• Julie

THE SCOUP ON BOULES. What is this game?

Updated: Sep 25, 2020

Waverton Hub in Sydney, NSW Australia has Thursday come all Boules at 2.30pm at the Coal Loader pistes.

But first, this is how it's done: "Anton crouches, motionless. He cups a scuffed metal ball in his right hand, his face the picture of concentration. Seconds go by. A minute. The other players are silent as they wait for his throw. Then, without moving the rest of his body so much as a centimetre, he turns his hand over and flips the ball into the air. It floats there as if the law of gravity has been suspended. When the ball comes down with a thud, it rolls to within inches of the marker." Well, for some anyway!

Click on an image below to expand

Boules is by some accounts the oldest sport on earth. It’s simple to imagine a pair of Cro-Magnon slackers, banned from the mammoth hunt, rolling stones on a flat patch of their front yard. Boules (also called Pétanque) is played widely in Europe and spread globally. One of the best things about boules is that practically anyone can play, regardless of sex or age.

Pétanque may be culturally associated with France but the International Federation of Pétanque and Provençal Game estimates that the sport - which has around 10-12 million players worldwide in 160 countries - is in fact most popular in Asia. No surprise then that Thailand currently holds second place in the Pétanque World Championships ranking. An estimated 1.5 million Chinese children apparently play the game at school.

But first let's get technical. What is Boules? Basically and briefly, Boules is a collective name for a wide range of games similar to bowls and bocce in which the objective is to throw or roll heavy balls (called boules in France, and bocce in Italy) as close as possible to a small target ball, called the jack in English.

Boules games have a long evolutionary history. An alloy of billiards and horseshoes, or shuffleboard and bowling, boules can’t decide what it wants to be, and so it’s comfortably all four. Boules was invented in Italy by way of the Romans, who, with Hellenistic know-how, robbed it from the Greeks, who themselves robbed it from the Egyptians. It was revived and popularized in the late 19th century. In 1910, an offshoot of jeu provençal called pétanque (boules) was developed in the French town of La Ciotat, in Provence. It eventually became the dominant boules sport in France, and is widely played in other European countries and globally.

Interestingly, King Henry III of England banned the playing of the game by his archers – he wanted them to be practicing archery, not playing boules. In the 14th century, Charles IV and Charles V of France forbade the sport to commoners; only in the 17th century was the ban lifted.


It should be noted that people relax a lot of rules depending on the aim of their games - relax, compete - and how much wine has been consumed.

The rules can be lengthy and best examined by other sources such as here. A quick Google search will bring up many avenues. Finally, at the end of the game after all boules have been thrown, the team whose best boule is closest to the jack wins the round. The winning team gets one point for each of their boules that is closer to the jack than the losing team's closest boule. The losing team doesn't score any points.

A BOULES TRAVEL TALE IN FRANCE - makes pleasant reading with a peek into French culture.

For the full travel tale see here.

An extract:

Boules in La Ciotat

by Gary McClelland

"Leaving Cassis after a pleasant day touring calanques,* eating fish at the port, and ambling on the rocky beach, we drove the vertiginous road over Cap Canille to La Ciotat.  Sliding into an open parking place, we were sandwiched between water and a beautiful boulodrome* shaded by plane, pine, and palm trees.  Tim and I keep our boules* in the car for such emergencies....

We began a 1‐on‐1 game as our spouses amused themselves with a walk along the Mediterranean Sea. The locals occasionally watched, and one flashed me an approving thumbs up after my particularly good tir.* We asked Jean, warming up by himself, about local rules.  Saying it would be so much fun, he quickly had us in a 4‐on‐4 game with local players."

WHAT OTHER BOULES GROUPS DO - THE RELAXED METHOD- on the Mornington Peninsular, Australia.

For the full article click here.


“We provide a relaxed atmosphere set amongst a beautiful rural setting where people can play, relax and socialise.” Friendship, social activities and relaxation are important to the members of the MPPC; a quick look at the very full social calendar on their website says a lot about how the club sees itself and what it considers important. All of which is in keeping with the origins of the game in France where wine and cheese, gentle conversation and a convivial spirit were as much a part of coming together to play, as was throwing a boule."

ARTICLE IN THE NEW YORK TIMES - "The Secret to a Long Life is Bocce" Nov. 17, 2017


Against the ball, put the laser against the ball, kid! Madone.”

I was folded over on one knee at Boston’s North End bocce courts, trying to get the guys a measurement. Eyeing the distance between a bocce ball and a pallino often doesn’t work, so Sammy Viscione comes armed with both a tape and a laser measure, though his sciatica makes it impossible for him to bend. So he asked me to do the laser measurement. I’m inept with tools, and the guys kept hollering, “Against the ball, kid!” Someone else said, “Bocce, baby!” in that keyed-up way that meant he lives for this." See here for the full article.

Enjoy your boules!!!

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