What to look for when you’re looking for places to play

When you’re looking around town for suitable places to play, it’d helpful to have a list of the things that are important in a playing area. Such a list can also be useful when conferring with your local Parks & Recreation Department about what features are important in a petanque facility in a public park.

Here is the playing area of the National Capitol Club de Petanque in Highlands Park, Alexandria, Virginia. It has all of the features that you want in a playing area — space for five terrains, convenient metered public parking (free on the weekends) and handicapped parking, portable restrooms, benches overlooking the terrains, picnic tables, big shade trees, overhead lighting for night play, a nearby playground for the little kids, and (obviously) a pleasant location.  It also has a storage shed to which the NCCdP has a key. The shed is useful for storing rakes (for clearing fallen leaves and branches off of the pistes after rain storms), plastic circles, guest boules, etc.

Absolute requirements

  1. A venue where people feel safe and comfortable. (A public area is preferable to an isolated area.)
  2. An appropriate playing surface…
  3. … that is large enough to host at least two games, and preferably three or four.
  4. Nothing above the terrain to prevent medium-high lobs.  That includes such things as low-hanging power lines, lights, or tree branches.

Very important
There are four features that are very important. Each of these may be an absolute requirement for a significant portion of your players.

  1. convenient, affordable parking (free or inexpensive)

    Most players will need to drive to get to the petanque courts, so they will need parking. For players with mobility issues, it is important that it be easy to get from the parking area to the playing area.

  2. restrooms

    If you play regularly in a park, in an area without restrooms, the Parks Department may be willing to install portable restroom facilities in the area.  No harm in asking.

  3. shade

    Tall buildings can provide adequate shade, but the shade from tall trees is much more pleasant. In some climates, shade is an absolute necessity. Shade varies with the position of the sun and the time of day, so be sure to check the shade in the same season and at the same time of day that you expect to be playing.

  4. places to sit (picnic tables or park benches)

    Everybody occasionally needs to be able to sit down and rest. For older or disabled players, this can be an absolute necessity. For players’ companions who watch but don’t play (spouses, grandparents) this is an absolute necessity. A table can be very helpful — for leaving snacks and equipment, as a place to sit and chat, as a work platform for scorekeeping, or as a dining table for club picnics.


  1. accessible to players who use crutches or a wheelchair.

    For smaller clubs, this may not be very important. For larger clubs, especially those who know they have players with mobility issues, this is Very Important. Petanque is ideal recreation for veterans with lower-limb injuries. Remembering their special needs will be good both for them and for your club.

  2. a pleasant location (Ask yourself — “Would playing in this place be a pleasant experience?”)
  3. public foot traffic

    Petanque has always been a public, social game. Playing in a public park, surrounded by visitors and families enjoying the park, is not only traditional. It is also more fun, safer, and more likely to gain public exposure for petanque and for your club.

  4. a nearby playground area where companions with kids can wait while you play
  5. a dog-friendly area where your pooch can wait while you play
  6. water fountains
  7. facilities for club picnics (picnic tables, grills, covered event areas)
  8. lights for night play
  9. a lockable storage shed

    Very helpful for storing circles, guest booles, rakes, promotional literature, folding chairs. If your park has a shed, you can probably get a key by registering with park authorities.

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