and scoring is as bowls, the number of Boule closer to the jack than the closest of the oppositions count as points, however this is where Bowls and Petanque go their separate ways. In Bowls the teams take turns, whereas in Pétanque the team who are closest to the Jack do not throw until the opposition are closer. This is why to the casual observer, there appears no order to the players throwing.  It is this simple rule that makes Petanque a game of advantage, good shots will force the opposition to throw, once they have used all their boule, or achieved a closer shot the other team can play. The team with boule left, if the opposition have run out of boule, can use them to score by putting them closer to the jack or by removing opponents boule. This is when Petanque becomes aggressive, ruthless, tactical and merciless.  The game can be slow and thoughtful and then explode into action with

everything relying on the last boule thrown. There are no draws in Petanque thus the game reaches an exciting and inevitable climax.


The Boule  The size and weight of boule varies depending on the player and the use the boule will be put to, either pointing (getting near to the jack) or shooting (knocking out opponents boule from the field of play). With differing weight, size and marking, the range of 7 Obut boule (a leading manufacturer) has over 1500 possible permutations.


The Future  Many sports have been transformed by television coverage. These sports all have many things in common, they can be covered by a limited number of cameras, they can all occur indoors and they can be very exciting to watch from the comfort of your own home. Petanque could be the next snooker as viewers watch the nail biting excitement of a player hitting an opponent's boule with a throw over 30 feet”. The stage is set. The sport can be played in most places, costs very little, can be played by all age ranges and abilities and most of all, is highly addictive.


Pen-Y-Coed Petanque

Boule Selection

Installing a Piste

How to play, a simple guide

Pen-Y-Coed Pétanque   Established in 1993 have moved to larger premises in 1995 and are now based Nr. Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk where they run the only UK shop dedicated to pétanque. A family business  giving individual attention to you to choose your Pétanque equipment.


A company specialised in helping Pétanque players also promote the game of Pétanque within the UK. They have sponsored the Great British team at the World Championships in 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2002 and have contacts of where to play be it the nearest local club to regional information and where to see National competitions. All the staff play the game and are able to help and advise on the choice of boule that is right for you. Like any other sport you need the best equipment to play your best and as the UK stockist of boule from the oldest boule manufacturer in the world, La Boule Intégrale, Pen-Y-Coed Pétanque have the expertise to supply top quality boule and equipment.


The web site has all the latest equipment, news and tournament information. Assistance given to players and clubs ranges from piste installation to help sheets on how to play, boule selection, history of the game and even which measure to use! They attend exhibitions and come and try events as well as Pétanque tournaments all over the UK


If you require more information concerning the sport of Pétanque please contact Pen-Y-Coed Petanque on Telephone No. 01359 250829,  E-mail

or visit the web site at


So that’s the details about the game so how do I start?

If you are interested in playing petanque but do not know enough about the game then choosing the correct boule can be a headache.

New petanque season’s bring many players to look select a new set of boule or for new players they move from leisure boule to Competition boule. Here we  have a guide to choosing the right boule for you.


The choice of boule. 2021


To find the right set of boule for your individual requirements there are several factors to consider. With the different types of boule shown in our catalogue and on our website there are thousands of possible variations. Before you select your boule you will need to know which Diameter, Weight, Pattern and hardness you require.




Every competition set of boule has a diameter. This is not normally marked on the boule so can be tricky to remember but the boule can be measured in our shop if you have found a good size for you. The FIPJP ( Federation Internationale de Petanque et Jeu Provencal ) allows diameters from 70.5 to 80 mm. The diameter required foe the individual depends mainly on the size of the players hand and just a little on the use the player will put the boule to. Ladies, Juniors and players with small hands generally prefer diameters from 71 to 73 mm. This can vary and we have a hand size chart in our catalogue which we can post to you on request. In the past, pointers have favoured smaller diameters as they felt they will make smaller targets if being shot. Meanwhile shooters lean towards bigger boule in the hope they will hit the target boule easier. This is a matter of debate, however, the right size of boule to your hand will allow you to deliver the boule with accuracy whatever shot you are trying to carry out. Size is very, very important so as mentioned please ask for a hand size chart for a guide. We even have a guide on our web site just to be clear how you use the guide. Size is THAT important to your game.



The weight of a competition boule is clearly stamped on a boule. If you are trying other players boule make sure the size is correct for you first otherwise it may led to an incorrect choice of weight. Weight tends to be a personal preference but there is no point choosing a boule that is so heavy you cannot reach long jacks. The FIPJP allows weights from 650 to 800grms. Pointers, as mentioned earlier, prefer small boule but they also like to use heavy boule. These tend to take a straighter path upon landing when they hit rough ground. For shooting, the tendency is to use lighter boule, this gives an advantage when shooting boule to boule as the distance of throwing is often 9 to 10M, this can be easier with a lighter boule and does not result in tiredness during competition play. Shooters prefer weights from 680 to 710 g.


