I love weird and/or ingenious devices that are designed to help you practice petanque. In this post, I gather together a few pictures of the most interesting kind of device, the automatic boule return machine.
Here is a video of a BAR (boule automatic return) machine in Wateringen, the Netherlands. I found it in a video on Facebook. If you are a Facebook member, click on the picture (and log into Facebook) and you can watch a short video demonstration.
Most automatic boule return machines use gravity to return the boule. This particular device is unusual. It uses machinery to lift the boule to return it, like the ball return machines in American bowling alleys.
This is a picture that I found somewhere on the Web. I think it is at the Marathon booth at the SEA games in Thailand. Marathon is a Thai manufacturer of sports and fitness equipment, including petanque boules.
Most automatic boule return machines have a target boule that is at least loosely fixed in place. What is unusual about this machine is that it allows you to knock the target boule out of position. When you do, the target boule is returned with the thrown boule via the yellow tube on the right. If a player succeeds in hitting and knocking the target boule out of position, he can feed another boule through the yellow tube on the left, which neatly deposits it in position as a new target boule. (Click on the image to enlarge it.)
In 2007, the Midwest Petanque Alliance had a post about this machine, which was for sale on eBay France.
Description: Very nice machine for a Petanque club which returns shot boules. A target boule is attached by a cable to the center of the shooting piste. The machine takes note of the force of the shots, and displays them on a screen (1,2 or 3) while returning the shooting boule to the player.
I forget where I found the next photo. The device appears to be quite similar to the previous device. In the lower right-hand corner of the photo, you can see the entrance to the gravity-feed boule-return tube. Perhaps this was a promotional tool for KTK, like the promotional device for Marathon that we saw earlier.
I actually built my own automatic boule return machine — you can see a video of it on YouTube. It was a gravity-feed machine, so the target boule had to be raised higher than ground level. It turned out NOT to be good for practicing shooting, but it was VERY good for practicing throwing HARD. I would throw as hard as I could, and the backstop of old carpet took it without a problem. So I would try to pay attention to my throwing form as I threw, and tried to throw HARD.
Another design— perhaps the most ingenious of them all— is Jeff Brown’s Boule-O-Matic 3000.
In 2007 an Australian player named Martial Leconte developed a design for an automatic boule return machine that he called the Petanque Shooting Trainer, or PST. In the PST the target boule is free to be shot away. When it is, another boule is fed up through the floor of the machine to replace it. Leconte built the first prototype in his back yard in 2007. Later he and another Australian player built a second prototype and took it on an exhibition tour of pétanque events in Europe. In the summer of 2016 the device was exhibited in several events in France, and tested by a number of well-known shooters (see the videos on Youtube and THIS). The PST Facebook page has announced that a new model will be presented on tour in the summer of 2018, and that the Rocher family website may become distributors of the device in France.
So that’s my collection of such unusual machines. If you have photos or information about other automatic boule return machines, please let me know.