BOULES (Pétanque)

The game of boules, otherwise known as pétanque , is perhaps the sport that is closest to French hearts. Similar to British lawn bowling or Italian bocce , the French version is traditionally played with metallic balls on a dirt surface beneath plane trees, with a glass of pastis at hand. The local boulodrome is a social focal point in southern France.

The object of the game is to throw your balls — usually with somewhat of an arched back-spin — so that they land closer to the small object ball (cochonnet ) than those of your opponent, or strike and drive the object ball toward your other balls and away from your opponent's.

Equipment check

The only really essential equipment is a set of three steel boules. A set costs anywhere from US$5 for a rusty old set you may be lucky enough to come across to US$120 for a competition set. To be legitimate for competition play, a boule must conform to the following specifications:

Weight: From 650 to 800 grams [1lb. 7oz. — 1lb. 12oz.]
Diameter: From 70.5 to 80.0mm [2.78" — 3.15"]

A player who specializes in pointing (or placing) should normally favor a small, heavy boule. A heavy boule is slightly more difficult to displace, and a boule of the minimum allowable diameter presents a smaller target to the opposition's shooters. Women and young boys, usually having smaller hands and less arm strength, frequently compromise by selecting a boule that is both light and small.
A shooter should choose a lighter boule for the best chance of success. This may seem surprising, but in fact the decreased momentum of a light boule gives it the best chance of remaining in place after knocking an opponent's boule out of the game (the perfect, and much admired, shot known as a carreau ).

A shooter should not use a small boule: a shot that just barely misses with a small boule might have been effective if only that extra 5 mm had been on the radius!

La Boule Bleue of Marseille has a special web page enabling you to pick the right boule for yourself in a step-by-step process.

In choosing a boule, however, perhaps the overriding consideration is "play with what feels comfortable to you."
Very non-essential equipment

The following pétanque trivia is definitely not necessary.......
* Peaked cap for playing against the sun
* Calipers for really fine measurements of distance
* Hand-held score keeper (sometimes provided with an image of Fanny on the back)
* Powerful magnet on the end of a string: for those who have trouble bending down to pick up boules
* Special cloth for wiping grit off boules

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