Pétanque Rules

Playing Field

The playing area for pétanque is considerably smaller than in other types of lawn bowling. The official size of each pitch or “alley” is 15 metres (about 45 feet) by 4 metres(about 12 feet) wide. Because some clubs are limited in size and to gain the maximum of alleys, the size can be reduced to 3.4 metres by 12 metres.

Teams can consist of singles, doubles or triples.  In singles or doubles players can use 3 balls whilst in triples the players are limited to 2 balls.

Starting the Game

A coin toss determines which team plays  first and a player from that team selects a starting point by marking a circle of less than 500mm in diameter. Any player in the team can throw the target ball,, known as the “cochonnet”  or jack, at least 6 metres (about 18 feet) and no more than 10 metres (about 30 feet) in any direction.

A member of the starting team (usually but not necessarily the player who threw the jack) now throws or “points” the first ball, attempting to get as close as possible to the jack.
Play next passes to the other team. Its turn continues either until a ball has been placed closer to the target than the opposition's ball or all the team's balls have been placed.


Teams continue alternating turns until no balls remain. As in all variations of lawn bowling, the team that has one of its balls closest to the target becomes the winner of that “end”. That team gets 1 point for each ball that is closer to the target than any of the opposition's balls. Thus, there is a maximum of 6 points per round.

A player can also “shoot”, by knocking an opponent's ball out of scoring position, or by moving the target, thereby placing it closer to his own team's balls.

If the target is knocked out of the playing area, the round has to be re-started.
Care is needed here. Should the target be removed from the playing area, then a count is made of remaining “in hand” balls.

If both teams hold balls, then the” end”  is dead.

However, should the opposition still hold balls the 1 point is awarded for each ball remaining.


The team that first reaches a specified number of points is the winner. In most play, 13 points constitutes game, but any other number can be agreed on beforehand.