Etiquette – General

The following are some fairly common-sense guidelines for social games (but not always followed!):

  • If you arrive late and others are in the middle of their games, it’s only fair to let them finish their games unless invited to join them. If you’re sure you don’t need to practise, why not make yourself useful and offer to referee and help tell players which boule is on.
  • If you’ve finished a game and others are waiting to play, better to regroup and include the waiting players rather than start another game without them.
  • If you go off to the other end of the terrain and play without saying hello to other players they’ll probably think you don’t want to play with them – wonder why? Don’t complain if they carry on playing without you!
  • Agree who’s going to point and shoot, and consult with your team before playing each boule – don’t just play all your boules and leave your partner(s) to correct the damage!
  • If a boule needs shooting you should “play the game” and go for the shot – don’t criticise your partner(s) should they accidentally shoot your own boule (we’ve all done it!), remember they didn’t mean to, honest. In France you’ll get far more criticism for “not playing the game”, i.e. pointing when you should shoot, than if you at least try but accidentally hit the wrong boule. Of course, if it’s a deadly serious match with a lot at stake you may agree not to take the risk, but if it’s a social game, have fun! Basic rule: agree with your team which shot you’re going to play.
  • Have somebody at the jack clearly telling players which boule is on. Remember: the view from the circle is often deceptive. Make sure you don’t play out-of-turn.
  • It’s helpful for the player at the jack to shout out how many boules are on when playing.
  • If you’ve played all your boules, stand near the jack and help the other players. You can help your partner by indicating where they can safely play.
  • If somebody genuinely accidentally does play out-of-turn, it’s sporting in a social game to let the player have the shot again.
  • If you’re playing “3 singles” (shame on you!) and another player arrives, “call it a draw” and play doubles.
  • If you’ve played all your boules, or clearly aren’t on, it’s unsporting (and against the rules) to disrupt the opponents by walking to the jack, checking boules, measuring third and fourth boules, etc, when it’s not your turn to play. Let the opponents decide if they want to measure – it’s their turn to play and so their decision.
  • It seems obvious BUT when playing open terrain, don’t play across another game, especially when you’ve got the whole of the terrain to play on!
  • If you should accidentally play across another game, either wait until the other end has finished before shooting or have a player behind the jack stopping boules from entering the other game.
  • DON’T walk across a game in progress or anybody practising shooting. At best this is inconsiderate and impolite, at worst you risk serious injury if hit by a boule.
  • If the jack is too short, most players will simply move it forward rather than rethrow. If the jack is too long, moving the circle forward is the easiest thing to do in a social game. In France social games are often played 6 – 8m and the circle will often be moved forward if the jack is thrown any longer.
  • If you throw boules at random to decide teams, DON’T PICK UP YOUR BOULE unless you know who you are partnering and who your opponents are. It’s silly for everybody to pick up their boule and wander off without knowing your teams. The team nearest the jack starts – no need to toss up!
  • “Winners Play Winners, Losers Play Losers” is a good way to play against different opponents. SHOUT when you finish your game.
  • If you’re playing “Best of Three”, the friendly way is to play “Mugs Away” for the second game and toss if there’s a third game.
  • “Social” games are meant to be social and fun, not deadly serious. By all means use them to experiment and practise. For example, you might agree with your partner to shoot with all your boules or perhaps to practise lobbing.
  • Most importantly – HAVE FUN!!!

Competition Etiquette

Pétanque is usually a friendly, social game and most competitions are played in a “sporting but friendly” atmosphere. You should, of course, know the rules and follow them when playing. However, if you think the opponents have infringed a rule, you have every right to point this out and, if necessary, call the umpire to adjudicate. Remember that in France, pétanque is played much more “in the spirit of the game” than rigidly to the letter of the rules, which sometimes seems to be the case in the UK: minor infringements that really make no difference to the game, such as a foot crossing the circle, are usually ignored. Of course, anything that really affects the game, for example the jack being thrown the wrong distance, will be challenged. Even minor gardening is generally accepted in French competitions. Remember: the rules allow you to fill in one hole on the terrain when it’s your turn to play.

If there is a minor infringement of the rules that you’re not happy with, it’s more sporting to first informally point this out to the opponents before resorting to calling the umpire.

You’re always fully entitled to measure a point, and shouldn’t hesitate to call the umpire if you can’t agree. BUT it’s unsporting to measure if a boule is clearly on – you risk a warning from the umpire.

If one team is clearly superior to another, it’s not uncommon to find the team helping the other team with some coaching and advice. However, in a close match it’s probably more prudent not to give away any information to the opponents. Of course, if they ask you should tell them but automatically pointing out which boules are third and fourth, etc, but perhaps giving them clues about the best shot to play isn’t wise – let them check the position of the boules and what is the best shot.


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