The questions have started as people arrive at the Greenhead Park terrain. One of the most common is “Where do I buy a set?”. First of all don’t rush into anything. Boules can be expensive. It’s better to start off with a cheap borrowed set until you know what you want. To play properly you need a set of 3. The real thing will cost at least £50. It’s difficult to find a shop anywhere in the UK that will show you a set and allow you to hold some in your hands and choose from a range of boules. If you do find a local shop that does then a) tell me and b) don’t believe everything the sales assistant says.They probably know little about the product.
Boules come in four main types
Brightly coloured plastic boules. Water filled, sets of 8 in 4 primary colours, they bounce quite high and are best used for amusing toddlers which they do very well. Avoid.
Leisure boules. These are the sets of boules you often find in gift shops or garden centres and the Range and even the internet sold in sets of 6 or 8. They are a family set, ”one size and weight fits all” and are usually packaged as pairs of boules, with different stripe patterns. Ignore phrases that say regulation weight and the real thing. These cost about £10 to £20 and are only just about worth it. You won’t get a matching set of 3 as they tend to come in pairs so you’ll have to use nail varnish or felt tip pens to make a set. OK to start with but often become pockmarked there are rumours of these being shattered in the course of a game. (No evidence – just rumours)
Competition boules. These are only sold in sets of 3 and come in different weights and sizes, so that players can choose the correct boule for their hand and type of game. These start at £50 and can go up to hundreds of pounds. These are manufactured to rigorous standards. Diameters are 71 to 80mm. Weights are 650 to 800g. You buy a set that fits your hand and that you can hold comfortably. The theory is that a smaller, heavier boule will roll truer on the terrain, a larger, lighter boule is less tiring to throw. Competition boules carry the manufacturers name, the weight and a unique identifier to distinguish your boules from other similar ones. Some sellers allow you to have your name or initials engraved on the boules. Various patterns are used to differentiate one boule from another – one stripe, two stripes etc, Buying new means you can choose the pattern you like.
Modern “Tatou” style. These are halfway between Leisure and Competition and feature interesting modern patterns such as diamonds, stars & moons. Frowned upon by purists and banned from real competitions they play well and look good. Often 10% lighter than real competition boules but sold in sets of 3. Prices around £30.
Where to buy.
Ebay – take care. Very few real sets on ebay.co.uk but plenty on ebay.fr however postage costs are high so many french sellers won’t post to England.
Amazon – take care. Very few real sets.
Other internet sites.
http://www.pycpetanque.com has a good range and also a good reputation. Free P & P so higher basic prices.
http://www.petanqueshop.com is based in France and has a good range and free engraving.
http://www.decathlon.co.uk is a French company with some stores in the UK although our nearest – Sheffield – doesn’t stock them. They do web sales.
http://www.completeboules.com is new to the web and has a basic set for £50 with free P & P. Choice of patterns and sizes. Sounds good value to me.
Cheap ways to buy
Car Boot sales.
Most car boot sales have a set going for a song and you can get them for £2 or £3. If you get a set with competition level markings you’ve done very well. Even a matching set of 3 that are leisure style is good value. HPC will always buy these from you when you move to a better set.
Hand me downs.
Find someone who’s giving up the game and buy their set from them. You need to be in the know but can buy a set of good boules for £5 to £10. Ask around your club or at regional events. Ask if anyone at nearby clubs want to sell off an old set as they’ve bought a better set. Start at Heckmondwike.
Take a mini break to France.
Make sure the place you stay has a shop that will stock boules. Big supermarkets do but plan ahead. Towns that are holiday/leisure oriented have these types of shop. It will be cheaper but there are associated costs.
Write a letter to Santa.
Saves buying them yourself…