Petanque scoreboards

A board with numbers and two colored clothes pins! Courtesy of the FPUSA video “How to Play Petanque” on YouTube. The video was shot on the terrains of the National Capitol Club de Petanque, in Arlington, Virginia. I believe that this scoring board was created by Joseph Acciardi.

Recently I saw a picture of a similar scoreboard at Rick Armstrong’s private terrain, near Austin. Note the use of multiple clothespins. They provide a record of the scores of the last few ends (rounds, frames) that each team has won. Neat!
scoreboard_austin_rick_armstrong There doesn’t seem to be any generally accepted convention about whether the numbers should run from top to bottom, or bottom to top.

These scoring clocks are standard fixtures in the boulodrome in Nyons, France. They are smaller than they appear in the picture— they are no more than a foot high.

devices_scoring_flipchartHere’s another simple scoring device that I saw recently. Flipcharts with numbers.

Landscape rake


Almost everywhere one looks [in Arizona] there are incredible terrains; from baseball-field smooth and flat playas (dry lake beds) to chunky gravel stretches reminiscent of the challenging Marseille pistes – and everything in-between. Give me a landscapers rake and a few cold Mexican Dunkels (Negra Modelo preferred), and in less than an hour I’ll turn just about any empty Arizona acre into a fantastic Petanque terrain.
Byron Putman

Head is 24″, 36″, or even 48″ wide for grooming wide swathes of your terrain. Four or five inches high. Made of aluminum, so that the huge head won’t be too heavy. 

Costs anywhere from about $40 to $130, depending on size. But watch out for shipping costs if you order online!

|   Sears   |   Amazon   |   Lowes   |

See also the lute/scarifier at

Strange petanque training devices

I like toys. I’m fascinated by ideas for devices to help with petanque practice.

Here is a photo taken at a petanque tournament in 2015 at Ville de Romans-sur-Isère. At first I thought that it was some kind of petanque practice device.

I think it is a modified version of a traditional French game called boule à la pente (ball up the slope). The goal is to roll balls up the board and into the holes.

A similar game, called bumble puppy (also known as “nine holes”), was a popular pub game in England in the late 1700s. Here it is being played in 1803.

Another version of bumble puppy was played on a slanting board with nine compartments rather than holes.

This table-top game is known to have existed as early as 1530. In France in the 17th century it was known as trou madame. It was played with balls or with rolling disks, either on the ground or on a table-top. boule_trou_madame

You can see a device for playing ground-level trou madame at the left side of the photo of boule à la pente (above). In this YouTube video of Festival de Pétanque Düsseldorf 2010 you can see a version being played with petanque boules (it appears briefly at about 4:30).

It’s an easy transition from trou madame to a pointing-practice device. This home-made device appears on the Midwest Petanque Alliance web site.

Here is a very sturdy version of the same idea. If you don’t feel like nailing together a few pieces of scrap lumber, you can buy it from a German company for only 400 euros.

The same Germany company also offers shooting training devices that automatically pull the target boule back into place, allowing you immediately to shoot at it again. In this device, the target boule is suspended from a crossbar.

It’s a good idea, but probably not worth hundreds of Euros. A villager in Thailand built his own version of this device with a few pieces of old pipe and some cheap leisure boules.

This device allows you to attach 1, 2, or 3 target boules to it via springs.

I don’t understand why these devices cost hundreds of Euros when for a few dollars you can easily build something yourself that works quite well. I tied a whiffle ball ($5 at my local Ace hardware store) to a length of bungee cord. It works great.

This device appears in a post on the Brighton Petanque Club web site. shooting_a_back_boule
“The club at Istrès held an informal Shooting a Back Boule competition one afternoon. Shooting a Back Boule at 10m is one of the great traditions at French clubs. Shooting is, of course, a key part of the game and shooting a back boule at 10m is one of the hardest tests shooters have to face. You can just place two boules on the terrain but often you’ll see a special area set aside for such practice – usually either an old tire with two boules bolted on or a piece of rubber, which is what we have at Brighton and what they used at Istrès.”

A simple device to assist in practicing shooting au fer is a barrier in front of the target boule. In this shooting workshop at the Tucson Petanque Club, the barriers are 8-foot 2x4s, cut in half, with the halves duct-taped together.