In general, new players tend to use an average weight of between 690 to 720 g unless they feel the need to specialise. As with size, the correct weight of boule will allow you to deliver the boule with accuracy whatever shot you are trying to carry out. There is a theory, the heavier the boule the more it will move the target boule. That is not the case in petanque. The lightest boule will clear a heavy boule out of the way with ease. Newtons 3rd law comes into play when the thrown boule hits another. For every action there is an equal and opposite action



Mainly used for identification by new players and some players like the grip it gives on a shiny new boule. Once the boule have been worn in they will have plenty of grip whether plain or patterned. Generally, for shooting, the boule should have few or no stripes (the boule can be released smoothly from the hand) i.e. pattern 0 or plain. For pointing, some players think more stripes can give greater control but many players who point to the highest standard use a plain boule. Generally pointers will use patterns 0 and 1.


Hardness   2 types of boule.


In the past manufactures produced many types of hardness from Hard to Very soft. Now the choice has moved to two levels of hardness.


Soft :  Between 110  and 112kg/mm The annealed boule give a greater absorption of impact when shooting, giving the boule a tendency to carreau more often when hitting boule. This is the reason shooters prefer soft boule but they do wear quickly. They can also be useful when pointing on hard pistes as they absorb the landing of the boule on high lobs.


Semi Soft :  115 kg/mm The hardness of the metal prevents wear on the boule, however, the boule is left in a semi soft state to help absorb the impact of a shot and thus remain in the head. Pointers like these boule as well because they can last longer than soft boule as they resist the wear when pointing with a lot of backspin. This is also why middle players in triples prefer semi soft boule.



If the above details are taken in the order given, you will generally find pointers will choose a semi soft boule in a small size and heavier weight with a plain finish or some stripes. i.e. 72 mm 710grms with a pattern. A shooter may choose a larger, lighter boule, i.e.  75 mm 690grms with little pattern. The main rule is to choose a boule you are comfortable with. A boule that can be held comfortably in the hand without slipping during the throw. Once worn in all boule will get a natural grip on the surface of the steel, this helps the player hold the boule and gives them control over the boule. If you require any clarification or assistance in boule selection feel free to ask your local boule supplier and they will be happy to help and advise.

Petanque Pistes

Well you have your boule now about that playing surface.

Well the Petanque piste is a funny animal, the game can be played almost anywhere. Maybe we need to change the belief that this game can be played anywhere. It can but can it be enjoyed anywhere. Now we are getting a bit closer to the problem. We have all played on pistes were the boule ricochet off in all directions and are soundly beaten by teams who seem to have no problem coping with the terrain.


So can it be played anywhere? Yes of course. Metal boule are hardy creatures and resist the greatest impacts and abuse. Can we get near the jack? Well it is a game of skill so if you cannot get near you must be lacking in some way.

These are all points to confuse and divert. The simple fact is this. If as a venue you are asked to hold a competition and you do not have enough pistes the answer you give is…… wait for it….. NO!

Looking at driveways and bits of tarmac and putting a string around them and a scoreboard at the end is not, repeat not supplying a venue.

Just imagine teams turning up for a pool, snooker competition and they end up playing on old table tennis tables where you have places some pockets on and covered in carpet. If you think that is ridiculous imagine Darts players turning up and having cork tiles on the wall with a dartboard coloured in crayon. It is ridiculous to even think a serious competition could take place. The final could of course be played on the only dart board you have or the only snooker table you have but all the qualifying rounds would be played on made up equipment.

The real trouble is losing teams will always complain about anything and playing surfaces will be a target. Should we listen to these bad losers. Well maybe no but it should never have got to this stage in the first place.

A venue should provide the correct venue. Simple, some go to great lengths to give a uniform surface. The problem is we think of Petanque as a game played on a gravel surface.

The above section seems like a moan but it is actually steering us to looking at pistes and their construction.

PISTE INSTALLATION is one of our first helpsheets published over 25 years ago. Here we have updated the information and tried to fill in some of the questions raised by customers over the years.

Help Sheet No.3


For International competition and National Championships, the minimum dimensions of a single piste are 15M x 4M with a 30 cm surround before any solid barriers. However, these dimensions are frequently altered for club and leisure situations to take account of limited space available.


Petanque may be played on any surface but grass, because of the roots deflecting the boule, is not recommended. Gravel or hard earth is the favoured surface.

In the UK we try to recreate the dusty squares and areas where Petanque is played in France, however we, in the UK, tend to have a wetter climate. It is this reason we construct areas similar to gravel driveways so we can play when the weather is inclement.


To construct a Petanque piste that is satisfactory to play on in all seasons it is first necessary to select a reasonably well drained area.

