Why amazon.com is a terrible place to buy your first set of petanque boules

There are ladies and gentlemen out there who haven’t yet played petanque but are interested in learning it. Perhaps they saw it being played while they were on vacation in France, or they saw it in the movie A Year In Provence, and it looked fun. They’d like to buy some petanque boules and try it out.

If you are one of these wonderful people, I have two things to say to you. First: it really is fun! Second: What you find on amazon.com almost certainly is NOT what you want. That’s because if you want to play petanque—

  • Never buy a set of 8 balls. Buy only a set of 3 balls or 6 balls.
  • If you buy a set of 6 balls, make sure that it contains two sets of 3 balls each, not three sets of 2 balls.

The problem with buying boules on amazon.com is that almost every set of “bocce/petanque” balls breaks one of these rules. Beware of sets being sold as “bocce/petanque” balls.

If you search amazon.com for “petanque boules”, the first thing that will be offered to you will almost certainly be something like this. Click to see larger image.
The cloth bag will be emblazoned with the word “bocce” or “boules”. The set will contain 8 metal balls— four pairs of balls, each with a different groove pattern. The set will be described as “bocce/petanque” balls or boules. This description is false and misleading because, in fact, the boules in such sets are NEITHER petanque boules NOR bocce balls.

When I see such a set on amazon.com, I give the product ONE star and leave a review like this one. I try to explain why such a set is neither a good petanque set nor a good bocce set.


Do you want: (a) to play petanque, (b) to play bocce, or (c) just to mess around without worrying too much about any rules.

Petanque is played with steel balls (called “boules”) about the size of a baseball that weigh about 1.5 pounds. Petanque is a throwing game, and balls of that size and weight are perfect for throwing. In petanque, each player brings his own set of three boules in which all of the boules have the same groove-pattern. Many patterns are possible, but typical patterns are: smooth (no grooves), wide-spaced single grooves, narrow-spaced single grooves, double grooves, and triple grooves.

WHAT SHOULD YOU BUY? You want each player to have his/her own set of 3 boules. A bag of 3 matching boules can equip one player. A bag that contains two 3-ball sets can equip two players. A bag of eight metal “bocce/petanque” balls WILL NOT work for petanque. A bag of six metal balls containing three 2-ball sets WILL NOT work for petanque.

RECOMMENDATION: Look elsewhere on amazon for offerings that contain one or two sets of 3 boules each. There are at least two other products on amazon.com that fit that description.

Bocce is played with balls that are larger and heavier than petanque boules. A bocce ball is about the size of a cantaloupe (or larger), made of hard plastic, and weighs more than two pounds. Bocce is a rolling game, and balls of that size and weight are perfect for rolling. In bocce, each side plays with 4 balls. Typically, someone brings a set of eight balls and the two teams play with different colors (usually red vs green). Some bocce sets come with four pairs of ball, with the pairs distinguished by colors or groove patterns.

WHAT SHOULD YOU BUY? You want a set of 8 balls, consisting of two sets of 4 balls, or four sets of 2 balls. The balls should be made of wood or epoxy, be more than 4″ in diameter, and weigh more than 2 pounds. A bag of eight metal “bocce/petanque” balls WILL NOT work for bocce. Although you can play something like bocce with small metal balls, to play bocce properly, you need proper bocce balls, which are larger and heavier than these small metal balls.

RECOMMENDATION: Look elsewhere on amazon for proper bocce balls. You will find many reasonably-priced sets of true bocce balls.

This product will do the job.

I have left several reviews like this on amazon and a few people have flagged them as helpful. If you want to leave a similar review, feel free to copy-and-paste text from this post.

Now for the postive news.

There actually are a few decent sets of proper petanque boules on amazon.com. You can search for petanque boules set of 6 — doing that will filter out the sets of 8, although it won’t guarantee success. (See our warning about sets of 3 pairs.)

But for goodness sake, don’t buy any of the horrible painted boules offered by BuyBocceBalls

Your best bet on amazon is the set of leisure boules sold by Petanque America, although you will save money (and have a few more options) by ordering directly from the Petanque America website.

Finally, if you’d like more information about petanque, a good place to start is Petanque Portal USA. Very detailed information and advice about buying petanque boules can be found on our buying boules page.


2 thoughts on “Why amazon.com is a terrible place to buy your first set of petanque boules

  1. I ordered two 6-ball beginner sets from Petanque America. They’re perfect for a new player and will make great practice boules when I get a good set of three.

    Liked by 1 person

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