New players, and experienced players too, often wonder— Is it OK to leave unplayed boules on the ground? They ask because this is something that the FIPJP rules don’t discuss.
When players ask this rather vague question, they usually have one of three specific questions in mind.
- While I’m not throwing, can I leave my boules on the ground? (Or do I have to carry them around with me all the time?)
- While I am in the circle and throwing, can I leave any “extra” boules (boules that I won’t be throwing) on the ground beside the circle?
- While I am measuring, can I put my boules down on the ground, so that my hands will be free to do the measuring?
(1) While I’m not throwing, can I leave my boules on the ground? (Or do I have to carry them around with me all the time?)
NO, you may not leave them on the ground. If you do, a player (especially a player stepping into or out of the circle) might step on them or trip over them, resulting in a fall, a sprained ankle, or worse.
So what should you do with your boules while you’re waiting for your turn to play? You have two options.
- Ideally, you would carry your boules in your hands at all times.
- If you are playing on a terrain with marked boundary lines, one option is to leave your boules on the ground OUTSIDE of the terrain’s boundary line. (If you leave them inside the boundary line, you’ll probably get a warning from the umpire.) But note that even outside the boundary line, boules on the ground are still a tripping hazard.
It may be acceptable in your local club to leave your unplayed boules on the ground. But even if it is, remember that you’re creating a tripping hazard. Leave the boules to the SIDE of the circle where they are visible (not BEHIND the circle), and far enough from the circle that other players aren’t likely to step on them while stepping into or out of the circle.
(2) While I am in the circle and throwing, can I leave any “extra” boules (boules that I won’t be throwing) on the ground beside the circle?
YES, you may. If you don’t want to hold extra boules in your off hand while you throw, then set them down on the ground beside (not behind) the circle before you throw, like Marco Foyot in this photo. Then pick them up again immediately after you’ve thrown.
(3) While I am measuring, can I put my boules down on the ground, so that my hands will be free to do the measuring?
There are two problems with putting your boules down on the ground while you are measuring. The first, of course, is that they create a tripping hazard. The second is that after measuring you may go to retrieve them and accidentally pick up the wrong boules.
Ideally, you would hand your unplayed boules to a team-mate to hold while you are measuring. If you must put down your unplayed boules, leave them on the ground somewhere well away from the head, preferably out-of-bounds and preferably wrapped in your boule towel, so that there is no question about whose boules they are and what they’re doing there.
Some final thoughts
Remember, a team always has the right to know how many unplayed boules are being held by the players on the opposing team. Never tuck unplayed boules out of sight, e.g. in a pocket. Always hold them in your hands where they can easily be seen by the opposing team.
Some groups have a local custom in which everyone leaves their unplayed boules on the ground beside the circle. One team’s boules are on one side of the circle, and the other team’s boules are on the other. If you find yourself playing with such a group, go with the flow. “When in Rome, do as the Romans.”
 Recently on “Ask the Umpire” a player asked where he could find, in the FIPJP rules, the rule that unplayed boules must not be left on the ground inside of the dead-ball line. The basis for that rule is in Article 19, which says that dead boules should be removed from the terrain. Generalizing this rule, we can say that the only boules that should be on the terrain are boules that are “in the game”, i.e. boules that have been thrown and are still alive.