Professional balls are mainly manufactured in France – the home country of petanque. Most of the production takes place in a small medieval town of Saint-Bonnet Je-Chateau, situated not far from Lyon, where a petanque museum with many exhibits can be found as well.
The production process of the balls looks – in simple terms – as follows: a measured section of a steel bar is cut out and then pressed into a disc. The next press shapes the disc into a hemisphere. Two halves of the would-be ball are welded together and then turned, engraved, and hardened.
According to the rules, a ball should be from 70.5 to 80 mm in diameter and weigh from 650 to 800 g. Each professional ball has the manufacturer’s logo, type, weight and a unique serial number engraved. The balls may be smooth or incised, from regular or stainless steel and are of different hardness. Generally, the shooters choose smooth balls, slightly larger and of a higher softness than the pointers.
Most people do not know that the balls are empty inside.
Even dedicated players find it surprising that the thickness of the ball wall is just 6 mm!
Before a steel ball was created, the game was played with studded wooden balls. Such balls can be seen, for example, in the museum in Saint-Bonnet Je- Chateau.
Some players pour mercury into the ball. Thus loaded, the ball is very stable when rolling and not easy to strike. Playing with falsified balls in tournaments may lead to disqualification of the team and cancellation of the player’s licence.
Apart from petanque tournaments, precision shooting and precision pointing tournaments are organised as well as unofficial gambling tournaments, where the struck ball is placed at a very large distance on a wooden plank (to avoid rolled shots) and the participants pay a small fee for each shot. The first person to hit the target takes the whole pool. This is frequently a whole bucket of coins.
It is a tradition that the party losing the game to nil kisses Fanny, i.e. an image of naked woman’s buttocks. According to a legend, at a café in the southern French town a beautiful waitress used to work whom the unlucky players losing 13:0 could kiss on the cheek as a consolation. One day the mayor himself came to her for the consolation but the pretty lass, either for fun or out of spite, presented her fanny to him! The mayor faced the challenge – and the lovely tradition was born :)