The following comes from the excellent Petanque New Zealand site.

Petanque (sometimes called Boules) is a target sport, where participants throw metal balls as close as possible to a small wooden ball called a cochonnet or jack while standing inside a circle with both feet on the ground. The game is normally played on hard dirt or gravel. It can be played in public areas in parks, or in dedicated facilities called boulodromes.

"The greatest attraction of Petanque is that it can be all things to all people.  
Like a Renoir painting, it is subtle, multilayered and complex.  
It can be savoured by a casual novice through to the greatest master".
(B.W. Putman 2011)

Petanque rules are simple, learned within minutes, and a novice can play immediately without having to be "taught" to play; yet it is strategic and complex and difficult to master if you want to become an accomplished player.                            

As an activity it is low tech, inexpensive and easily accessible, it requires no fancy equipment, clothing or sports grounds, just a patch of dirt or gravel and a set of boules that will likely last a lifetime.  It provides social stimulation, friendly fun, exhilarating challenge and intense competition depending on the level you want to play at.    

It may be the only sport that can be played competitively by any age group from five to 95 and is suitable for players with a range of abilities and disabilities; you don't have to be fast, fit or strong.  

It is gender-neutral, men and women compete on an equal basis and it can be played any time of the day and any time of the year.    

Individuals can choose to play purely for social fun or can go on to achieve national and even International recognition if they want to put the time and energy into the sport.

In summary, Petanque can be played by anyone, anywhere, anytime, with minimal input or equipment. 

About the Sport

Petanque is played by two teams, where each team consists of one, two, or three players.   In the singles and doubles games, each player plays with three metal boules. In triples, each player uses only two.  

The area where a petanque game is played is called a terrain.  A game can be played in an open area like a public park, where the boundaries of the terrain are not marked, or it can be played on a "marked terrain", where the terrain boundaries are marked (traditionally, by strings).  Each marked terrain is called a piste.

Equipment consists of a set of two or three boules per player, a cochonnet (or jack) and a tape measure. 

Petanque can be played on almost any flat, open space. The ground may be irregular and interrupted by trees or rocks, and the surface is likely to be uneven, with some areas hard and smooth and other areas rough and stony. When an area is constructed specifically for the purpose of playing petanque, the playing surface is typically loose gravel, quarry dust, or crushed sea shell. Sandy beaches are not particularly suitable, but are often used for social games.

Boules can be thrown in any way the player prefers — under-hand, over-hand, whatever. The standard way is to hold the boule with the palm of the hand downwards, and then to throw with an under-arm swing of the arm ending in a flexing of the wrist. Throwing this way puts backspin on the boule and gives the player more control and more flexibility when throwing.

When starting a game, opposing players toss and the winning team begins the game. The first person to play draws a circle in the ground (prefabricated circles are now widely used), then steps in and throws the jack (6-10m) and a player from that team throws the first boule.  

The opposing player(s) throw the second boule.  

From that point on, the team with the boule that is closest to the jack is "holding" and the team that is NOT holding throws the next boule.   They continue to throw boules until they either, beat the holding boule or have run out of boules.  After all boules have been played, the team with the boule closest to the jack wins the end and score one point for each of its boules that is closer than the opposing team's closest boule.  

A team can score as many as six points in an end, but normally score one or two points.   The team that wins that end begins the next end by drawing (or placing) a circle around the jack and beginning from there.  Each team accumulates points until one of the teams reaches 13 points and wins the game.

Competition boules must meet specifications set by the FIPJP. They must be hollow and made of metal (usually steel) with a diameter between 70.5 and 80mm and a weight between 650 and 800g.   Leisure boules are boules that do not meet the FIPJP standards for competition boules, but are less expensive than competition boules and completely adequate for "backyard" games. 

Generally speaking, a player throws a boule with one of two objectives.  To make his boule come to rest in a particular spot, usually as close as possible to the jack (this is called pointing) or to make his boule directly hit an opponent's boule with the goal of knocking it away from the jack (this is called shooting).   

As a matter of strategy, pointers play first and shooters are held in reserve in case the opponents place well.   One of the fundamental strategies of petanque is "boules in front and boules in hand"  


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