The culture and history of Petanque

Ball games have a huge role in the history of sport and leisure over the world. We have knowledge that the earliest types of ball games were played from the beginning of human times...

Creating your own Petanque Terrain

If, like many people all over the world, you have become a Petanque enthusiast, you might have considered how easy it is to make your own Petanque terrain. Perhaps the location of your residence limits how often you play?

Port Bannatyne

Port Bannatyne is a picturesque coastal village, located on the east side of the Isle of Bute, on the First of Clyde, Scotland. Port Bannatyne, along with its neighbour, Ardbeg, is situated along the south banks of Kames Bay...

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Learn How to create your own Petanque Terrain


Originally known as Kamesburgh, Port Bannatyne's historical moments of note date back to 1801.

Game Rules

Petanque is similar to many other games which involve balls or ‘boules.’

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The culture and history of Petanque

Ball games have a huge role in the history of sport and leisure over the world. We have knowledge that the earliest types of ball games were played from the beginning of human times - as far back as the Ancient Egyptians and Greeks. The most popular games today include Football (Soccer) and Rugby, but another lesser known game that has been played in many cultures, is Petanque.

Originating in France, Petanque is popular in other areas of the world. It was estimated that in the US alone, around 50,000 players played the sport. The game is popular enough to have many championships and tournaments, the most notable of which include the World Championships (Le Championnat du Monde de Pétanque) and the Eurocup which is organised by the ConfédérationEuropéenne de Pétanque. In France, the ‘Masters de Petanque’ is a televised tournament which involves teams of four players, competing during the summer – playing a series of seven matches.

During November, Florida plays host to the ‘Petanque American Open’ which is an open invitation event, to players from all over the world. There are also a number of other Petanque tournaments which take place both in the US, and elsewhere across the world. Petanque is, arguably, a popular sport, as it is easy to recognise the rules, due to their association with other ball games.

Petanque is synonymous with games such as Crown-green bowls and Boule. Competitors must simply land their boule as close to the jack as possible. Petanque’s ancestor game is ‘Bocce’ which has similar rules and has been described as the Italian version of Petanque. Whilst these games are very similar, there are a few factors which differentiate them from each other.

The type of ball used to play, is the stand-out difference. Petanque uses a metal ball, about the size of an orange. The ball is thrown with a player’s palm facing down, with a back-handed flick of the wrist. Other games use balls which have a different size, weight and composition – some even use a ball referred to as a ‘boule cloutee’ which is a nailed ball.

Where the games also differ, is in the rules of how the ball is thrown. Although other games allow a run up, and the ball to be thrown with the player’s feet up in the air, Petanque’s rules dictate that player’s must throw the ball from a standing position within a circle.

If one is to become a serious petanquer (player of Petanque), it is useful to get to know some of the terminology associated with the game. Turning up for major tournaments without knowing some of the linguistic terms, could leave you embarrassed or without full knowledge of the rules! To start a  game, or to know that it is your turn, the term ‘throw’ is used (similar to ‘serve’ in tennis). Before one decides to ‘throw’ however, a key decision needs to be made. Should you aim to ‘shoot’ your opponent’s ball (i.e. knock it out of the way), or ‘point’ your boule so that it lands nearest to the jack and puts you in a strong position to win the round (known to enthusiasts as the ‘mene’).

If someone asks you to find your ‘terrain’ you need to find the place where your match is to be played. If you are playing on a public place, this is not always easy to find as large pitches are often divided up using a ‘piste’ which is the string which divides large playing areas into smaller lanes.

Soft Petanque, refers to the indoor version of the sport which, as the name implies, uses soft balls to prevent any major damage to the carpet, floorboards or - if petanquers are lacking in skill - the windows! Whatever the version of Petanque that you are playing, you need to think about how you will win and the aim of the game is straight forward. Just like a SEO service you need to ensure that your ball (or name!) or is the one that appears when the results are announced.

As well as in households, Petanque can be played on a range of surfaces. In fact, any level, flat surface will do. Generally, it is played in a public park and by visiting France, you can often see games being played all around the country during a hot summer’s day. You might also witness Petanquers playing the game on gravel pathways – pretty much anywhere that a surface can be found! In England, it is often played in gardens and families take Petanque and other games to the beaches when the weather suits. As the name suggests though, the game originates in France.

Public games sometimes attract a number of supporters and fans: a Petanque culture exists with some interesting observations and traditions to note. When a group of spectators are observing a match, they form a human corridor around the game, a corridor known as ‘le couloir.’ 

Another tradition occurs when a player scores 13 points in a row, and is mostly celebrated when they win the ‘meme’ by 13 points to 0. This achievement has been labelled a ‘fanny’ which is a reference to one of the game’s legends (though the exact legend / character that it relates to seems open to discussion!) When a player scores a fanny, they must kiss the bottom of a ‘fanny’ figure which is usually symbolised by a woodcarving, pottery or other picture. Just like when a golfer scores a hole-in-one, players who achieve a fanny must buy a drink for the other players.

The traditional drink (associated with Petanque) is the French liqueur, ‘pastis.’ This liqueur is mixed with water, according to taste and players often drink this whilst debating the game they have just played. Although drinking equates Petanque with many male-dominated sports, it has become increasingly popular with females worldwide. In America especially, the percentage of women playing the sport is high, and bigger than the percentage of female players in France.