"Boules" is the name of a collection of games which involve a ball being thrown or bowled (in French"boule" simply means ball). This also includes an Italian game called bocce and lawn bowls. They all share the commonality that the players aim their balls towards a target ball.
Pétanque is a game which falls within this category. The name is especially used in France but you may actually find people using the term boules to describe pétanque.
Pétanque uses metal balls which are thrown to land as near as possible to a target ball. There are two teams which have one, two or three players.
The play area is known as the "terrain". It can be marked out string which is tightly pulled and then nailed into the ground. However part of the appeal of the game is that it can be played virtually anywhere and non club players will likely play in a variety of locations that have adequate space.
What is the difference between pétanque and bocce?
As previously mentioned pétanque and bocce both fall under the same category of boules games, the player aims to get a ball as close the smaller target ball as possible. In both games they do this in an "underarm" fashion as with many other bowling style games.
The differences between the games include the size, weight and colour of the balls as well as the throwing technique and the area/surfaces in which they are played.
Bocce uses bright, coloured balls they usually come in a set of eight of two colours.
In pétanque the balls are made from steel which are then polished for a shiny finish. The players balls in pétanque are differentiated with grooves indented in the balls.
Bocce balls are also larger and heavier with a diameter of 100mm to 115mm and a weight of 920g.
Pétanque balls have a diameter of 70.5mm to 80mm and a weight of 650g to 800g.
Pétanque competition balls are hollow whereas recreational ones can be filled with sand. Bocce balls are made from a solid epoxy resin in competition and occasionally hard plastic in cheaper equivalents.
The larger balls in bocce affect the style of throw compared to pétanque. There is more of a focus on rolling the ball in bocce so the palm is positioned up when the ball is thrown. The player also takes a few steps forward before releasing the ball.
In Petanque the ball is thrown in a stationary position with the palm/ back of the hand faces down which results in the ball being lobbed towards the target with a minimal amount of rolling.
Playing Area/ Surface
Because the style of throw is different in each game the playing area is adjusted to accommodate this. A bocce court is 13ft wide and 91ft long whereas a pétanque court is 13ft wide and 91ft long. The bocce court is also built up with panels on the side to prevent the balls from rolling out of bounds.
A bocce court has a playing surface suited for the ball rolling with a minimal amount of bounce such as decomposed grant, sand or crushed oyster shell. These materials also encourage the ball to run. A pétanque court features a surface suited more towards less rolling such as gravel over an earthy area.
Selecting the correct balls/boules
Although the game of pétanque is extremely versatile it is important that you select the correct equipment in order play the game most effectively. For example it is best to use a set which includes boules which adhere to the official size and weight of the game you are playing.
The boules in our Big Game Hunters 6 player pétanque set have a weight of 719g with an 80mm diameter. This gives the effect of a wide enough diameter to get some purchase on the boule whilst also being light enough to have a decent speed. They are given a rust-free protection for added durability and superior quality. As is traditional they are engraved with two stylish designs so players can clearly identify their own boules.
The other helpful thing included in the set is a durable canvas carry bag. It is important to select a durable bag such as this when you are picking a set. One of the virtues of pétanque is being able to play it anywhere you like. If you were to select a bag of inferior quality then it could break and this would make it difficult to take down to the local park or beach!
Pétanque is a wonderful game for improving hand eye coordination and your team skills so it is definitely worthwhile to select quality equipment. You can see the other sets we have available below.