Petanque: The Game and Equipment

What is Petanque?

Petanque is a game of bowls originating in France. The name, derived from "feet together", is one in which you throw with both feet in a circle and on the ground. Petanque is played with steel balls called 'boules' and a small wooden jack called a 'cochonnet'. The boules are roughly the size of an apple and weigh about 700 grams each. Each player needs a set of three boules.

The game is played by two teams, with each team consisting of one, two, or three players. Doubles and triples has the added dimension of team play. A good game of petanque against equally strong opponents can be both fun and challenging, incoporating skills, tactics and nerve.

Find a place to play. A compacted gravel path or a gravel carpark are ideal. Toss a coin to see who goes first and then throw the jack between 6 and 10 metres, and then throw your boule with the aim of getting as close to the jack as possible. Game on, good luck.

Games are played to 13 points.

It's all about getting your boules closest to the jack. Achieving this can be challenging, exciting and sometimes frustrating but almost always good fun. A little bit of luck occasionally helps but mainly some good positioning and attacking is the key. A bit of competitiveness mixed with a dose of good humour and you will have great fun. Friends are made, problems are solved and before you know it you'll be hooked.


You will need a set of three boules to play petanque. (Most leisure set are not really suitable as they come as 3 or 4 pairs.) A boule should fit in your hand with the thumb and forefinger just touching each other in a light grip.

Don't rush into buying boules. Play a while and become comfortable playing with club boules or whatever boules you have yourself. Once you have decided that petanque is your game, then look for a set of competition boules. Ask fellow club members for advice on how to buy a set to suit your game and hand size. The club has a hand size measurement device.

A Pointer or Positioner is a player who throws the ball and tries to get it as close to the jack as possible. A good positioner in a team is quite often a deciding factor in a game, and a good positioner can counteract an attacking player simply by being consistent in getting close to the jack. Usually a positioner will use boules that are heavier in weight (700g-720g) and with more striations (cut lines in a boules surface) to grip the ground.

The Shooter is a more specialised but spectacular role (when it works). The shooter is basically a positioner who, when required, can attack your boule and knock it out of position, hopefully leaving his or her boule in it's place. Attacking can be a double-edged sword. If it all goes well it could decide a game or gain a psychological advantage at a crucial point. However every attacking shot that misses its target is a lost boule. The shooter will usually go for a lighter boule (680g-700g) without any striations that could affect accuracy. Shooters prefer softer metal boules so that when they strike another boule the shock will be partly absorbed by the softer metal reducing rebound.


Other equipment that should be considered when purchasing boules include a boule carrying bag, a magnet on a string to pick up boules, a game score recorder, and a tape measure for measuring which boule is closest to the jack.