The bad rules of boules

Now and again something is so bad that it’s good.  We present…..

The Bad Rules of Boules

Found on the web at a site where they sell boules (HPC comments in brackets). If they know this much about the rules how much do they know about the boules they sell…

Petanque is also known as Boule (No – Boules. one boule is the lump of metal that you throw) and Bocce (No this is another game played mostly in Italy).  Being a traditional pub game (no it’s not) without any national governing body (The English Petanque Association would argue), variations of equipment and rules abound. Where there is doubt, locally played rules should always apply.

Please note that 1 metre = 100 cm = 3.28 feet. (actually it’s 3.08)


The surface of a Petanque pitch can be of any material (plutonium is not recommended) but thin gravel or sand is most appropriate. (Sand plays no part in the pitch it’s usually compacted sandstone or limestone with a light gravel topping).  The shape can be either a thin strip 25 – 30m long (no in most clubs it’s usually 12m) and 3m wide (can be wider) or it can just be a large flat area.  In the case of a thin strip, lines often define the playing areas:- a line 2m from either end beyond which a boule is out of play (No – it’s 1m for international rules but more often 50cm for local rules) and at 5m from either end behind which a player must remain while playing each boule. (No)

Each boule is made of metal and is between 7cm and 11cm in diameter (No 8cm max), weighing about 800 grams although boules up to 1.3kg are allowed (No between 650g and 800g and most people like around 700g).  In singles, each player has four boules (No – 3), in doubles, each player has three boules and for triples, each player has just two boules.  The jack or cochonnet is a small wooden ball around 1 1/2 inches in diameter. (In the UK we say coche – in France they never say cochonnet more usually le petit or le but).  Normally a tool called a baguette is used to measure the distance between boules in close situations. (We eat them round here. Tape measure are better in this instance. We don’t measure the distance between boules – we measure how far they are from the cochonnet).


Boules is most commonly played in teams of three (No).  A good team of three will often consist of a “pointeur” who is best at getting the boules nearest to the cochonnet, a “tireur” who specialises in knocking opposing balls out of contention and a “milieu”, the captain (not necessarily) who is an all-rounder.  To begin with players (teams) draw lots (toss a coin) to decide who goes first.  After the first leg, the player who threw the closest boule in the previous leg (we call them ends) starts the next leg from the position of the cochonnet. (No the team chooses who throws and they have the option of moving back to throw if there isn’t enough room for a 10m throw)

The player who starts the leg must first draw a circle around her feet with a diameter of between 35 and 50 cm.  Often, the measuring baguette is used to perform this duty (It will make it difficult to eat).   All players must keep both feet on the ground and within this circle when throwing.   The player then throws the cochonnet which must land between 6 and 10 metres away and be at least half a metre away from any obstacle such as the edge of the pitch or a tree.

The nearest boule to the cochonnet is always called the “best boule” (we don’t use these words).   Each player throws boules until that player runs out of boules (no – the team chooses which member plays next) or throws a boule that is best boule.  Once a player achieves best boule, the next player on the opponents team plays in the same way.  When a player runs out of boules, the next player in the same team takes over (No).  Note that the first player therefore always throws just one boule before retiring from the throwing circle because the first boule is automatically best boule (No).  When all the players in a team run out of boules, the opposing team finishes the leg by playing all their remaining boules in an effort to increase their score.

Scoring is the same as for Lawn Bowls – the winner of the leg scores one point for each boule that is closer to the target than the opponent’s best boule.  The team that reaches 13 points first wins.

While I’m here

A set of 6 Chromed boules in an attractive, robust wooden case with carry handle. The wooden case makes a nice alternative to the more common aluminium style. This set includes 3 silver boules and 3 black boules. Great for identifying whose boule is whose!

The set also includes a jack and a measuring cord. (Measuring cords don’t measure – they’re just pieces of cord)


Real competition boules come in sets of 3. They have the manufacturer’s name, the weight in grams and a unique reference number stamped on each boule. They cost at least £60. Your set of 8 boules is 4 pairs of 2 boules which is OK for fun but not competitions.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s