The Best Surfaces for Petanque | A Simple Guide

  • By: Reece Williams
  • Time to read: 4 min.

For over a century, players have been playing petanque across France and the world at large. For those totally new to the game, there can be some confusion about the rules as well as the proper surface for playing.

There are a few surfaces that are widely considered for petanque play. Which surface is “best” can vary from player to play, so let’s go over the generally accepted playing surfaces.

Which Surfaces are Best for Petanque?

Gravel is generally considered to be the best of the surfaces. Boules roll naturally but there are also plenty of minor obstructions and obstacles that can provide more depth to the game. Concrete can be played as well but the boules tend to roll a lot more easily, making it more difficult to control. Finally, grass can be used as a playing surface, though it is not a favourable one. Boules tend to not roll quite as well in grass as they would on other surfaces.

The game of petanque can vary from place to place. For instance, the rules are practically the same but it is known as bocce in Italy. The main difference between bocce and petanque is that the balls in the latter are generally steel (they can be other materials but steel is the most commonly accepted).

What makes petanque so popular is that it can be played just about anywhere. There is no “formal” court, it just has to be a flat surface that is roughly 3 meter by 12 meters. There is no need for a formal court that has been marked by boundaries or lines.

Building Your Own Court

Building a court is a relatively simple process though it does take work to construct the boundaries. The good news is that there are a variety of tools and materials that can be used. You can also just sink the court below the surface so that everything is held in naturally and keeps the boules from rolling off the surface.

There is the sub-base, which is either road metal, small stones, gravel, or a shingle/clay mix. It is used to set a depth of 50mm leaving 50mm for finishing to bring the court to a depth of 100mm.

The bed is then built using sand compacted to 10mm in depth. This goes over the sub-base, with the remaining space taking crusher dust, crushed lime, or another material that has been lightly compacted. The surface should then be raked in order to give it a looser overall texture.

Finally, there is the topping. Gravel – of which there are a ton of varieties – should be used to fill the last bits of surface. A looser surface is generally preferred because of the natural obstacles as well as the lesser chance that the boules will roll too fast. Not to mention the fact that there is far less glare to deal with when the surface is loose.

Building a boule court yourself is a great way to save on the substantial cost of having it professionally done. That said, it is a lot of work and it takes refinement and time to ensure that everything is done properly. But with a little bit of time and patience, you can have a boule court in your backyard that you can use whenever you want.

How Much Does It Cost to Build a Petanque Court?

If you are avid in your playing of petanque, then it may cross your mind to have a court in your yard. While it is a game that can be played on just about any surface, there is something about having your own “home” court.

It is generally easier to have a landscaper do the work. The dimensions are somewhere around 40 feet by 10 feet, roughly 200mm deep and filled with some stone before being dressed up with dust hard stone.

Depending on the materials and the size, the cost can vary quite a bit. The real work is that there is a lot of soil to dig out, move, and dispose of. This is something any DIYer can take on, but it does require quite a bit of work, so a professional may be the best option.


Petanque is a globally popular game because of its ease to play. Unlike other sports, which require various equipment to play, all you need are some boules to play. The court you choose can vary depending on location and how serious you are about playing.

Having one built in your yard can be a great way to play in a more official manner without having to leave the comforts of your property. But in the end, all you need are at least 2 players, the boules, and something to create the circles with.

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