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. (1) It really is fun! (2) Be be warned about shopping on amazon.com. What you will find on amazon.com will almost certainly NOT be what you want.
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 set will be described as “bocce/petanque” balls or boules. The cloth bag will be emblazoned with the word “bocce” or “boules”. The set will contain 8 metal balls— pairs of balls with 4 different groove patterns— single narrow, single wide, double, and triple.
The problem with such sets is that they contain NEITHER petanque boules NOR bocce balls. I’ve seen such sets so often that I’ve become hardened to the sight. Rather that screaming “stupid crap!” at my computer screen, I now give the product ONE star, and leave a review which I hope is both objective and helpful. It goes like this.
Before buying a set of “petanque/bocce” balls, consider what you want to do with them. Do you want to: (a) play petanque, (b) play bocce, or (c) just mess around without worrying too much about any rules. My recommendations, for each of those scenarios, are at the end of this review.
IF YOU WANT TO PLAY PETANQUE
(1) Petanque is played with balls (called “boules”) that are about the size of a baseball (about 73mm, less than 3″). Boules are typically made of steel. They may or may not be hollow, and they typically weigh around 700g (just under two pounds).
(2) In petanque, each player brings his own set of three boules. A proper set of petanque boules contains three boules, all with the same groove-pattern. You identify the sets belonging to different players by the number and pattern of grooves on the surface of the boules. Typical patterns are: no grooves, single-groove (wide), single-groove (narrow), and double-groove, although you may also see patterns with three or even 4 grooves. Coloring the grooves with different colors of permanent marker can help players to see the differences between sets.
(3) In petanque, each team plays with 6 balls. Players play with 3 boules when their team has two players, and play with 2 boules when their team has three players.
(4) WHAT KINDS OF BALLS SHOULD YOU BUY? You want each player to have his/her own set of 3 boules. If you buy a bag that contains 3 matching boules, you have enough boules to equip one player. If you buy a bag of 6 metal boules that contains two 3-ball sets, you have enough boules for two players to play singles. If you buy two such bags, you will have 12 boules; enough to equip 4 people to play a doubles game.
(5) WORDS OF WARNING: Some vendors sell bags of SIX metal balls and call it a set of “bocce/petanque” balls. A bag of 6 metal boules — if it contains three 2-ball sets — WILL NOT work for petanque. Some vendors sell bags of EIGHT metal balls and call it a set of “bocce/petanque” balls. A bag of 8 metal boules that contains four pairs (2-ball sets) WILL NOT work for petanque.
IF YOU WANT TO PLAY BOCCE
(1) Bocce is played with balls that are larger and heavier than petanque boules. A bocce ball is about the size of a cantaloupe (about 110mm, just over 4″). Bocce balls are typically made of solid plastic (epoxy resin) and typically weigh about 900g.
(2) In bocce, someone typically brings a set of eight balls that is enough for the entire game. A proper set of bocce balls contains 4 pairs of balls: 8 balls in total. Typically, you identify the sets belonging to different players by the color of the balls and the number of grooves on the surface of the ball. Different teams play with different colors (usually, red vs green), and each player can tell his own ball by the number of grooves (single or double) on the ball. In some bocce sets there are 4 pairs of balls, each set of a different color.
(3) Bocce is played as a 2-against-2 game; each side plays with 4 balls; players play with 2 balls each.
(4) WHAT KINDS OF BALLS SHOULD YOU BUY? You want a set of 8 balls, consisting of 4 pairs of balls. The balls should be made of wood or epoxy, not metal.
(5) WORDS OF WARNING: Some vendors sell bags of SIX metal balls and call it a set of “bocce/petanque” balls. Six balls only, no matter what kind of balls they are, WILL NOT work for bocce. Some vendors sell bags of EIGHT metal balls and call it a set of “bocce/petanque” balls. These aren’t true bocce balls, although you can play a game of bocce with them if you wish. A set of 8 metal balls will be more portable (smaller and lighter) than a set of 8 true bocce balls.
CONCERNING THIS PARTICULAR PRODUCT
IF YOU JUST WANT TO MESS AROUND A BIT AND NOT WORRY ABOUT THE RULES:
[This section depends on the product being reviewed. It might, for example, say something like...] This product is a good buy. It is the least-expensive set of 8 metal balls that you will find on amazon.
IF YOU WANT TO PLAY PETANQUE: This product is NOT recommended. It consists of four sets of 2 boules each, so it cannot be used for any proper game of petanque, as explained above. MY RECOMMENDATION: Look elsewhere on amazon for offerings that contain two sets of 3 boules each. There are at least two other products on amazon.com that fit that description.
IF YOU WANT TO PLAY BOCCE: This product is NOT recommended. These metal balls are not true bocce balls, which are larger, heavier, and made of epoxy. MY RECOMMENDATION: Look elsewhere on amazon for proper bocce balls. There are many reasonably-priced sets of true bocce balls on amazon.
I have left reviews like this for a number of sets of “bocce/petanque” balls on amazon. 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. (Just remember to customize the text in the IF YOU JUST WANT TO MESS AROUND A BIT AND NOT WORRY ABOUT THE RULES section.) And please share links to this post— help get the word out.
There actually are a few decent sets of 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.) And for goodness sake, don’t buy any of the horrible painted boules offered by BuyBocceBalls
Finally, Petanque Portal USA is a good starting point for more information about the game.