Frequently Asked Questions about the game of petanque
For questions about the rules of petanque, see the FAQs page at the Rules of Petanque web site.

  1. What is petanque?
  2. What’s the difference between petanque and bocce?
  3. Where can I find/download a copy of the rules?
  4. What is a petanque “league”?
  5. Will petanque ever become an Olympic sport?

What is petanque? ▲

Think of pétanque (pronounced “pay-TONK”) as horseshoes with balls. The aim of the game is to toss or roll a number of hollow steel balls as close as possible to a small wooden target ball. It is sort of like marbles, sort of like shuffleboard, and sort of like curling.

TV news stories are a great way learn about petanque quickly. Watch the first two and you’ll have a good idea of the basics.

  1. Winston-Salem, North Carolina
  2. Augusta, Maine
  3. St. Augustine, Florida
  4. Fresno, California and Fresno, California
  5. Santa Monica, California
  6. Austin, Texas
  7. New York City

For more information, see the Wikipedia entry on petanque and our own All about Petanque page.


What’s the difference between petanque and bocce? ▲

In the United States, many more people play bocce than petanque, so when someone sees us playing petanque, the second question they usually ask (after: “What is that game?”) is: “What’s the difference between petanque and bocce?”

The two games are cousins. Bocce is Italian. Petanque is French. The rules of the games are similar, but the equipment and the way the games are played is different.

  • Petanque balls are hollow and made out of steel. Bocce balls are solid and made out of wood or epoxy resin.
  • Petanque balls are smaller and lighter than bocce balls. Think of an orange vs. a grapefruit.
  • In both games, the ball is thrown “under arm”. In bocce, the ball is rolled with an “open” hand. When the ball leaves the hand, the palm is up and the ball rolls off of the fingers onto the court. In petanque, the ball is thrown “back handed” with a flick of the wrist. When the ball leaves the hand, the back of the hand is up.
  • Although bocce can be played on a lawn or grassy area. it is typically played on a dedicated court with a long, smooth surface. Petanque, on the other hand, can be played almost anywhere. Gravel parking lots and park paths can make excellent petanque playing grounds.
  • Bocce courts are typically enclosed by side and back boards, and play includes rolling (or bouncing) the ball along (or off of) the boards. In petanque there may be no out-of-bounds areas, or boundary lines may be indicated by strings laid out across the natural terrain.
  • A bocce court is expensive to build and requires regular ongoing maintenance to stay playable. A petanque playing area, a “boulodrome”, costs about as much to build and maintain as a gravel pathway.


Where can I find/download a copy of the rules? ▲

From our petanque rules web site.


What is a petanque “league”? ▲

In petanque, a “league” is a group of individual teams (typically from the same town or community) that play each other in a prearranged order and on a prearranged schedule during a period of time called a “season”. Pre-season activities involve registering teams and setting up the schedule of games. At the end of the season, the results of the individual games are totaled and used to determine an overall champion for the season. (See the Wikipedia article on sports league.)

League play seem to be especially popular in retirement communities and seasonal communities (e.g. RV parks in the desert Southwest in the winter).

Will petanque ever become an Olympic sport? ▲

No. For a discussion of why this is true, see our information about the CMSB.



3 thoughts on “FAQs

  1. RE: “Will petanque ever become an Olympic sport?

    There is the strong chance that Paris will host the 2024 Olympics and include pétanque as a (host city privilege) sport. We can hope!

    I am at a loss here. Is it LEGAL to throw:
    1) Using two hands (like a scoop) holding the boule and then throwing it like a lob ? School children love to do this.
    2) Using a stationary shot putt technique from the shoulder ?
    3) Over the head as in cricket ?
    I cannot find anything in the rules that forbid these unusual throwing techniques except the feet must firmly on the ground (which they are) in all these 3 throws above.

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