Brief Introduction to Pétanque

In September 2016, the West London Bowling Club was able to offer Members a new game, Pétanque (pronounced petank). The then Chair Ruth Hillary successfully applied to CLLL and WREF for grants to install a pétanque court and it was built by Groundwork. The court has been landscaped with beautiful holm oaks (Members contributed to buy these) which screen it from neighbouring houses. Beds are planted with grape vines, rosemary and lavender, in keeping with the Mediterranean origin of Pétanque in Provence. Pétanque, a form of Boules, has been taken up enthusiastically by club members and guests. It has the great advantage of being played all year round so members can continue to play a sport when the bowling season is over. The club has had several friendly matches with other London clubs, including the Royal Hospital. Pétanque is a sociable game and very easy to pick up. The club can provide equipment, everything you need to start playing. Boules are cheap to buy and most players eventually like to have the advantage of boules that are the correct weight and size for them.

The Rules of Petanque or Boule

The surface of a Petanque pitch can be of any material but thin gravel or sand is most appropriate.

Pétanque boules should be metal, about 7.5 cm in diameter, and weigh 700g. You should also have one target ball, known as the "cochonnet" or "jack." The jack should be 3cm in diameter.

Pétanque is played with two teams. There are three ways you can play:

Doubles (2 players per team). Each player gets three boules.
Triples (3 players per team). Each player gets two boules.
Singles (one against one). Each player gets three boules.

Playing the Game
  1. Flip a coin to see which team goes first.
  2. Have a member from the first team stand in the circle and toss the jack. They can toss the jack in any direction. It should land between 6-10 meters away from the circle, and it should be at least 1 meter away from any object (like a tree) that might interfere with a player's swing.
  3. After throwing the jack, have a member of the same team throw the first boule. They should stand in the circle and try to get their boule close to the jack and (preferably) in front of it.
  4. Have a member from the second team stand in the circle and throw a boule. The goal of the second team is to end up with their boule closer to the jack. They will either "point" (try to roll their boule close to the jack) or "shoot" (try to hit the opponent's boule away from the jack.)
  5. If the second team succeeds, then they will have the nearest boule to the jack - called the "best boule". The team that does not have the “best boule” must play the next boule, and must keep playing until they have the “best boule” or run out of boules.
  6. For example, if Team B tosses a boule and it doesn’t land closer to the jack than Team A's boule, then Team B would have to toss another boule. This would continue until they get a boule closer to the jack than Team A's boule or run out of boules. 5. Change teams when the throwing team gains the “best boule”.
  7. If a member of Team A tosses a boule and it lands the closest to the jack, then Team A has the “best boule” and it would then be Team B’s turn to throw. If Team B then tosses a boule and it lands closer to the jack than Team A's boule, then Team B has gained the “best boule” and it is Team A's turn to throw. This continues until both teams are out of boules.
Winning the Round

Keep going until both teams have thrown all of their boules.

This ends the round.

  • If one team uses all of their boules before the other, the other team throws all of their remaining boules. The round is over once all of the boules of both teams have been tossed.
  • Count the score for the winning team.

After all boules have been thrown, the team whose best boule is closest to the jack wins the round. The winning team gets one point for each of their boules that is closer to the jack than the losing team’s closest boule. The losing team doesn't score any points.

Starting a New Round
  1. Start the next round. To do this, the team that won the last round draws a new circle on the ground, around the place where the jack was in the last round. They also throw out the jack. The new circle is now where all players must stand to toss their boules. The winning team from the previous round goes first.
  2. Continue playing rounds until one team reaches 13 points. The team that reaches 13 points first, wins.


How to measure boule to  jack?

1. Visual Inspection (aka “eye-balling”)

Visual inspection is the technique of first resort. Don’t stand directly over the boules, looking down on them. Stand back from the boules a meter or more, so that you are the same distance from each of the boules. Look across the boules at the jack. Imagine a line between the boules, and imagine a second line extending out from the centre of that line. You will probably be able to see that the jack falls on one side of that second line; that is, you will probably be able to see that the jack is closer to one of the boules than the other.
When two boules are almost the same distance from the jack, remember the old adage – “When in doubt, measure.”

2. Measurement

The most common tool for measuring is a retractable steel tape measure. The proper way to use a tape is to measure across the top of the jack to the boule. Make sure that the end of the tape is positioned at the middle of the boule; if it too high or too low, the measurement won’t be accurate. Keep the tape above the jack, without touching it. Look straight down at the jack, and measure to the edge (not the top) of the jack.

Questions & Answers
If the jack lands less than 6 meters (20 feet) or more than 10 meters (33 feet) and is challenged, what should be done next?

If the distance is less than 6 or more than 10 meters, the thrown jack is considered invalid, the jack is turned over to the opposing team which then places it by hand on the terrain.

Can I lift my heel while throwing the jack?

Yes. The rules for throwing the jack are the same as the rules for throwing a boule. You may lean forward on a toe, lifting a heel, when you throw. You may NOT, however, lift your foot completely off of the ground. And you may not have your heel above the circle – your entire foot must be entirely inside the circle.

Can I move the circle once I’ve thrown the jack, or must it remain in the position first placed?

Once the jack has been successfully thrown, the circle may not be moved. Note, however, that you may move the circle to the maximum legal distance (10 meters) before throwing the jack if you need more room in order to be able to throw it.