The topsoil should be removed to a depth of 6-8 inches (150 - 200 mm) and a layer of hard-core, brick rubble, stone etc. laid in the bottom.  This should be compacted down to approx. 4 inches (100 mm) thick using a Wacker plate or Roller. The area can now be filled with crushed quarry stone 1 1/2 inch down to dust all in.   This is known as type 1 sub base or scalpings. A heavy roller over this, if it is not too dry, will provide a hard firm surface. However, if played on at this stage the large stones will come to the surface. The area will need subsequent rolling and watering to settle the stones down. A shower of rain (hose pipe) will be beneficial.

A solid surround of some sort is usual to a playing area to prevent boule that are out of play rolling considerable distances or causing injury. A wide variety of items are seen used for this purpose, most commonly, old railway sleepers, planks, old kerbstones, old telegraph poles. etc. Depending on the size of the edging available it can be incorporated at any stage after digging to leave 4-6 inches (100 - 150 cm) above the finished playing area.

Once the material so far included has been very well compacted a thin layer of quarry dust 1/4 inch to dust should be spread over the area and rolled again and again.


The ideal surface will take some time to appear as some piste's take time to settle. During the first year you may find soft areas appearing where frequent boule landing takes place. The surface can be maintained by raking the surface with a wire leaf rake. Care should be taken to try to place the jack in differing areas of the piste. Boule make good wackers for the surface. Any large stones working their way to the surface should be removed from the area

The overall surface should not be "Billiard Table " level as this is Petanque not Bowls. A certain amount of thought should be needed to cope with the odd small irregularities in the surface. Anyway, the home team deserves some advantages for all the hard work they have put in building the playing area!

Common Construction Mistakes

A piste should be an ever changing surface. As the above structure compresses with rolling, whacking, rainfall, general play and the constant walking up and down or the players the boule should roll faster the game should become more difficult. The result will be, as a player you will get better and as a piste you will have great home advantage. If the wrong topping is used, i.e. pea shingle or large gravel stones the topping will remain floating on the surface and take years to break down into smaller gravel. It will pile up at both ends as it moves when boule land.

Many constructors put far too much topping on their piste. It can make playing easier but shooting will be difficult as the pointed boule dig in. Some teams actually put excess topping on piste's knowing it stops shooters effectiveness. Bad Sports!

Large stones used as topping can be dangerous. When boule land the impact can cause these stones to fly off the piste and cause injury. In the past I have heard a stone whistle as it passed my ear. A close shave indeed. Pistes can be dangerous places.

A membrane laid on grass and covered in gravel can be a simple construction technique. Not really suitable as the gravel bounces away from the boule landing area and of course this piste will never bed down.

I hope this give a guide for those looking to install a piste in their gardens or play areas.  Enjoy your Petanque.

A Summary of the Rules Simple Guide


A Summary of the Rules 2023


The game of Petanque is played between two teams of 1, 2 or 3 players. In singles or doubles each player uses 3 boules. In triples each player use's 2 Boule. The game begins by tossing a coin to decide who should be first to play and so have the right to place the small target ball, the 'but' or 'jack' as it is known. The first team then traces on the ground a circle large enough to stand in (35 cm - 50 cm diameter is the approved legal size) or uses an approved circle and throws the 'jack' forward, a distance between 6 and 10 metres and at least 50 cm from any obstruction or boundary. If he/she throws the jack outside these distances or too close to the boundary the opposing team can place the jack into a legal position. The first player of the team, who won the toss, or the preceding end, throws their first Boule, as near the 'jack' as possible, they must be careful to keep his/her feet inside the circle and on the ground until the Boule he or she has thrown touches the ground. As soon as the Boule has stopped rolling, the first player of the opposing team throws his/her first Boule from the same circle and must try to place his/her Boule nearer to the 'jack' than the opponent. The act of trying to put one's Boule as near as possible to the jack is called 'pointing'  he/she can also try, it he/she wishes, to knock the opponent's Boule out of contention and this is called 'shooting'. If he/she succeeds in placing his/her Boule nearer to the jack than the first player, it is then the turn of the opposing team to throw a Boule to try to place one of their boule nearest to the jack. As long as a team has one of their Boule nearest to the jack the players of the other team must try to get a better boule by 'pointing' or 'shooting' their Boule. When they have no more Boule to play, it is the turn of the other team to throw their Boule. When all the Boule have been played, the team who has the Boule nearest to the jack counts one point for each Boule nearer the jack than his opponent's nearest Boule. Another 'end'  then commences in the same way as before, a player of the winning team traces or places a circle, throws the jack and starts to play. The game continues until one team has reached 13 points. When the jack has been thrown, no obstacle, even the smallest stone, may be removed between the circle and the jack. A Boule once played may not be moved unless it has passed over the boundary of the game or touched surrounding dead areas. It may happen that two Boule touch the jack or are at equal distance from it; then the players of each team play alternately until the point is won by one of the two teams.

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