Detroit Loves Bowling…with a French Twist

When French fur traders first founded the city of “Détroit” (day-twa), naturally, they brought their French heritage with them. Today, many native Detroiters get in touch with their inner-Frenchman by playing pétanque.

Pétanque (pronounced “pay-TONK”) is a Provençal French game that has been played for nearly 100 years. Members of the Detroit Pétanque Club, from kids to seniors, can be found in Campus Martius Park throwing small metal balls around sand-covered wooden courts. The game is very similar to Italy’s bocce, England’s lawn bowling, and Belgium’s feather bowling.

The game is played by two, four or six people. In the singles and doubles game each player has three boules (which are the balls used); in triples they only have two. A coin is tossed to see which side goes first. The starting team draws a circle on the ground which is 35-50 centimeters (remember this is a French game) in diameter: all players must throw their boules from within this circle, with both feet remaining on the ground. The first player throws out the cochon (commonly called the “jack”) 6-10 meters away; it must be one meter from the boundaries.

The player that threw the jack then throws their first boule. Then the other team throws. Play continues with the team that is not closest to the jack having to continue throwing until they either land a boule closer to the jack than the opposition or run out of boules.

Points are scored when both teams have no more boules. The winning team receives one point for each boule that it has nearer to the jack than the best placed boule of the opposition.

If one team has boules and the other does not then the team with boules receives one point for each of the boules they have left to play.

The first team to reach 13 wins.

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