Croquet has long been regarded as just a genteel social game mostly played by privileged families in England on grassed areas around their homes. It was played more for fun than to win, and it entertained guests in the summer months.
Since originating (I believe) in France in the 18th century, it has evolved into a more serious sport. Most Australians would be unaware that the famous South London tennis venue Wimbledon, founded in 1868 was originally a private croquet club known as ‘The All England Croquet Club’. The name was later changed to the “All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club”
There are two forms of the game.
The traditional game is known as Association Croquet. Its intricacies may be difficult for spectators to follow but it requires great skill, intense concentration, and smart planning to excel. It is now played in many countries, and is growing in popularity among younger people here in Australia. It does not yet enjoy a high profile but many find it to be a challenging and rewarding recreational activity and one which importantly for older players also provides a welcome social outlet.
A shorter and simplified, but still skilful, form of croquet known as Golf Croquet has overtaken Association Croquet in popularity. Indeed some clubs depend heavily on it for their membership.
How is it played?
The information below is a brief introduction to the mysteries of croquet for novices from the website of the Croquet Club of Oxford.
Association Croquet – Basic rules
Diagram 1. The Standard Court. The corners are depicted by roman numerals. The yard-line and baulk-lines are not marked on the court and lie 1 yard in from the boundary. All distances are in yards.
The peg is 18″ tall above ground and 1½” in diameter with a smaller dowel extension about ½” in diameter and 6″ long plugged in the top. The extension may be temporarily removed if it impedes the striker. The peg is in the centre of the lawn.
Championship hoops are made of 5/8″ diameter metal forming a 12″ high hoop with a straight top. The gape of the hoop is approximately 3-3/4″ between the jaws (1/8″ wider than the balls). Hoops are bare metal or painted white with the first hoop having a blue top and the last hoop (rover) having a red top.
Championship balls are 3-5/8″ diameter, coloured Blue, Black, Red and Yellow and weigh 16oz (454g).
Clips coloured to match the balls indicate which hoop which colour ball is next for. Clips are placed on the top of the hoop if the ball is for hoops 1 to 6, or on the hoop upright for the second circuit. They can be temporarily removed if they impede the striker.
Mallets must have parallel and identical end-faces made of wood or any other material giving similar properties.
- The Object of the Game
The game is a race around the circuit of hoops in the order and directions shown in the diagram above. The Blue and Black balls play against the Red and Yellow balls. The first side to get both of their balls through the 12 hoops in order and hit the peg is the winner. Once a ball has completed the circuit and hit the peg (is pegged out) it is removed from the game.
- The Turn
The players play alternate turns. Once all four balls have been played on to the court, a player can start their turn by striking either of their balls but must thereafter strike only that ball (the striker’s ball) during that turn. A turn consists of a single stroke, after which the turn ends, unless in that stroke
- the striker’s ball scores its next hoop in which case it earns a continuation stroke, or
- hits another ball (makes a roquet) whereupon it gains a croquet stroke then a continuation stroke.
When the striker’s ball has been through the last hoop it is known as a rover. It can then score a peg point by striking the peg (pegging out) and be removed from the game. It may also cause another rover to be pegged out.
- Scoring Points
The striker’s ball scores a hoop point for itself by entering a hoop from the correct direction and passing sufficiently through the hoop so that no part of the ball protrudes from the side of the hoop it entered by (runs a hoop). This may occur in one or more turns. On running the hoop the striker gets an extra stroke – a continuation stroke.If the striker’s ball causes another ball to run that ball’s hoop, that other ball is said to be peeled through the hoop and it gains a point. You do not gain a continuation stroke for peeling a ball. The owner of the ball which is peeled gets the hoop point.The score is the sum of the number of hoops and peg points each side has obtained.
- The Roquet
If the striker’s ball hits another ball the striker gets two extra strokes. The first extra stroke is the croquet stroke and is played by picking up the striker’s ball and placing it in contact with the ball it has struck, the roqueted ball. The striker takes croquet (see below) from the roqueted ball which then becomes known as the croqueted ball. Following the croquet stroke the striker has a continuation stroke on their own ball.Summary: Roquet => Croquet => Continuation.At the start of each turn the striker’s ball may roquet each of the other three balls once. However, every time the striker’s ball scores its next hoop point it may roquet each of the other three balls again. The striker can roquet balls, run its next hoop and roquet the balls again, etc., in one turn so making a break.A ball can roquet another ball directly or after being scattered off a hoop, peg or other ball which it has already roqueted. If at the start of a turn the striker’s ball is in contact with another ball and the player chooses to play with that ball, a roquet is taken to have been made and you must take croquet immediately. Should the striker’s ball dislodge a ball it has already roqueted, the balls remain where they come to rest unless the striker’s ball subsequently hits a ball it may roquet.If a player completely runs their hoop and roquets a ball lying completely outside the jaws of the hoop then this is taken to be hoop run then roquet. Croquet must then be taken. A ball which has made a roquet is still in the game and can cause other balls to be moved and potentially peeled. Once it has made a roquet the striker’s ball may not score hoop points for itself in the same stroke, but may move other balls.
- The Croquet Stroke
In the croquet stroke the striker strikes their own ball when it is in contact with the roqueted ball. The roqueted ball must move or shake in the stroke. If it does not move it is a fault and the turn ends. After a fault the balls are either replaced as for the croquet stroke, or left where they ended up at the opponent’s option. The turn also ends if either ball in the croquet stroke leaves the lawn.If the croqueted ball is sent off the court after it is pegged out or if the striker’s ball roquets another ball, or runs its hoop before leaving the court, then the turn continues without penalty.
- The Continuation Stroke
This is an ordinary stroke following the croquet stroke or hoop run in which, for example, a further roquet may be made or a point may be scored. Continuation strokes cannot be accumulated; for example if you run your hoop and make a roquet in the same stroke you must take croquet immediately.
- The Start of a Game
The game starts with the toss of a coin. The winner of the toss decides whether they will take the choice of lead, i.e. which side plays first or second, or which pair of balls (Blue & Black or Red & Yellow) they will play with. If they take the choice of balls the adversary has the choice of who plays first and vice versa.At the start of a game, the side entitled to play first plays either of its balls into the court from any point on eitherbaulk-line (see diagram). At the end of that turn their adversary does likewise. In the third and fourth turns the remaining two balls are similarly played into the game.As soon as a ballis played on to the court it can immediately score points and makeroquets. Once all four ballshave been played on to the court the striker can start anysubsequent turn with either of their balls.At the end of each stroke any ball in the yard-line area other than the striker’s ball, which is played from where it lies, is brought back onto the yard-line nearest to its position. If at the end of a turn the striker’s ball lies within the yard-line it is brought back onto the yard-line. Any ball which has left the lawn is brought back onto the yard-line unless it is the striker’s ball due to take croquet.A ball goes off the court as soon as any part of it crosses a straight edge raised vertically from the inside of the boundary. If a ball cannot be exactly replaced on the yard-line because of the presence of other yard-line balls, it is replaced on the yard-line in contact with those balls.
- The Object of the Game