Thursday, May 27, 2010

Jeff's Old Bronze Boules are Loyal Friends

Some folks have noticed that I'vebeen using different boules this week. So let's talk boules:
When I began playing petanque years ago, I used those bronze (AC Carreau Integrale Bronze) boules for a long time - but after seeing another player (I think it was Erin out of California) use the tortoise boules in a Florida tournament, I decided to get my stainless steel tortoise boules for my everyday use. Why? well, the bronze boules do have one problem, the alloy being so soft, it tends to flake up VERY sharp bits of metal when struck by another boule which at times can cut my hand if I don't notice the protrusion in time. My stainless steel "turtle" boules don't do this, but they are a much harder boule. The "club boules" are a French boule (made by the Obut company) and are a steel boule. They are not "tournament" boules (tournament boules bear a certain set of weight and diameter markings) but they are a high quality boule without the cost expenditure of a competition boule. Boules of tournament grade cost between $60 to $400 for a set of three.
Boules are made by about 8 different companies (mostly in France) of all sorts of materials (they must be made of metal as per the official rules) - steel, carbon-steel, stainless steel, bronze, nickel-chromium steel being the typical choices... they must be within a certain weight (between 7.05 and 8.00 cm) and weight (650 to 800 grams). The club boules are probably about 7.3 cm 670 grams.
While you can play for the rest of your life with club boules (they're called "dog boules" and "leisure boules") some players like a tailored boule for both the individual "look' of their boule as well as the style of their playing.
Pointers typically choose a heavier harder boule with lots of striations (those grooves cut ito the boules surface). This combination allows for lots of back-spin friction as well as the heft needed for a boule to remain in it's spot.
Shooters like a totally smooth and soft boule that is light. The smooth boule allows for a throw and release of the boule without it "catching" on the hand - the lighter boule is best for "kicking" away a target boule while the softness of the alloy gives less of a rebound on your boule.
That said, a good player can use and enjoy any style of boule regardless of size/weight/hardness.
Some players like a very small boule (smaller target) as a pointing boule... Shooters prefer a larger boule (for better striking)... but still within reason for the player's hand size.
In our club, we typically use just the smooth or single-lined boules. This is really just for ease/quickness of set-up. You may see in other clubs where games have all smooth boules being used, or a myriad of differently striped boules. The boules being marked with weights and other initials (as well as rusts and dents) make it easier for players to tell their boules apart.
Again, this is more for you to appreciate a nuance of the game (I'm not selling boules!) But if you cared to see a good selection, try Philippe Boets of Petanque-America.

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