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  • Phil Boarder

A guide to Petanque measures

Welcome to 2021 December's coaching tip from Pen-Y-Coed Petanque. Our series is aimed to help you enjoy the game of Petanque and win more games. I thought I would review this item as a player told me how his rusty item 8 had actually fired a jack onto another piste. I joked about this in the past but now have actually met someone who has fallen foul of a stiff spring calliper. Not a sentence I thought I would ever type.

Measuring Equipment


Petanque is just one of those sports where measuring is critical to the play. It is no accident that, included in the rule book is a rule denoting all teams should carry measuring equipment. It seems strange that teams need to be told this as no one wants to play their boule till the end and thus need to prove to the opposing team that they are closer. Still there's none stranger than folk.

The problem as I see it is, which type of measuring equipment do the team carry? as there are so many to choose from. To help I have detailed below a users guide to the measuring nightmare.


1. 3 Metre Tape Measure.

Possibly the most popular form of measuring in Petanque, but, like other types of measure it carries its own dangers. 3 metres is the most popular tool as it is small enough to fit in the pocket and can be used to measure; size of circle, jack from edge or playing area, boule distance from jack and the all important 6 metre jack .You do have to use it twice but 6m or 10m tapes can be bulky. Most standard tape measures have floating ends for inside measurements. This is not required for petanque use and tapping the rivets generally tightens up this loose end to give reliable checking. The tape measure does have its faults and can only be used as a guide as it can cause problems on tight measures due to the angle looking at the scale and buckling of the tape over 50 cm. The most secure method is to place the end of the tape to the boule end and take the tape measure over the jack. This enables you to look down at the front edge of the jack against the increments of the tape measure. Tape measures are not to be used between the boule and the jack as they are not designed to do this function. They are for measured comparisons only


2. 20 Metre tape measure.

Most club houses would be incomplete without one of these decision makers. The average pace is not 1 metre as most would have us believe and the error over a 10 metre pace can be considerable. Usually most teams can agree by pacing it out however at 12 -0 down 1 cm can be well worth arguing over.


3. Folding umpires measure.

The top choice for the top players. The sliding extension and unfolding steel sections cover all distances from 12 cm up to 1 metre. Clever isn't it? Favoured by umpires because it is a very visible method of measuring to both teams. Care must be taken to extend away from the jack to avoid moving it as above.


4. Comparison measure with scorer and callipers.

All singing all dancing piece of equipment. 2 comparison tape in plain steel and a sturdy lock system. Pointer on end of tape allows accurate comparison of jack to boule. Placed in between boule and jack they have a pip on the back to place on the boule and the pointer end can be shown to the jack to see the differing gap from one boule and jack to the other. Integral callipers measure up to 9 cm and dial scorer add to this items attraction. Do not lend this to anybody as they are a bit fiddly and they may change the score on the dial by mistake.


5. 2 Metre Tape Measure.

Possibly the most popular form of measuring in Petanque, but, like other types of measure it carries its own dangers. Small enough to fit in the pocket and can be used to measure; size of circle, jack from edge or playing area, boule distance from jack. The tape measure does have its faults and can only be used as a guide as it can cause problems on tight measures due to the angle looking at the scale and buckling of the tape over 50 cm. The most secure method is to place the end of the tape to the boule end and take the tape measure over the jack. This enables you to look down at the front edge of the jack against the increments of the tape measure. Tape measures are not to be used between the boule and the jack as they are not designed to do this function. They are for measured comparisons only


6. Tape measure with scorer and callipers.

2 metre comparison tape in plain steel and a sturdy lock system. Pointer on end of tape allows accurate comparison of jack to boule. Placed in between boule and jack they have a pip on the back to place on the boule and the pointer end can be shown to the jack to see the differing gap from one boule and jack to the other. Do not place on the ground but use upside down so you do not get the rock off stones on the piste and remember when measuring that you should not touch anything being measured. Integral callipers measure up to 9 cm. These little callipers are superb in a tight situation and very visible comparisons can be made to all concerned. Limited to a minimum distance of 5mm and a maximum distance of 90 mm, extremely accurate and fill the short fall folding umpires measures have at close range. A must for all serious players.


7. Folding umpires measure.

The top choice for the top players. The sliding extension and unfolding steel sections cover all distances from 12 cm up to 1 metre. Clever isn't it? Favoured by umpires because it is a very visible method of measuring to both teams. Care must be taken to extend away from the jack to avoid moving it as above.


8. 150 mm spring Callipers.

Now we are getting serious. These are superb in a tight situation and very visible comparisons can be made to all concerned. Limited to a maximum distance of 150 mm, extremely accurate and fill the short fall folding umpires measures have at close range. A must for all serious players, but, keep well lubricated to avoid the sudden opening of the callipers. Moving the jack when measuring is embarrassing, firing it on to the next terrain is unforgivable.


9. Telescopic stick measure.

Ideal for a quick check and in the hands of experts can be used effectively. Limitations are under 15 cm and over 56 cm for obvious reasons. Can be marked to show minimum circle diameter but is a comparison tool rather than a measure.



Other items that can be used as a measure. ( Please don’t ! )


A piece of string,

Normally attached to two pointers of plastic. These are supplied with leisure boule sets as a cheap and easy way to measure. We are playing a sport here so these are a nice try but don’t bother. String has a tendency to stretch when measuring opponents boule. If this is in your leisure boule set when you buy it I would throw it away. Oh, I would keep the boule for practice but keep the case as they are normally well made!


A stick

Broken off from a bush or shrub next to the piste and broken to length. I have seen this happen in France but not ideal as we are all trying to save the planet.


Your feet!

Strictly forbidden but happens occasionally when the game is light and fun and you are not playing for the honour of winning.


So there we have it, the comprehensive guide to measures. Most people survive happily with one of the above but a combination of the above will tackle all eventualities. I myself settle for a 3M tape, Folding umpires measure and the spring callipers.

OK, OK, I sometimes use a 20M tape.


Hope this helps.


Phil Boarder


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