I like toys. I’m fascinated by ideas for devices to help with petanque practice.
Let’s start with a 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…
… but now I think it must be a “petanque-ified” version of a traditional French game called boule à la pente (ball up the slope). The goal is apparently to get balls into the holes in the board.
A similar game, called bumble puppy (also known as “nine holes”), was a popular pub game in England in the late 1700s. Here is an illustration of it being played in 1803.
This is a variant of a very old game that is known to have existed since at least 1530. In France in the 17th century it was known as trou madame. It was played with balls or rolling disks, either on the ground or on a table-top. You can see a similar device for playing trou madame at the left in the photo of boule à la pente (above).
This next device looks like a game of trou madame played on the ground with petanque boules, but… it might be a device for practicing pointing. See this YouTube video of Festival de Pétanque Düsseldorf 2010, where it appears briefly at about 4:30.
It’s an easy transition from trou madame to pointing-practice device. I found this home-made device on the Midwest Petanque Alliance web site.
The same Germany company also offers shooting training devices that automatically pull a shot boule back into place, allowing you immediately to shoot at it again. In this particular device, the target boule is suspended from a cross-bar.
I don’t understand why these devices cost hundreds of Euros when you can easily build something similar for a few dollars. I tied a whiffle ball ($5 at my local Ace hardware store) to a length of bungee cord. It works great.
Here is another idea for an inexpensive device, from a post on the Brighton Petanque Club web site. “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. Here, in a shooting workshop at the Tucson Petanque Club, the barriers are 8′ 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.
Here are pictures of a couple of similar devices that appeared in 2007 on the blog of the Midwest Petanque Alliance. They look like they might be early prototypes made by Louis Amour.
Another device of this type is available at PetanqueShop.com, while an elegant version (see below) is available at the Rocher family website.
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”.
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.
Here’s a tip from Joe Acchiardi, of La Boule Joyeuse in Maryland— use old baseballs as practice targets. A baseball is about the right size, and you won’t bang up any of your real boules by using them as practice targets. And if you succeed with a nice tir au baseball you don’t get the loud THWOK that you’d get with a boule. That means that you can practice quietly in your own back yard without irritating the neighbors with the noise.
A simple wooden bench placed near to the jack can be a useful device for training in 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. When Marco Foyot runs training classes he uses frames and crossbars made of PVC pipe— the same basic idea.