Building a Piste
Whether you need a piste to start a club or to improve your existing facilities you will first need to consider the area required. For International competition and National Championships the minimum dimensions of a lane are 15m x 4m with at least 1m additional clearance around the perimeter where there is a solid boundary (such as a fence or wall), or 30cm where there is a low level boundary (such as sleepers). However, these dimensions are frequently altered for club and leisure situations to take account of limited space available. Many club lanes are 12m x 3m. If you wish to host National competitions you should aim to develop a piste large enough to accommodate at least 8 lanes. A minimum of 12 lanes are required if you wish to apply to host the Home Nations.
Pétanque may be played on any surface but grass is not recommended as the surface can be bouncy, wet and will damage easily. Gravel or hard earth is generally accepted as the ideal surface.
In the UK we try to recreate the dusty squares and areas where Pétanque is played in France, however we have to take account of Scotland’s wet climate. It is this reason we construct areas similar to gravel driveways so we can play when the weather is inclement.
To construct a pétanque piste that is satisfactory to play on in all seasons it is first necessary to select a reasonably well drained area.
The topsoil should be removed to a depth of 6-8 inches (150 – 200 mm) and a layer of hard-core, brick rubble, stone etc. laid in the bottom. This should be compacted down to approx. 4 inches (100 mm) thick using a Wacker plate or Roller. The area can now be filled with crushed quarry stone 1 1/2 inch down to dust all in. This is known as type 1 sub base or scalpings. A heavy roller over this, if it is not too dry, will provide a hard firm surface. However, if played on at this stage the large stones will come to the surface. The area will need subsequent rolling and watering to settle the stones down. A shower of rain (or hose pipe) will be beneficial.
A solid surround of some sort is usual to a playing area to prevent boules that are out of play rolling considerable distances or causing injury. A wide variety of items are seen used for this purpose, most commonly, old railway sleepers, planks, old kerb stones, old telegraph poles. etc. Depending on the size of the edging available it can be incorporated at any stage after digging to leave 4-6 inches (100 – 150 cm) above the finished playing area.
Once the material so far included has been very well compacted a top dressing is applied. This can take a number of forms. A thin layer of small crushed quarry stones and a high dust content will often consolidate into a fast, rolling piste. Whilst this might be attractive, particularly for beginners as the piste is relatively easy to read, you might wish to make it more challenging by adding some larger stones. This introduces an element of uncertainty about how the piste will behave, but is potentially more rewarding in the long term as your members will learn how to adapt and become better petanque players. Don’t be tempted to make the topping too deep, there should be only just enough to allow the boules to grip on the surface without sinking into it.
You may wish to organise events in other locations. A temporary piste can be constructed by simply laying a membrane on grass, concrete or paving which is then topped with gravel which can then be easily removed or recycled after use.
We hope this gives a reasonable idea of the things you should consider when constructing a piste. You will of course also need to consider planning consent, leases and whether you should install floodlights for evening/winter play. Help is on hand from many players and established clubs in Scotland who have installed their own pistes, please feel free to contact us for assistance.