There can be few travelers to France who have not encountered the game of Boules or Pétanque. It is played everywhere, on village streets, country lanes, alongside busy motorways, backyards or public squares. The game, in one form or another, can be traced back to Egypt at the time of Pharaohs. Alexander the Great took the game to Greece and the game then passed to the Romans, who in turn took it to Europe.
It is generally held that Pétanque began in 1907 in La Ciotat, France. The game is a variation on the local game of jeu Provinçal, itself a variation of the popular boules de Lyonnaise. The game was developed by Ernest Pitiot to allow his friend Jule Le Noir, an experienced jeu Provinçal player, to continue to play boules following the onset of rheumatism.
The changes gave Pétanque an immediate wider appeal, as one did not have to be super fit to play, the shortened playing distance made it easier for everyone to succeed when it was their turn to throw. With a smaller ground required for a single game, more players could be accommodated in the same area.
Over the last few years the game has spread throughout New Zealand. Clubs have sprung up all over the country and the number of players has continued to grow steadily each year. Most clubs meet regularly for practice, casual games or tournaments.