Number of players
Recommended age
Competition type
Several teams
Playing time
-120 min
Cost or investment

Brief description of the game

Petanque is a team game in which balls are thrown, trying to leave them as close as possible to a small target ball. A game of skill and precision, but also of strategy!
Jugando a la petanca
Table of contents
Bocce ball game

How to play Petanque

Things you need to know before starting to play

players ico

Number of players

Petanque is a team game for 2 to 6 players. Children can play as long as their physical ability allows them to handle and throw the balls safely. If they are very young, they should play under the supervision of an adult.

Teams and players

According to the official rules of Petanque in national and international competitions, two teams always compete with one, two, or three players per team.

You can actually form as many teams as you want and have any number of players per team that works for you. The most important thing is to create balanced teams based on the age, experience, and skill level of the players.

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What you need to play

In addition to the small ball, which in Petanque is called the jack, petanque balls are required for each player. How many? 3 balls for each player in individual and doubles games. For teams of three or more players, 2 balls per player will suffice.

The balls of one team must be distinguishable from those of other teams, either by color or by some type of mark on the surface of the balls.

Bolas de petanca
court dimensions

The petanque court

The playing field must have a length of between 12 and 20 meters and a width of between 3 and 4 meters. You can play on any type of surface.

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Throwing circle

Throws must be made with both feet inside a circle that is drawn on one of the short sides of the court. The diameter should be between 35cm and 50 cm.

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Rounds, turns, and points

A game of petanque consists of several rounds or hands. In each round all players take turns throwing all their balls. After each round one of the teams wins one or more points.

ico order

Who’s first?

For individual or doubles games, the first player or team is decided by a coin toss. For three or more teams, you can write a name that identifies each team on pieces of paper, put them in an opaque container, and draw them one by one at random to determine the order of play.

Friends playing bocce ball

Goal of the game

icon goal

How to win a petanque match

You compete for points, and points are earned by having your team’s balls closer to the jack than the opposing teams’ balls at the end of each round.

Rules of Petanque: playing a game

The rules we explain below are a selection of the official rules of Petanque established by the FIPJP – International Petanque Federation – which we consider necessary and sufficient for playing with friends and family.

To have a good time it is not necessary to weigh or measure the balls, nor to be permanently with the meter measuring the distance from all to all.

icon rounds

First round

A round begins with the throwing of the jack, the small ball that will be the target for the rest of the balls.

Putting the ball into play

Who throws the jack?

  • In the first round it is launched by the team that has won the initial draw.
  • In all other rounds it is launched by the team that won the previous round.
  • If there has been no winner of the round, the team that threw the jack in the previous round repeats their turn.
  • Anyone from the team can throw the jack.
Putting the ball into play

How and where is the jack thrown?

The player who has the privilege of throwing the jack stands inside the throwing circle and tries to make it land somewhere between the center and the end of the petanque court. If the jack goes out of the court or remains less than 50cm from the edge, the throw is repeated.

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Throwing the first ball

The first ball is thrown by any player of the team that starts the round, it does not have to be the one who threw the jack. It is thrown from the throwing circle and without moving or lifting the feet at any time. Only one ball per turn is thrown.

Players decide whether they prefer to roll the ball along the ground or make an aerial throw. Usually they are thrown in a way that the ball flies through the air for a part of its journey and after reaching the ground it rolls until it arrives at its destination.

icon rules

Throwing the first ball

The first ball is thrown by any player of the team that starts the round, it does not have to be the one who threw the jack. It is thrown from the throwing circle and without moving or lifting the feet at any time. Only one ball per turn is thrown.

Rules for throwing balls in Petanque


If a ball leaves the court it is considered a void ball, it will not participate in the measurement and cannot be thrown again in that round.


You are allowed to hit balls that have already been thrown, both your own, to bring them closer to the jack, and those of the opposing team, to move them away from it. Here is a classic strategy both to favor your team and to annoy the opponent 😉.


It is also allowed to hit the jack to bring it closer to one’s own ball or to move it away from other teams’ balls. This is another strategy that can be either defensive or offensive. 😎


If the jack goes out of the petanque court after being hit by a ball the round is over and there are no points for any team.

This video shows several examples of launches:

turns icon


Now it is the turn of a player from another team.

Throws are taken in turns, one ball in turn, following the order established at the beginning of the game.


Once all players have thrown their balls, distance measurements are taken to determine which ball is closest to the jack.

Normally you can see which is the winning ball by eye. In case of dispute, a form of precise measurement is used: a meter, a rope, a stick….

To facilitate the measurement it is allowed to remove the balls and the jack by marking in some way their exact position.

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The team that has the ball closest to the jack wins a point. If the second closest ball is also from the same team then two points are awarded. If there are three, three points… and so on.

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Next rounds

After measuring and updating the scoreboard, a new round begins.

Game over. Who wins?

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And the winner is…

The game ends when one of the teams reaches 13 points, thus becoming the winning team.

Official rules!

The rules we’ve explained are a selection of the official rules of Petanque established by the FIPJP – International Petanque Federation – which we consider necessary and sufficient for playing with friends and family.

Now, if you’re curious or if your level is very good and you want to compete like professionals, you can download the Official Rules of Petanque in force in international competitions right here.

