How to play Pétanque

Pétanque (pronounced "paytonk") is a ball and target game played by two teams of either one (singles), two (doubles) or three players (triples).

The concept of the game of Pétanque is simple and similar to lawn bowls, i.e. resting your boule closer to the jack than your opponent. However, instead of rolling wooden bowls over an immaculately maintained lawn, Pétanque is played on an area of bare ground, crushed stone or gravel (but not on grass) with metal boule rolled or tossed towards the jack.

Players use metal balls (called boules) that are approximately 74mm1 in diameter and 700 grams2 in weight. The jack (or cochonnet) is wooden or synthetic and 30mm in diameter.

In doubles and singles each player uses three boules. In triples each player uses two boules.

Playing the game

  1. The team to start play is chosen by tossing a coin.
  2. Any player in the team that won the coin toss chooses the starting place and draws a circle between 35 - 50cm on the ground in which to stand. Both of the thrower's feet must remain inside the circle until the thrown boule lands on the ground.
  3. This player throws the cochonnet between 6 and 10m away3 in an area at least 1m away from any obstacle.
  4. A player from this team throws the first boule (it can be the same person that threw the cochonnet) trying to place it as near as possible to the cochonnet. This boule becomes the holding boule.
  5. A player in the opposing team comes into the circle and tries to throw their boule nearer to the cochonnet, or knock away the holding boule placed there by the other team. The boule that is now nearer to the cochonnet is the holding boule.
  6. It is then up to a player in the team not holding to throw until their team gets the holding boule, and so on. Unlike lawn bowls, the teams do not take alternate throws. A team continues to throw their boules until either they have the holding boule or they have no more boules to play.
  7. When a team has no more boules to play, the players of the other team throw their remaining boules and try to 'place' them as close as possible to the cochonnet.
  8. When both teams have have played all their boules the points are counted. The team with the holding boule scores as many points as it has boules closer to the cochonnet than the closest boule of the opposing team.
  9. A player from the team that gained the points at the last end draws a circle around the cochonnet and then proceeds to throw the cochonnet to start the next end.
  10. Each team accumulates the points it scores each end until one team reaches 13 points4 and wins the game. There is no minimum winning margin as in tennis. Teams can score points regardless of whether they started the end by throwing the cochonnet.

How to throw the boule

Rules of the Game


  1. Approved competition boule are 70.5mm minimum to 80mm maximum in diameter.
  2. Approved weights are 650gm minimum to 800gm maximum. Typically they are produced in 10gm increments.
  3. Shorter distances are used for children.
  4. Games sometimes go up to 15 points in tournament finals.