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  • Writer's picturePhil Boarder

A Petanque Piste. How to build one.


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 go 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. The barrier around a piste needs to be able to stop a boule but care must be taken to ensure access to all players. This can be done with a ramp onto the piste or leaving a 1.5m gap in the surround.

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 to play on will take some time to appear once construction has finished. The base layers; although crushed into position will take time to find their natural place and it is this reason 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 and circle 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 or hammered in with a sledge hammer until below the surface.

The overall surface should not be "Billiard Table " level as this game 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 of the players the piste will change. Boule may roll faster and the game may become more difficult. The result should be, as a player, you will get better and as your 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. I would put a little extra on top when the piste is finished so the piste can absorb this material as play happens. The extra topping also protects the larger stones from coming up on impact with the landing boule. These stones can work loose if they are unprotected. The topping can be removed after a year once the underlayers have truly settled. Some teams actually put excess topping on piste's knowing it stops shooters effectiveness. Bad Sports!

Large stones used as topping can be dangerous. A large stone is larger than a jack! The large stones can fly off the piste and cause injury. Recently I heard a stone whistle as it past my ear. A close shave indeed.

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.

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