Here is my petanque terrain construction experience:
By Brian Walsh
After touring around investigating any boule or bocce courts I could find locally and in my travels, I built my petanque terrain last summer as follows:
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I dug (by hand...I would recommend renting a bobcat next time!) a 12m x 3.5m (didn't have strength left to go longer...I plan to expand it to 15m soon) area about 30cm to 50cm deep (ground wasn't level so had to go deeper on one end), framed it with 4 x6 pressure-treated landscape timbers, and stacked them 2-3 timbers high all around to hold back the lawn... I just overlapped them and nailed them together with 8-10inch spikes).
For the surface, I first put down rolls of fiber-based weed-barrier (may or may not have actually needed this), then 3-4 inches of crushed stone for drainage, and then finally 4-5 inches of stone dust for the playing surface. I tamped down the stone dust (again by hand...next time I rent a power tamper!) and it has been a fantastic playing surface over the past year. When raked, the very top of the surface has a fine talcom-powder like consistency, which creates friction to slow down the boules. It drains quickly after rain (I'm glad I didn't skip the advice to put in that crushed stone sub-surface!). Any visible stones in the stone dust are tiny, and are not large enough to redirect the boules when hit. I hate playing on surfaces with too much gravel or pea-stone...though maybe if/when my game gets to a high level I may desire some gravel for the challenge of it!
In our New England winters, water freezes hidden in its porous areas making the surface rock-hard and unplayable...but it's too cold to play then anyway! Everything thaws out in the spring, then the court eventually dries back to its normal consistency. Stone dust can play a little soft if it has rained alot. This is okay for me as my court is only 12meters and the softness keeps the boules from rolling too often to the landscape timbers. Even when playing in light rain, the stone dust sticks like fine wet gravel and is easy to wipe off before tossing. It never turns to mud because, weel it's "stone" dust after all. When nice and dry, the stone dust is plenty firm though.
I had considered a playing surface of tennis court-like clay but stone dust was much cheaper and easily available locally for me. Also, I visited a bocce court at a local Italian-American club built with clay and the old Italian guys who built it regretted it because clay sticks to everything, and also turns into a slimy mess when it rains.Total cost of building the above as described was about US$600. That included hiring a guy (finally) with a bobcat to pick up and move the 5 tons of subsurface crushed stone and the 8 tons of stone dust from where it was dumped in my driveway over to the court. That cost me about $120 so I would have saved that amount as well if there had been any possible way to get the delivery truck directly to the court...but it was too narrow.
Hope that helps,
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