Pétanque Club 6-15-2019

Don McPherson

LEARNING PÉTANQUE

Cupping the boule at the bottom of the palm before turning the wrist over.
The classic underhand, palm down, cocked-wrist hold.
(photos from “How to Throw a Boule” from the blog petanque.wordpress.com – fair use: no copyright infringement intended).

Pétanque is a fun, social game popular worldwide that people of all skill and physical ability levels can play. In fact, a player with serious mobility restrictions invented pétanque in the early 20th century as a modification of an ancient Provencal game.

If you’re interested in playing or learning, come to the court (between Berger and the OVA offices/Umpqua Bank) at 9:45 AM on the Club play days of Wednesday and Saturday. We have boules to lend. No membership fees are required – just sign up to be on the roster. The court also is reserved 10 AM – noon for Club player-arranged pickup games on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday and is otherwise available for use by any Oakmont resident. View the Pétanque Club webpage (OVA login required) at: https://oakmontvillage.com/article/category/clubs/petanque/.

FAQ: WHY DO THEY THROW IT THAT WAY?

Unlike bocce, which uses a large composite ball typically rolled out underhand, palm up, pétanque is a throwing game using much smaller, hard metal boules. In addition, pétanque is not played on a bordered, groomed and level court but rather on an open, uneven terrain of any surface, including gravel of consistent or inconsistent grade and stones, as well as materials like dirt, sand or pulverized shells.

Although pétanque rules do not prohibit rolling, palm up, or throwing underhand (or even overhand!), the usually unpredictable, obstacle-laden characteristics of most pétanque terrains yields a strong preference for the classic palm-down, underhand hold with cocked-back wrist. The boule is cradled at the bottom of the palm with fingers straight and “cupped” over it, turned palm down, and then released off the tip of the fingers with a straight arm pendulum-type throw that begins with a wrist snap and ends with a follow through of the hand pointing upward in a Buddha-like gesture toward the target.

This loose cupping, rather than gripping, and snap release produces backspin or “retro” regardless of the particular “pointing” or “shooting” throw that is chosen and greatly improves accuracy by stabilizing the boule at the moment of impact and putting force behind its intended final, rolling trajectory toward the cochonnet (jack).

Controlling the speed, power, arc and height of the throw as well as the degree of backspin are the challenging skills to be mastered, as with any sport or game, by play and practice.

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