Frequently Asked Questions about the rules of petanque
- For general questions about petanque (“Is petanque the same as bocce?”) visit the All About Petanque FAQs page.
- For detailed discussions of individual rules, see Notes on the Rules of Petanque.
- NOTE that some questions in the Table of Contents link to answers on other pages. The answers to some of the questions in the Table of Contents do NOT appear on this page.
Table of Contents
- I want to build my own petanque terain. What are the dimensions of a court?
- What is an obstacle?
- What is a mène (an end)?
- When does a mene (end, round) start and finish?
- If the first boule thrown goes out-of-bounds, which team throws next?
- Is there any rule about the order in which members of the same team play?
- In time-limited games, when a tie occurs why play TWO additional rounds?
- What are the rules for the jack’s weight, size, and so on?
- Is a boule dead if it hits something overhead? The ceiling? A tree branch?
- Is it OK to leave unplayed boules on the ground?
- What is a “boule thrown contrary to rules”?
- I don’t understand the rule about “stepping back” and moving the circle.
- There is a shooting competition. Is there also a pointing competition?
- What are the rules for the colored penalty cards?
WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN…
- … the jack is shot out-of-bounds and goes dead?
- … a boule goes out-of-bounds, then bounces back in-bounds?
- ….the two teams’ best boules are the same distance from the jack?
- … ALL boules are shot out-of-bounds?
- … a boule is played out of turn?
- … one team forgets that it has an unplayed boule?
- … a player moves a boule while measuring?
- … a player picks up the circle before all boules have been thrown?
- Can a team challenge the jack after it has just thrown the first boule?
- Can you groom the terrain between ends?
- Can you color your boules?
- Can you wear open-toe shoes or sandals while playing?
- Can a teammate indicate the donnee by standing near it?
- Can you throw underarm (roll a boule, palm up)?
- Can you wear gloves while playing?
- Can you fill divot with your hand?
- Can you play with boules that aren’t all from the same set?
- Is it true? You can’t fix a divot before throwing the first boule in a game.
- Is it true? You can’t fix a divot if you’re going to shoot.
- Is it true? A team loses the points it won in a mene if the points aren’t recorded on the scoreboard before the start of the next mene
- Is it true? You can’t throw a jack to within 2 meters of another jack.
- Is it true? A player can’t throw more than two boules in a row.
If the first boule thrown goes out-of-bounds, which team throws next? ▲
Article 15 says If the first boule played goes into an out-of-bounds area, it is for the opponent to play, then alternately as long as there are no boules in the in-bounds area. It is easy to remember what to do in such a situation, because it is simply a special case of alternating play in an undecided-point. The throw of the jack creates an undecided point. After the throw of the jack, the teams play alternately, starting with the team that threw the jack. The teams throw alternately until the point is decided by a boule that stays in-bounds.
Can a team challenge the jack after it has just thrown the first boule? ▲
Article 8 says that “If after the throwing of the jack, a first boule is played, the opponent still has the right to question (contest) the validity of its position.” At that point, does the team that threw the first boule also still have the right to question the validity of the position of the jack?
No. Each team has the right to question the validity of the position of the thrown jack until it (the team) throws its first boule. By the act of throwing its first boule, a team accepts the position of the jack and gives up the right to question that position.
Is there any rule about the order in which members of the same team play? ▲
No. When you’re playing doubles or triples, members of the same team can play in any order that they wish. Often the team member that plays is determined by circumstance. If the team needs to point, then the team’s best pointer will throw. If the team needs to shoot, then the team’s best shooter will throw. (See also our discussion of the mythical rule A player can’t throw more than two boules in a row.)
Can a teammate indicate the donnee by standing near it? ▲
YES — that’s OK. Article 15 says that A player is not allowed to help himself by using any object, nor to draw a line on the ground to guide his boule or to mark his intended landing spot. Players sometimes wonder if this means that it is forbidden for a teammate to indicate the desired donnée by pointing with a toe. The answer is NO. Article 15 forbids making physical changes to the terrain or leaving objects on the terrain. But as long as no change is made to the terrain, it is perfectly OK for a teammate simply to stand and point with a toe. There is no danger of the teammate interfering with the thrown boule— if the boule gets too close, the teammate can simply step away.
In time-limited games, when a tie occurs why play TWO additional rounds? Why not ONE extra round? ▲
This is in Article 19 of Règlement des Championnats du Monde de Pétanque, the rules for FIPJP world championship matches.