Are Petanque, Bocce and Lawn Bowls the same game?

Petanque, Bocce and Lawn Bowls are three very similar games.

All three share the same game mechanics and the same objective: throw balls to get them as close as possible to a smaller ball. The differences between the two are the size and weight of the balls, the dimensions and characteristics of the playing field and, slightly, the scoring system. Petanque and Bocce are much more similar to each other than to Lawn Bowls.

Petanque originated in France and is also very popular in countries such as Spain, Portugal, Italy and Belgium. This is the most versatile of the three games because it allows you to play on any type of terrain – dirt, gravel, cement, grass, beach sand – and even on terrain that is not completely flat and with obstacles. Balls are usually metallic, very sturdy, and smaller compared to the other two games -between 70.5 and 80 mm in diameter and weighing between 650 and 800 grams- allowing kids from 5 years of age to play.

Bocce was born in Italy where it is still very popular today, especially in the south of the country. It is also played in other European countries, as well as in North America, where it has been adopted by communities of Italian origin. The balls are larger and heavier than those of petanque – between 107 and 115 mm in diameter and weighing between 900 and 1200 grams – also requiring larger playing fields. Otherwise it is very similar to Petanque.

Lawn Bowls is a traditional sport in English-speaking countries, especially in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. It is also played in other European countries and in some areas of Asia, although it is less common than Petanque or Bocce. Lawn Bowls is played on grass on large fields that are usually designed and prepared specifically for this game. While you can take out some Petanque balls and play a game almost anywhere, the same is not true for Lawn Bowls. Balls are larger and heavier – 116 to 131 mm in diameter and weigh between 1200 and 1600 grams – so it is not the most suitable game to play with children.

Bolas de petanca
Bola de Lawn Bowls
Lawn Balls
icono compras

Guide and tips for buying a Petanque set

If you have an Amazon account and want to take advantage of the benefits offered by your subscription you are in luck because we will save you the work of looking for the products with more and better ratings, read reviews, compare, etc.. We have already done so.

Metallic petanque balls

If you are going to play on hard ground you should buy metallic balls like are used in official petanque competitions. Metal balls are more resistant and durable and can be used on any type of terrain.

You can find packs of four metallic balls from 15€ and 8 balls for 50€.

LOODENS recommends this set of 6 metallic petanque ballswhich costs less than 30 € and is the best seller on Amazon, with 74mm balls and 720 grams of weight each and includes, in addition to the bowling, a measuring cord and a case to carry everything in a very practical way. Three balls have a mark and three have another mark, i.e. they are suitable for two teams of up to a maximum of 3 players per team.

Bolas metálicas de petanca

Its price usually ranges around $25.

Check current price and deals on Amazon

At Decathlon, you can find some fantastic products too. They have a pack of 6 balls, 73mm and 700g, perfect for two adults, for under 30€.

bolas petanca metálicas Decathlon 2x3

For families, the best option is their colorful pack of slightly smaller balls, 70mm and 560g, also available at around 30€.

Wooden petanque balls

If you will be playing mostly on grass, lawn or other softer surfaces, wooden or plastic balls are also a valid option and perhaps even more advisable.

This pack of 8 solid wood petanque balls costs less than 30€ and besides being very attractive, it’s of high quality, manufactured by the German company GICO specialized in solid wood toy manufacturing.

Bolas de petanca de madera

ts price usually hovers around $30.

Check current price and deals on Amazon

Plastic petanque balls

If you will be playing on the beach, we advise you to buy plastic balls.

But beware of super-cheap packs! Balls that are too light, or even worse… hollow, are no good! We don’t want the balls to move on their own in a light breeze!

This pack of 260g balls is perfect for the little ones. You can find it at Decathlon for less than $10.

bolas petanca plástico Decathlon

And how about these accessories? No, they are not necessary, but they are very cool and most professionals and regular players have them.

Rope with magnet to pick up the balls

When playing very regularly and for many hours with metallic balls, picking them up from the floor over and over again can be tiring and even lead to injuries. These magnet strings are a blessing for this type of player because they allow balls to be picked up without bending down, almost effortlessly. Great for seniors.

There are many models from different manufacturers. The product we recommend is equal to or better than the others and also has a super practical extra: a drink opener 🍺😃, so that we don’t forget to hydrate between throws 😉.

Cuerda con imán para recoger bolas de petanca

You can get it at home for less than $22

This other option doesn’t have a bottle opener, but it does its main job just as well. You can get it at Decathlon for a price around 10€.

iman recogebolas petanca metálicas

Portable and foldable launching circle

This throwing circle will avoid disputes and misunderstandings regarding the throwing position. It is approved by the International Petanque Federation.

How much does it cost? You can get it for less than 16€ on Amazon.

Decathlon offers two products. The one in the picture is the most affordable, with a surprising price.

And that’s all there is to it, which is quite something. We hope these ideas bring you many hours of fun.

Thank you for reading.

Have a great day. And an even better night ;-)

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LOODENS rating

We love petanque. We’ve played so many games! At the beach, in the mountains, even in the hallway at home! In this last case with small plastic balls, of course. We find it a perfect game to spend a fun time for both kids and adults. Furthermore, it’s an economically affordable and very portable game. 100% recommended

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