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What is Pétanque?

A sport of skill, precision & strategy

Pétanque is a sport that falls into the category of boules sports, along with Raffa, bocce, boule lyonnaise and to some degree, lawn bowls and crown green bowling. All of these sports share something in common, in that players or teams play their boules/balls towards a smaller target ball. In English, this will commonly be referred to as the Jack, however in France, the correct terminology is the 'But' which translates to Goal.

boule and jack distance measuring  petanque

The aim of the game is to be the first player/team to score thirteen points. Points are scored by having one or more of your boules closer to the target than those of your opponent, after all boules have been thrown.

The game is played out over a series of rounds, often referred to as an end, with the scoring team of an end being first to start the next round. Pétanque isn't just about throwing your Boule to get as close to the target as possible (a method known as pointing).

Alternatively, there are a number of other tactics that can be employed in order to gain the advantage. Shooting your opponents boule is another option that can be applied. Shooting has the potential to remove your opponents boule from the field of play. However, this doesn't come without risk as if you miss, it could be your boule that exits the field of play. At the highest levels of the sport, shooting is often the preferred option.

Belgian Romain Wagener shooting at the La British Open
Belgian youngster Romain Wagener, shooting in the precision shooting contest at the La British Open

Whilst pétanque, like many other sports can be played socially, it is also played competitively at regional, national and international level. Many countries host large showcase events such as the Mondial La Marseillaise in France, The Amelia Island open in the US and the La British Open in England.

Philippe Quintais at the Mondial la Marseillaise 2018
Philippe Quintais pointing in a match at the Mondial la Marseillaise 2018

The governing body for petanque is known as the Fédération Internationale de Pétanque et Jeu Provençal (FIPJP). In England the governing body, Pétanque England (formerly English Pétanque association) has over 180 clubs and more than 2800 registered players*. This figure excludes a large number of players that are unregistered.

A short highlight reel from the 24 hours of pétanque competition at the Tours Boulodrome.

*data source: CEP website.

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