Two of the strangest devices I’ve seen are these. In this 2009 video their inventor, Louis Amour, shows them in action. They are actually rather neat devices for drawing the target circle (cible) and positioning the target balls for a precision-shooting contest.
louis_amor_device_ecole louis_amor_device_perso

These devices appeared in 2007 on the blog of the Midwest Petanque Alliance. They may be some early prototypes made by Louis Amour.

Another device of this type is available at, while an elegant version (see below) is available at the Rocher family website.Outil_de_placement_boules_tir_de_precision-2[1]
Here is a Youtube video demonstrating a similar tool. Skip to about 2:20 to see the actual demonstration.


On the Facebook page of the Zanesfield Petanque Club Bo Johns provided a picture of his “indoor shooting pit”.zanesfield_petanque_indoor_shooting_pit

 HOW TO BUILD AN INDOOR PIT (AKA Giant litter-box)
1) Disassemble your large-breed's dog cage
2) Steal the bottom section of the cage
3) Steal the dog's mattress to use as landing pad
4) Snatch 4 short posts from the neighbor's fence to use as stoppers
5) Use large plastic strap to hold fence posts
6) You're all set for winter practices.

Here is a newer version of the same idea.


Is that home plate?  Or a shooting pit?

Is that home plate? Or a shooting pit?

Joe Acchiardi, of La Boule Joyeuse in Maryland, uses old baseballs as practice targets. They’re about the right size, and you won’t bang up your real boules by using them as practice targets. If you succeed with a nice tir au baseball you don’t get the loud THWOK that you’d get with a boule, so you can practice quietly in your back yard without irritating the neighbors with the noise.


A wooden bench placed near the jack can help to practice lobbing. The red arrow in this photo of a Japanese training session points to the thrown boule, which is dropping nearly vertically onto the target. Marco Foyot runs training classes with crossbars of PVC pipe placed in the same way.


If you enjoyed this post, you might also like our post on automatic boule return devices or how to build a shooting pit.

Pastis, and how to drink it

Pastis is a strong (45% alcohol) anise/licorice liqueur, somewhat similar to Greece’s ouzo and Lebanon’s arak. It is part of the traditional culture of the south of France, and especially of Marseille and pétanque.

Before World War I, a licorice liqueur called absinthe was popular in France, especially among intellectuals and artists. Rumors, however, began to circulate that wormwood, one of several herbs used in making absinthe, was hallucinogenic, toxic, or both. This of course only increased absinthe’s appeal to Parisian bohemians.

The rumors were promoted by both wine makers and prohibitionists until by 1914 most European countries (and the United States) had prohibited the production and sale of absinthe. Absinthe makers did exactly what you might expect; they reinvented themselves in the early 1930s as makers of an anise liqueur that did NOT contain wormwood— pastis. (The word “pastis” is derived from the Provençal pastisson and the Italian pasticcio, meaning a blend or mixture.) The bogus bans on absinthe were finally rescinded in the United States in 2007, and in France in 2011.

The most successful makers of pastis were two companies, Ricard and Pernod. The two companies merged in 1974 to form Pernod Ricard, although the two brands remained separate. Ricard for a long time has been well-known as a strong supporter and promoter of petanque. The most famous petanque tournament in the world, Le Mondial la Marseillaise à Pétanque was created in 1961 by a collaboration of the daily newspaper La Marseillaise and Paul Ricard, the founder of Ricard.

How to drink pastis

The traditional way to drink pastis is — pastis--bottle_and_2_glasses

  • Pour a 1/2 inch of pastis into a glass.
  • Add cold water to dilute it to about five (or seven) parts water to one part pastis. The water will instantly and magically transform your pastis from a clear amber color to a milky greenish-yellow. It will also release the scent of the herbs in the pastis.
  • Add an ice cube or two, but not more. Ice is optional and some purists forbid it, preferring to use cool water only. If you drink it with ice, the ice must be added after the water to avoid crystallization of the anethol in the pastis. Never store pastis in the refrigerator.
  • Sip slowly on a sunny terrace at the end of the afternoon.

