How do you measure up?

I think we're nearest

I think we’re nearest

If you play pétanque, you’ll know you often need to measure to see which boule is nearest the jack.

A few common sense guidelines will help ensure you measure accurately. 

Provence measure

Provence measure

The traditional Provençal measure is with two pieces of stick. This classic image is from Pétanque et Jeu Provençal with photos by Hans Silvester. NB note how full of stones the terrain is! A real Provençal terrain, not a ‘billiard table’.

Can  you see which boule is on?

Who's on?

Who’s on?

Often you can tell which boule is on just by looking. But here again it’s important to look from the right angle. How often do you hear players say, ”I think this boule is on – if you look from this angle, this one looks on – but from this side we’re on”, ad infinitum.

True, if you look from different angles, different boules can appear to be on! But we need an objective measure, not a varying perspective that depends on where you stand.

The important thing is that you need to stand at the apex of a triangle, directly in line with the two boules. If you are in line, you can often then see which boule is on – imagine a line from the apex that bisects a line between the two boules.

Who's on?

Who’s on?

Apex1

Apex

Different angle

Different angle

Which boule is on? Stand at the apex for a clear view. Yes, if you look from the wrong place, the other boule appears to be on.
Steel measure

Steel measure

Most people use a simple tape measure. The first and most important thing to learn is that you should measure edge to edge, i.e. from the edge of the boule to the edge of the jack. Why? Because this gives you a precise line to measure to. If you measure to the centre, there is no clear line – very important when there might only be 1 or 2mm separating boules.

Used properly, tape measures are fairly accurate, to about 1 – 2mm. But sometimes you still can’t tell and in a competition, you need a more accurate measure. In a friendly the sensible and sporting this is to say the boules are equal, rather than spend ages measuring. An umpire’s measure is a folding measure with a slider, usually metal. Players can use a cheaper plastic version, as shown here.

Umpire's measure

Umpire’s measure

Again, note that it’s important to measure edge to edge and to keep the measure level.

Straight & Level

Straight & Level

Off Centre

Off Centre

How wrong?

How wrong?

Measure from edge to edge and keep the tape level. Not keeping the measure level. The close-up shows how much error there is if you don’t measure from the centre edge of the boule.

Other types of measures.

Sliding measure

Sliding measure

Leisure measure

Leisure measure

A sliding measure is an easy way to compare 2 boules. Even the string that comes with sets of leisure boules is quite accurate, if used correctly – and it takes up very little space!

If the boules are too close to use any of the above measures, you’ll need to use calipers.

Calipers

Calipers


Le Juge

Le Juge

Le Juge – the Judge – was a new measure that appeared on the market a few years ago. A magnifying glass with concentric circles. You position the centre over the jack and the circles allow you to see which boules are on. Le Juge is about as accurate as a tape measure and it particularly useful for players who have trouble bending to measure.

Measuring is such a part of pétanque culture in Provence that it was even featured in the film Fanny part of Marcel Pagnol’s Marseille Trilogie.

Pagnol Fanny

Pagnol Fanny

In the film, the tram lurches to a sudden halt – because there’s a game of boules taking place in the street and they have to measure! The scene is an absolute classic and is often reproduced in posters. The image was updated a few years ago when – horror of horror – a TGV was late. The reason? There was a game of boules across the track and the players had to measure!

TGV en retard

TGV en retard

Guidelines and Etiquette

Remember, measuring is a key part of the game. If you play, you should have a measure, not rely on others to measure for you.

It’s very silly – and time-wasting – to have several players looking at the boules from different angles, each giving a different opinon as to which boule is on. If you’re not sure, measure straight away, don’t spend ten minutes debating which boule is on!

If you need to check how many boules you have on, the most efficient way is first measure the opponent’s nearest boules, then measure your own boules, rather than measuring each boule in turn.

If you’re using a tape measure, it’s good etiquette to say what the measurements are. If you’re unsure or it’s very close, remember the opponents always have the right to measure themselves or call an Umpire to adjudicate.

If your team has played all their boules and the opponents have boules to play, you should not be measuring to see who is third and fourth, etc. It’s for the opponents to play – they can measure if they wish. It’s academic to you as to who is on – it can all change after the opponents have played. In a competition, you risk alerting the opponents to something they may not have considered.

In a friendly game, it’s sporting to announce who is on and not let the opponents play out of turn. In a competition teams should really know it’s their responsibility to check the head and not expect the opponents to do it for them. You should not blame the opponents if you haven’t checked and then play out of turn – it’s your fault, not theirs!

Some situations can be deceptive, e.g. boules of different colours, different sizes, shadows, etc. If you’re not sure – measure.

Finally, thank you to our model, Marcus, who posed for all the pix – doesn’t he scrub up well 🙂

Marcus

Marcus

Marcus in normal life

Marcus in normal life

Marcus in fancy dress. Marcus in normal life.
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7 Responses to How do you measure up?

  1. Dave Smith says:

    Excellent article and illustrations!

    I was surprised that quite a few of my ex club members would measure to the middle (where’s that?) of the coche. I didn’t like to say that it is not the correct way, as most of them were supposedly more experienced players. Even when I did mention it, they wouldn’t take much notice.

    I think it is also good practice to measure in any game (if close) as I think it helps a players confidence when it comes to more important games. The more you do it, the less scary it becomes.

    There seems to be one important omission from your article. The eye line of the player that is measuring must be directly over the front edge of the coche, otherwise you can be out by some way (parallax). If I’m not in the right position I tend to shuffle over so that I am.

    Dave S.

  2. Dave Smith says:

    Thanks Ray, although I don’t think I worded it too well.

    I might have been better to say that… the eye line of the player that is measuring ‘SHOULD’ be directly over the front edge of the coche…

    You can normally feel the other end of the tape (or umpires measure) butt up against a boule.

    Regards,

    Dave S.

  3. el warren says:

    hi
    my dad has asked me to get him a measuring tape for petanque for his birthday – will a bowls tape do? can any one recommend one please! Thank you, El

    • Hi,

      A suitable Bowls tape can be ok – the steel rules are the best type. Alternatively, many players just use a DIY/builder’s measure.

      You can get more specialised ones. Have a look at the Pétanque Promotions website on the Links page.

      Regards,

      Ray

    • Hi!
      Have a look at a new measuring device. No bending or kneeling The Verdi-X viewer is easy to use with any compact digital camera, Mobile phone, iPod etc., having a LCD screen of 2.7’’ or greater. You are able to view several balls inside a radius of 30’’ and is as accurate as an Umpire’s Measure.
      *No contact with the balls or jack (cochonnet).
      *No more bending or kneeling.
      It is particularly useful for players who have trouble bending to measure.
      Paul

  4. Paul C. Selway says:

    Hi! For a new measuring device check, http://www.petanquemeasurerverdix.ca
    Best regards.

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