All About Boules

Jean-michel Poulnot and Jim Knapp throwing boules on Bastille Day. (photo by Julie Kiil)  PUBLISHER NOTE: Julie can supply higher pixel image if required
Jean-michel Poulnot and Jim Knapp throwing boules on Bastille Day. (photo by Julie Kiil) PUBLISHER NOTE: Julie can supply higher pixel image if required

Playing pétanque is relatively inexpensive since the game requires just a set of three identically patterned boules. The Club has boules for lending to players new to the game. But at some point most players want to have their own boules, which are metal, sold in sets of three, and last for years. Boules are finished both in smooth surfaces and in various patterns so players can distinguish them.

Boules fall into three categories: “leisure,” higher grade leisure, and “competition.” Leisure boules are chrome and a set typically costs about $20. Higher grade leisure boules are usually stainless steel and typically cost about $70. Competition boules are various grades of specialty alloy and typically range from about $70 – $325.

There are regulation ranges of size and weight. Competition boules are “made to order” – specific diameter (in millimeters), weight (in grams), metal, pattern, and “hardness,” the degree to which the boule will bounce and rebound. They must have the manufacturer’s name, their weight, and a unique serial number engraved. Leisure and higher grade leisure boules come in standard average sizes, weights, and hardness. The primary domestic supplier is Petanque America ( It carries two brands of competition boules, higher grade leisure boules, and chrome leisure boules. Amazon and other on-line sources also sell chrome leisure boules.

Clubs affiliated with the national governing organization, the Federation of Pétanque USA, host sanctioned regional and national competitions around the country. Only FPUSA members can play in sanctioned competitions, which also require using competition boules. FPUSA clubs also sponsor regularly scheduled “friendly” matches as well as frequent open competitions requiring neither FPUSA membership nor competition boules.

Oakmont Pétanque Club is a recreational club – a recognized OVA organization – not affiliated with FPUSA. There is no need to be an FPUSA member or to have competition grade boules for playing in Oakmont and many members play with leisure boules. But, if a player does want to compete, or expects to play very frequently, or just wants higher quality equipment, competition boules are a good choice.

The Club encourages all Oakmonters who may be interested in playing or learning to play pétanque (pay-tonk’) to come to the courts (between Berger and the OVA offices) at 9:45 am on the Club play days of Wednesday and Saturday. There are boules to lend, the game is easy to learn, and you’ll be playing right away. Anyone interested, regardless of experience, is welcome to join in. No dues are required – just sign up to be on the Club roster. Club play days are casual friendly games with teams randomly assigned. The courts are also reserved 10 am – noon for Club player-arranged pickup games on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. The Club’s annual Oktoberfest Tournament is on Saturday, October 16.

Jean-michel Poulnot shows off the only equipment needed to play pétanque. (photo by Julie Kiil)

Jim Knapp decorated his boules with the French tri-color for Bastille Day.


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