These boules – are they competition boules?

[updated 2022-01-11] See also our post on buying boules.

Probably the second most-frequently-asked question about boules (after What is the difference between leisure boules and competition boules?) is—

Can I use this set of boules in an FIPJP-sanctioned competition?
How can I tell whether this is a leisure boule or a competition boule?

When you have such a question, look at two things.

Look at the packaging

If you just bought a new set of boules, or are thinking about buying a new set of boules, look at the packaging. The packaging of a set of competition boules will display the FIPJP’s V-shaped, rainbow-colored logo and the words boules homologuées (“certified boules”) or some variation on those words— boules de compétition homologuées— homologué en compétition par la FIPJP— agréés par la FIPJP en compétition.

If you don’t see those words or the FIPJP logo, the boules are not competition boules.

Note that manufacturers often sell both competition boules and leisure boules, so the name of a reputable French manufacturer does not mean that the boules are competition boules. If the packaging does not display the FIPJP logo and the “certified” label, the boules are not competition boules. These classic JB boules look great… but they are not competition boules.

If you’ve bought a set of used boules on eBay, be alert. Look at the boules themselves and don’t trust the packaging. I’ve seen leisure boules offered on eBay in a cardboard box that originally contained competition boules.

Look at the boules

How can you tell— by looking at a boule— whether or not it is a competition boule?

First, look for indicators that it is a leisure boule.

  • If the boule is marked with the phrase “Made in France”, it is a leisure boule.
  • A very bright, shiny chrome finish, along with rounded (rather than crisply-cut) edges on grooves, is the hallmark of an inexpensive Chinese-made leisure boule.
  • Other hallmarks of inexpensive Chinese-made leisure boules include— packaged in a soft-sided bag (containing 3, 6, or 8 boules) that includes a small jack and a measuring string with two plastic ends. Typically the bag is marked with a single word— “petanque” or “boules” or “bocce”.

If that doesn’t answer the question, look for indicators that it is a competition boule. Competition boules are required to display three pieces of information.{1}

  1. the manufacturer’s name (or logo) and the name (or logo) of the model of boule.
  2. the weight (poids) of the boule in grams. This is a number between 650 and 800.
  3. a set identifier. This is a combination of letters and/or numbers that uniquely identifies a particular set of boules. All of the boules in the set will have the same ID.{2}

A boule that is missing any any of these required marking is not a competition boule and may not be used in an FIPJP-sanctioned competition.{3}{4}

Note that a competition boule may contain other markings as well. La Franc stamps their boules with the size (diamèter) of the boule. MS Petanque boasts that the complete markings on its boules give you all of the information about the boule, including the year it was manufactured (l’année de fabrication). And of course a previously-used set of boules may be stamped with the name or initials of its original owner.

The bottom line
The bottom line is that the ultimate test for whether or not a boule can be used in an FIPJP-sanctioned competition is the presence or absence of all three of the pieces of information that are required to be stamped onto all FIPJP-certified boules.

{1} Note that these requirements are not stated in the rules for the game of petanque. They are in the FIPJP’s rules for the certification of boules.

{2} Some boule manufacturers occasionally sell— at steeply discounted prices— sets of competition boules that have mis-matched IDs. Note that such boules are allowed in competitions. FIPJP rules require that all of a player’s individual boules must be certified, but not that they must all come from the same set.

{3} Note that not every boule without these marking is a leisure boule. Very rarely, a boule without the required markings is a good-quality French boule manufactured before 1974, when the FFPJP first began requiring markings on competition boules. Still, without the required markings, such older boules may not be used in FIPJP-sanctioned competitions.

{4} Note that “open” competitions (such as the Amelia Island Petanque Open, in Florida) often have no requirements about the kind of boules the participants use.

✋ How to backswing

[See other posts in the category how to throw a boule.]

A key aspect of effective throwing is getting your arms back. That means getting your non-throwing arm back for balance. And it means taking a big backswing.

Many players learn to play in clubs where casual play is the norm. They may not have a role model to show them what a big backswing looks like, and probably nobody has ever coached them about their form. That’s unfortunate, because you need a good, healthy backswing to get the power you need to shoot au fer or to throw a high lob. In addition, a big backswing can improve your left-right accuracy.

It’s not difficult to acquire a good backswing. You can see players and their backswings in photographs and Youtube videos, and once you’ve seen a big backswing, it’s relatively easy to do it yourself. (As Aristotle said, we learn by imitation.) The trick is to practice doing it regularly and consciously. With practice you will acquire the muscle-memory and shoulder flexibility that you need, and soon you will be doing it automatically, smoothly, and effortlessly. (It is actually easier to throw with a big backswing. You’re letting gravity help you do the work, and you have a longer distance across which to accelerate the boule gradually.)

So let’s look at some young players with a good backswing.

These young men have beautiful— and rather extreme— backswings… they actually bend forward in an effort to get a larger backswing. This kind of exaggerated backswing— torso leaning forward, both hands far back and very high— is what some of the world’s great shooters use to power their shooting. Consider the remarkable Didier Choupay—
… or the no less remarkable Pascal Milei—
Still, you don’t need to be that extreme. For most players, getting your throwing arm back until it is horizontal is enough to do the job.

One of the world’s great shooters, Philippe Suchaud.

Photo envoyé par Pascal Delfosse.

A good backswing will give you enough power to shoot au fer. It will also give you enough power to throw a high lob, even when squat-pointing.

Here is a great photo of Celia Crittenden showing how it’s done.
You don’t always want to shoot or lob, so you don’t always need a big backswing. But sometimes you do want to shoot or lob, and that’s when you must have a big backswing in your tool bag.

Terminology – what is a “null point”?

The concept of a null point is an important one, yet it is virtually unknow to English-speaking petanque players. So— What is a null point?

At any time during a mène (end, round) the game must be in one of two states.

  • One of the teams has the point.
  • Neither of the teams has the point.

In French, when one of the teams has the point, we say— “team X has the point” (l’équipe X a le point).

If neither team has the point, we say— “there is a null point” (il y a un point nul) or “the point is null” (le point est nul).

It is as simple as that. When neither team has the point, the point is null.

There are two situations in which the point is null. One is when the best boules of each team are equidistant from the jack, so that neither boule is closer than the other. The other is when there are no boules on the terrain. There are special rules for how to continue when the point is null— see our post on Which team throws next.

So, you ask— Why have I never heard the expression “null point”?

The answer is— Because the English version of the FIPJP rules mistranslates the expression “null point”. The last sentence of Article 16 of the French rules is this:

Si aucune boule ne se trouve plus en terrain autorisé à la suite d’un tir ou d’un appoint, il est fait application des dispositions de l’article 29 relatives au point nul.

The 2020 English version of of the FIPJP rules (incorrectly) translates point nul as a dead end.

If after shooting or pointing no boules are left on the designated playing area, the arrangements concerning a dead end as defined in article 29 apply.

Since this is the only place where the expression point nul occurs in the FIPJP rules, mistranslating it in this one place almost guarantees that English-speaking players will never read or hear the expression.

An equidistant-boules situation. Neither team has the closest boule— the point is null. Note that the jack is not dead.