Is it OK to leave unplayed boules on the ground behind the circle?

One of the questions that new players have is— What should I do with my unplayed boules? Is it OK for me to leave them on the ground behind the circle?

The answer is NO: it is not OK to leave them on the ground behind the circle. If you do, a player stepping out of the circle might step on them and injure himself— a fall, a sprained ankle, or worse.

So, what should you do with your unplayed boules? You have two options.

(1) If you are playing in an umpired game on a terrain with marked boundary lines, it is legal to leave unplayed boules on the ground OUTSIDE of the dead-ball line. If you do, you won’t get a warning from the umpire. Note, however, that even if it is legal, it is still not safe. Even outside the boundary line, boules on the ground will still be a tripping hazard.

MarcoFoyot_unplayed_boule_on_ground(2) Hold your unplayed boules in your hands. This is the best thing to do. If you don’t want to hold extra boules in your off hand while you throw, then, when it is your turn to throw, set them down on the ground beside (not behind) the circle. Step into the circle, throw, step out of the circle, and immediately pick up the extra boules … like Marco Foyot in this photo.

It may be acceptable in your local club to leave unplayed boules on the ground. But even if it is, be aware that you’re creating a safety hazard if you leave your boules on the ground. Leave them to the side of the circle (not BEHIND the circle) and far enough from the circle that other players aren’t likely to step on them while entering or leaving the circle.

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, like in a pocket. Always hold them in your hands, where they can easily be seen by the opposing team.

When you need your hands to be free to measure a point, never set down an unplayed boule on the ground near the head while you measure. It is too easy for someone (you, probably) to get hurt by stepping on it, or (after measuring) for you to pick up the wrong boule by mistake. While you measure, leave your unplayed boules somewhere well away from the head and (preferably) wrapped in your boule towel. If you do that, there will be no question about where they are and what they’re doing there.

Finally, note that 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 may not be left on the ground inside of the dead-ball line, but may be left outside the line. You won’t find it explicitly stated in the rules, but I think that you can at least find its basis in Article 19, which says that dead boules should be removed from the terrain. Article 19 is the visible tip of the iceberg. The rest of the iceberg, which is not visible, is a basic but unwritten rule 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.


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4 thoughts on “Is it OK to leave unplayed boules on the ground behind the circle?

  1. Mr Lenoir.  Thanks for your post. I think that common sense has to prevail.

    May I ask your advice about a problem which players from my club, the Xaghra Boci Club, in Gozo Malta, encounter.

    How do we solve the problem when in a game of 3 vs. 3 players, one of the players suddenly has to stop playing because he received an urgent mobile call. How are we to proceed when  
    1. the score is almost the same  
    2. the score is is 10 -2  and the player leaving is one of the  the losing team 
    3. the score is 10 even.  

    Always assume that the reason that player must leave is a genuine one.
    — Carmel Attard (sec)

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