I love the change in color and the fact that you can re-dilute your pastis once you’ve drunk it down a ways, to extend it and, perhaps, sober up a bit. I also love the way pastis gives you a roaring appetite. … Try it with a bowl of tapenade, good olive oil and some rounds of crusty bread, and you’re set for the beginning of a great meal.

Pastis may also be taken by itself as an aperitif. Or you can drink it like an American— with Coca-Cola or 7-Up, or in a pastis cocktail.

Fanny – the goddess of petanque

Fanny is, as it were, the patron saint (or perhaps, goddess) of petanque.

Ste Fanny priez pour nous - Saint Fanny, pray for us

Ste Fanny priez pour nous! — Saint Fanny, pray for us!

Being fanny (être fanny) means losing a game of boules or pétanque without scoring a single point— losing 13 to zero. (In the USA, we call that a “shutout” game.) Having to kiss Fanny is the ultimate humiliation for boules players everywhere. But it’s also possible to have a lot of fun with Fanny.

Fanny... 13 to 0!

Fanny… 13 to 0!

In one version of the legend, Fanny was a waitress at the Café de Grand-Lemps just after World War I. She was so kindhearted that she would allow customers who had lost a game of boules without scoring a single point to kiss her… on the cheek. One day the village mayor lost a game and came to collect his “prize”. No one knows what prompted Fanny… perhaps she was unhappy with the mayor for some reason. She lifted her skirt and, one might say, turned the other cheek! The mayor never hesitated, though, and less than a second later two loud kisses resounded through the café. This was the beginning of a tradition that requires a player (or team) that loses a game without scoring any points to kiss the bottom of a girl named Fanny.

The ceremonial humiliation often involves kneeling for the kiss and includes the ringing of a bell. (Note the gentleman at the right, ringing a hand bell.)fanny_kissing_old_photo

And that is why wherever boules is played in France, a painting or a poster or a sculpture of stone or pottery is proudly displayed… …ready to be kissed, in public, by the unlucky (malheureux) losers.

Mr. Brown, you have lost 15-0! and to respect the tradition, go open the window and kiss Fanny.

“Malheureux aux jeux. Heureux en amour.”
“Unlucky at sports. Lucky in love”

Often the losers have to buy drinks for the winning team— “Fanny paie à boire” — “Fanny’s buying the drinks!”

Although Marcel Pagnol often wrote about pétanque, and the film Fanny includes a famous game, the tradition is unconnected with him.

Like many mythical heroines, Fanny’s origins are a little murky. One version has it that she was a boules groupie in Lyon – the kind of girl whom today you might see hanging around soccer players. Another is that she was a café waitress in Isère. The Provençal version, which is naturally the the one I take as gospel, is that she worked in a bar overlooking the boulodrome in La Ciotat, where pétanque was invented.

— Peter Mayle, Provençe A-Z

Although petanque players usually claim Fanny as an exclusively petanque icon, Fanny can be traced back at least to the mid-1800s when boule lyonnaise and other bocce-like boules variants were popular and petanque hadn’t yet been invented. One bocce web site claims that Fanny came into being in Lyon around 1860 — and has the pictures to prove it. Here is Fanny with bocce balls — or perhaps boules lyonnaises — not petanque boules.

Au joueur malheureux, comme au chasseur bredouille,
Il reste un doux espoir, quant le Match est fini:
C’est d’embrasser, ému, la superbe Citrouille
Qu’offre au vaincu “l’envers” dodu de la Fanny

To the unfortunate player,
as to the empty-handed hunter,
There remains a sweet hope,
when the game is over:
it is to kiss, with emotion,
the beautiful pumpkin
that is offered to the vanquished,
the plump “backside” of Fanny

Perhaps the most charming representation of Fanny that I’ve seen is a little statuette that Patrick LeThorois photographed at an antiques fair in Isle sur la Sorgue. Again, note the large boules lyonnaises near her feet. The small ball in front of her feet is the target ball, the pallino.

Here is a “shrine” to Fanny modeled on a traditional prayer bench (kneeler, prie dieu). Note the bell at the top.

To see more of Fanny, visit this gallery of representations of Fanny, or the Fanny page at Musée de la Boule.