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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. See below how one team (yellow) currently has four boules closer to the target.

petanque coupe de france visuals of scoring
If the teams here had no boules left to play, then the yellow team would score four points, with four boules closer before the blue team is within range.

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).

A great video demonstrating how to point like a pro and get ahead of your opponent

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.

Watch these players shoot an opponents boule out of the way with unbelievable skill & precision

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

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.

*data source: CEP website.