There are a few factors that need to be taken into consideration when choosing a boule:
This is governed largely by the size of your hand, although Shooters tend to prefer a larger boule and Pointers may prefer a smaller boule. Too big or too small can affect the control you have over your boule, so choose whatever feels most comfortable in your hand. For men, the typical diameter is 73-74 cm, for women 71-72 cm. A useful way of determining approximate size is to measure length of middle finger: Under 69cm = 70.5, 69-74cm = 71, 75-80cm = 72. 81-85cm = 73, 86-91cm = 74, 92-97cm = 75, 98cm and over = 76
Shooters tend to prefer weights 700 grams and below (680-700). Pointers tend to prefer weights 710 grams and above (710-730) as a heavier boule stops faster. If you have weak wrists for any reason, a lighter boule might be helpful. For men the typical weight is 700-730 grams; for women 680-710 grams.
There are two main boule materials: Alloy Carbon Steel and Stainless Steel - All boules will show marks and scratches from normal play
Alloy Carbon Steel boules are susceptible to rust, and should usually be maintained by regular cleaning and light oiling. Some carbon steel boules have matte finishes and may provide a better grip in the hand.
Stainless Steel boules usually do not require maintenance
Avoid leaving boules in the boot of a car as temperature changes can cause condensation
A softer boule will rebound less when shooting, giving an improved chance to stay in contention after impact. Soft boules used regularly for shooting may gradually develop a textured pattern of tiny indentations. A harder boule is suitable for soft ground and may roll a bit straighter over rough terrain with pebbles and rocks. It will mark less than a soft boule.
The pattern of grooves or lines (stripes) on the boule affects the grip of the ball in the hand and on the ground. Many shooters prefer a smooth boule, with few markings, for an easy release from the hand. Many pointers prefer a greater number of lines for grip, and control of spin in the hand and on the ground (depending on the surface, more stripes may roll less after landing).
To be used in competition a boule must be approved by the International and French Federations (FIPJP and FFPJP). To acheive this, the boules must satisfy several criteria:
"Hard" boules are used on every kind of surface. Their technical characteristics give them a lasting longevity. Pointers (pointeures) often prefer to use these hard boules with a heavy weight, smaller diameter and more patterns to ensure a good grip on difficult surfaces. A pointer wishes to place their boule close to the Jack, fix it as firmly as possible to the surface and present the minimum target to any shooters.
"Soft" boules are usually chosen by the shooters (tireurs) who wish to use their boules to hit the opposition boule and force it away from the Jack. To achieve this, a low weight (< 720 g) and a larger diameter (> 74 mm) ensures a bigger striking surface. Minimum pattern and softer surface creates a greater force of impact and hopefully a more effective shot.
No two petanque pistes/terrains play the same, as so much depends on their construction. However, certain criteria need to be met:
The dimensions should be multiples of (12m x 3m) and need not be in a single rectangular or contiguous area (as long as each 12 x 3 m area is contiguous). It is important to ensure adequate drainage. To do this dig a trench deep enough to create a fall from the terrain to the outlet. Lay in drainage pipes or a soak hose, cover with gravel and back fill with top soil.
It is important to remove all vegetation when forming your terrain. It is also important to remove all boulders or other protruding objects. It is preferable to "scrape" the surface (either manually or mechanically) so as not to disturb the firm base/subsoil.
All loose soil should be removed as detailed above. Once removed, the area should be sprayed with an all purpose weedkiller and covered in weed-mat to prevent regrowth.
Defining the boundary can be as simple as where the terrain meets the surrounding grass or can be defined by string or some more permanent structure. Try and avoid something solid like bricks as they can damage the boules if hit directly. Punga logs if available make a natural edging that will last well.
The most important aspect of the base course, is not its composition but that it is well compacted. It will be almost impossible to manually compact it sufficiently and it is highly recommended that a mechanical compactor be used.
If you have done a proper job in the preparation of the terrain your choice of surface layer is almost immaterial. A nice looking finish is obtained through the use of 10-20mm of cockle shells although "metal fines" make for an excellent alternative. You could also finish different pistes with different surface layers, thereby adding to the challenge and the experience of playing on different surfaces.