My shooting pit (4)

My hobby is experimenting with designs for shooting pits.

Here is my fourth design. Like my second design it copies the layout of a horseshoe pit. Like my first design, the back-stops are V-shaped, which makes the boules easy to gather.

The backstop is constructed out of lightweight hollow-core plastic boards designed for fence construction (see detail photo, below.) (I got them cheap, at a recycled building-materials yard.) It is 2.5 feet high, although two feet would probably have been enough.

Click on any of the photos to see a larger view.





The backstop is constructed out of lightweight hollow-core plastic boards designed for fence construction.

My shooting pit (3)

My hobby is experimenting with designs for shooting pits.

Here is my third design. I’m quite happy with it. It will probably be my last design.

This is the most light-weight of all my designs. It consists of three sawhorses made with 2x4s arranged in a U shape. The head is covered by a sheet of white Plas-Tek and a couple of carpet scraps. They protect the ground from being pulverized into dust, and keep the boules dirt-free so that I don’t have to be cleaning them all the time.


From the sawhorses I have hung a 10’x16′ baseball net (from Networld Sports, on sale for about $60, including shipping). It is folded in half length-wise, so its dimensions are 5′ high by 16′ long. The upper edge is hung from the sawhorses. The lower edges are held close to the ground by cords threaded through the spaces in the net and nailed to the ground.


As a boule-return device, there is a pipe made of three 10′ PVC pipes. The pipe leads from the head back to the throwing area.

The center sawhorse is set at an acute angle with the left sawhorse. The result is that they form a rounded V shape where the boules tend to gather. (In the photo below you get a better view of the cords that hold the net down at the point where the net touches the ground. )


To return the boules, I walk to the head and put the boules in one end of the pipe. That takes only about one second per boule. Then I walk back to the head, where the pipe has deposited the boules in a bucket.


I lift the bucket onto a platform, so that I can easily grab the boules as I throw.

I throw about 20 boules at a time. That is as many as I can lift in the bucket.

Here is another picture. You can read about the frame with the colored ribbons HERE.


My shooting pit (2)

My hobby is experimenting with designs for shooting pits.

Here is my second design. It is two shooting pits, facing each other. As in horseshoes, you stand at one end and throw into the opposite pit. Then you walk to the opposite pit, pick up your boules, and throw them back toward the other pit.

Here is a closer view of one of the shooting pits.

I built it out of scrap 2x4s but I think one-inch thick boards would work perfectly well. The white sheets on the ground are a plastic material called Plas-Tek. They are sold as construction material to line showers and should be available at your local Home Depot or Lowe’s. They come in 4’x8′ sheets, about 1/8″ thick, and cost about $20 each.

The pit is out-of-doors, so I raised the sideboards about an inch off the ground. That allows rain to drain off, and allows me to sweep dust and fallen leaves under the sideboards and off of the court.

When I pick up the boules I put them in a white plastic bucket on brick “towers” where they will be easy to reach as I throw.

Automatic boule return machines

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.

So that’s my collection of such unusual machines. If you have another photo of such a machine, please let me know.

My shooting pit (1)

I’m new to petanque. I need to practice so I can hold up my end of the game. To help with practice, I have set up a sort of shooting pit in my back yard.

I laid down a big piece of scrap carpet on the ground. (This keeps the ground from being pulverized into dust, and traps the dust.) On top of the carpet are two 2x4s, each about six feet long, in a V shape. This keeps (most of) the boules from scattering all over the back yard.

The 2x4s are secured with big nails driven into the ground.

Later I moved the carpet forward a bit. The depression behind the carpet traps the boules, so they can be gathered up more easily.


In the throwing area (below) you can see a white plastic paint bucket. It can hold 20 leisure boules, so I can throw 20 boules before having to make a retrieval expedition up to the head.  Beneath the white bucket are two larger grey paint buckets, bolted together. They make a platform that is portable and a convenient height.

See my other experiments with designs for shooting pits.

Strange training devices

I like toys. I’m fascinated by ideas for devices to help with petanque practice.


This looks like a home-made device to practice pointing. The picture is copied from a YouTube video of Festival de Pétanque Düsseldorf 2010. Look for the device at about 4:30.

I found a picture of a similar homemade device (below) on the web site of the Midwest Petanque Alliance.

Here is a similar pointing training device that you can buy from a German company for only around 400 euros.

I’m not sure exactly what this device is for, or how it is used. My best guess is that it is some kind of device for pointing. The holes in the device are too small for a boule to fall through, which means that if a boule is pointed just right it might come to rest in one of the holes. But that is just a guess.


The same Germany company also offers shooting training devices.

The shooting training devices automatically pull a shot boule back into place, allowing you immediately to practice shooting it again.

In this device, the target boule is suspended from a cross-bar.

The device below allows you to attach 1, 2, or 3 target boules to it via springs.

These devices cost hundreds of Euros. I could probably build something like them for a few tens of dollars in my home shop. The problem with making your own training device is that it is hard to drill a hole in a metal ball. But a baseball is about the size of a boule, and it is easy to drill a hole in an old baseball.


Two of the strangest devices I’ve seen are these.
louis_amor_device_ecole louis_amor_device_perso
They are advertized on page 14 of this CIEP-related catalog. In this video their inventor, Louis Amour, shows them in action.

Here are pictures of a couple of similar devices that appeared in 2007 on the blog of the Midwest Petanque Alliance… but they didn’t know anything about them. shooting_template_03


shooting_a_back_bouleTechnically, this isn’t a training device… but it could be. The Brighton Petanque website has a fun post about a Shooting a Back Boule Contest.

The club at Istrès held an informal Shooting a Back Boule competition one afternoon. We have held similar events in Brighton – they’re great fun! Shooting a Back Boule at 10m is one of the great traditions at French clubs. Shooting is, of course, a key part of the game and shooting a back boule at 10m is one of the hardest tests shooters have to face. You can just place two boules on the terrain but often you’ll see a special area set aside for such practice – usually either an old tire with two boules bolted on or a piece of rubber, which is what we have at Brighton and what they used at Istrès.


In a Facebook post the Zanesfield Petanque Club provided a picture of their “indoor shooting pit”.zanesfield_petanque_indoor_shooting_pit
1) Disassemble you large breed's dog cage
2) Steal the bottom section of the cage
3) Steal the dog's mattress to use as landing pad
4) Snatch 4 short posts from the neighbor's fence to use as stoppers
5) Use large plastic strap to hold fence posts
6) You're all set for winter practices.


Is that home plate?  Or a shooting pit?

Is that home plate? Or a shooting pit?

Here’s a tip from Joe Acchiardi, of La Boule Joyeuse in Maryland.

Use old baseballs.

A baseball is about the right size and shape. It weighs more than a tennis ball and isn’t so bouncy. Your practice boules won’t get as banged up as they would if you were using real boules. And if you succeed with a nice tir au baseball you don’t get the loud THWOK that you’d get with a boule. That means that you can practice quietly in your own back yard without irritating the neighbors with the noise.


A simple wooden bench placed near to the jack, can be a useful device for training in lobbing. The red arrow in this photo of a Japanese training session points to the thrown boule, which is dropping nearly vertically down on to the target.

Other training courses use PVC frames and crossbars, rather than wooden benches, but the basic principle is the same.