Petanque Rules and Etiquette

The rule of petanque are really pretty simple. In the beginning you can just play along with more experienced players and they will tell you all you need to know. The Basic Rules and Etiquette are listed below.

Downloadable Files

Here are the Official Rules of Pétanque.

Here are the rules formated so they can be printed out and bound as a handy Pétanque Rules Booklet.

This is a special Annotated Official Rules of Pétanque prepared by National Umpire Gary Jones that helps clarify the official rules. This is a great resource, especially for those studying to become an umpire.

New players in casual games don't need to worry about penalties too much, but as you advance and start to play in tournaments you will want to learn about Penalties in Pétanque.

Here is a handy informal Umpire Quick Reference Guide to help umpires make good decisions during games. 

Basic Rules of Pétanque

Cochonnet = a small wooden target ball usually painted a bright color.

  • The game starts when one side wins a coin toss and the right to throw out the cochonnet.
  • The first team stands in the circle and throws out the cochonnet between 6 and 10 meters.
  • When throwing a boule both feet must be within the circle.
  • Both feet must remain on the ground until the boule has landed.
  • The first team throws a boule out to the cochonnet.
  • The second team then throws to the cochonnet.
  • The team that ends up closest to the cochonnet lets the other team throw again.
  • This continues so that the team not closest to the cochonnet always throws.
  • Each team must play within one minute after the other team plays.
  •  If it's not clear which team has the boule closest to the cochonnet then the team that made the last throw is responsible for measuring.
  • The team who has just played decides if they have the point or not. If there are any doubts you can ask that team to measure.
  • Each team is allowed to fill in just one hole/divot before they throw.
  • Once a team runs out of balls, the other team gets to throw the balls they have left.
  • After the last boule has been played don't move any boules until both teams have agreed how many points have been scored.

Pétanque Etiquette

Pétanque is usually a friendly, social game and most competitions are played in a “sporting but friendly” atmosphere. Aside from playing by the rules, following the points of etiquette below will enhance your enjoyment of the game and camaraderie with fellow players.

  • Don't walk across a game in progress or anyone practicing shooting.
  • When someone is playing stand still and be quiet
  • Observe the game at least 2 meters away and not in the sight-line of the player.
  • If you arrive and others are in the middle of their games, let them finish their games unless invited to join them.
  • 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.
  • Consult with your other teammates about who will take the roles of pointer and shooter. Work with each other to decide your strategy and who should should take the next throw.
  • If a shooting opportunity arises, you should “play the game” and go for the shot.
  • Decide with your team which shot you’re going to play, then don’t criticize your partner(s) if they miss or even accidentally shoot one of your own boules.
  • The view from the circle is often deceptive. It's always a good idea to "get out of the circle" and examine the boules on the ground close up before you throw.
  • If you’ve played all your boules, it’s improper–and against the rules–to disrupt the opponents by walking to the cochonnet, 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.
  • If you should accidentally play across another game, either wait until the other end has finished before shooting or have a member of your team block boules from entering the other game.
  • If the cochonnet is thrown too short (less than 6 meters), or too far (more than 10 meters) the other team should simply place the cochonnet where they like within 6 to 10 meters.
  • If you throw boules at random to choose teams, don’t pick up your boule until you know with whom you are partnered and whom your opponents are. The team nearest the cochonnet starts.