All games in the World Championships are played to 13 points, with the exception of games to which a time limit is applied: an hour and a quarter for the Men’s World Championship, one hour for others. Games may not end with a tied score (un match nul); a tied game will be played two additional menes if no team reaches 13 points.
When time-limited games were first introduced, when the whistle sounded any mene in progress was played to its finish. At that point, if one of the teams was in the lead, then that team was the winner. If the score was tied, one extra mene was played.
With this rule in place, as the time-limit drew near teams in the lead would deliberately play slowly, “running out the clock” and limiting their opponents’ opportunities to score more points. The FIPJP apparently considered this tactic to be contrary to the spirit of the game. As a result, the rules were changed to allow TWO ends after the whistle. (Note that after TWO extra menes a game might still be tied, requiring a THIRD extra mene to break the tie.)
This rule has been effect for several years, and umpires seem happy with it. Most time-limited games finish in 90 minutes or less. This is reliable enough to allow ancillary activities (meal breaks, TV broadcasts) to be scheduled with confidence.
Is a boule dead if it hits something overhead? The ceiling? A tree branch? ▲
No, it isn’t. Think of the out-of-bounds lines as invisible walls extending upward into the sky from the strings or marks on the ground. A boule that goes through one of those walls is dead, but hitting something above the ground INSIDE those walls doesn’t kill it. If you look at things that way, then objects above the terrain are clearly not out-of-bounds. They are parts of the terrain. If a boule hits a low-hanging tree branch, a light fixture suspended over the terrain, or even the ceiling of a covered boulodrome, that is essentially the same as hitting a stone on the ground. You get a bad bounce, you call it bad luck, and keep playing.
There is a shooting competition. Is there also a pointing competition? ▲
No. There isn’t an FIPJP pointing competition. There are both practical and theoretical problems with a pointing competition. On the practical side— pointing is different from shooting because successful pointing is heavily dependent on the playing surface, and the very act of playing a boule changes the playing surface. Ensuring consistency of the playing surface is virtually impossible. On the theoretical side— there are questions about what should count as successful pointing, how to score the competition, and the obstacles and events in the competition. Should there be different events for rolling, demi-lob, and high lob? For left and right spin? Should we measure accuracy in hitting a donnee or accuracy in getting near the jack or both? Should a boule in front score higher than one in back? How do you score a boule that pushes the jack back, but ends up kissing it? Should promoting a boule be one of the events? Etc. Etc.
Is it true? A team loses the points it won in a mene if the points aren’t recorded on the scoreboard before the start of the next mene. ▲
This is not a recognized rule of petanque… you won’t find it in the FIPJP rules. However, there are petanque leagues in Spain that have adopted a LOCAL rule of “Put your score on the scoreboard or lose it”, in order to avoid disagreements over the score later in the game. Players returning to the UK after vacationing and playing in Spain sometimes come back with the mistaken impression that this is one of the standard rules of petanque.
The FIPJP rules say nothing about how the score is recorded. In fact, there is no requirement that the score must be physically recorded in any way at all. It is perfectly legal for players to keep the score in their heads. The bottom line is that (except, perhaps, in local rules) The score is the score, whether or not it has been recorded on the scoreboard. As a practical matter, it is a good idea to record the score in some way. If the score is being recorded on a scoreboard, generally speaking the winning team is the party that updates the scoreboard. BOTH teams, however, should consider it their responsibility to see that the scoreboard is updated correctly after the agreement of points.
Is it true? You can’t throw a jack to within 2 meters of a jack in a neighboring game. ▲
No, it is not true. The FIPJP rules contain several one-meter rules designed to keep the circle and/or jack away from obstacles and/or dead-ball lines. There is a two-meter rule in Article 6 designed to keep the throwing circle away from another throwing circle in active use. But there is no rule about the minimum distance between (a) the thrown jack in one game and (b) the jack or throwing circle in a neighboring game. Note however that a competition organizer is free to add such a rule to its competition-level rules.
Is it true? A player can’t throw more than two boules in a row. ▲
No, it is not true. But some clubs have adopted a local rule that says that (when playing doubles, where each player on a team has three boules) the same player cannot play more than two boules in a row before letting his/her teammate throw. I don’t know why some clubs have adopted this rule, but it is definitely a LOCAL rule and not one of the international rules of petanque.