A Brief Outline of Croquet

There are several variants to croquet as witnessed every time I play with those who are not members of a Club! We make sure at Forde Park that we play to the official rules and introduce others to the correct rules as far as possible. Please do not take offence to this! If players are going to play other Clubs it is essential that everyone knows the correct rules!

We play Golf Croquet most of the time. It is by far the most sociable game with all participants having the same number of turns throughout. In GC players have just ONE shot each turn except in handicap play when a small number of additional shots may be taken by the higher handicap (less skilled) players.

Golf Croquet

Golf Croquet is played on the same court and layout of hoops and post as Association Croquet (see below). It is played with the same team arrangement as the Association game with black and blue playing against red and yellow. It can be played with 2 or 4 players; a version with 6 or even 8 players works too (see 4 X 4 below). It can be played 1 against 2. The sole player playing both balls of his colour. But the game does not seem to work with three balls.

The object is to be the first to score a hoop for their team then everyone moves on to contest the next hoop and continues the game. It is decided at the beginning how many hoops shall be played (always an odd number) and the first team to score enough hoops wins. Typically 7, 13 or 19 hoops are played in Golf Croquet. The post has no function other than to remind players of the striking order and be a bit of an obstacle!

Play starts within a yard of the 4th corner flag with a single stroke being played by each player towards the first hoop; play continues following the exact order of colours on the centre post (including the secondary colours where these are used in 6/8-ball play). Players have just a single stroke and no additional strokes are used in this game whatsoever. If a ball goes off court it is placed on the line where it crossed.

Players may drive their ball at any of the others to dislodge them or put them through the hoop to score it for their team. Players may decide to abandon the hoop they are on and play towards the next hoop but must only proceed to a point up to half-way there. If they go beyond that their opponents may call for that ball to be placed on either of two penalty spots being the midpoint of the long side-lines of the court; this assessment is made at the beginning of each new hoop and the ball must have been freely placed there not driven there by another ball.

As soon as a team has scored more than half the points available in the game they are declared the winner.

This game has proved quite entertaining. Players sometimes attempt long hoop shots often at speed. Also driving an opponent's ball away from the hoop is a regular tactic. Scoring a hoop "in-off" a ball is also common. Players and spectators should be aware that shots are often taken at high speed.

Handicap Golf Croquet
This really is a game leveller and makes for much more interesting play.

Handicap play allows extra strokes to be taken by the higher handicap player(s). In single GC the number of free shots (officially called bisques) offered to the higher handicap player equal to the difference between the two players' handicaps. A bisque may be taken after the main stroke using the same ball BUT a hoop may not be scored when taking the extra stroke. In doubles play the allocation of bisques is slightly more complicated; two calculations are done: the lower handicap players from each team compare handicaps and share out HALF of their difference to the higher handicap player; then the two higher handicap players from each team do the same; these bisques are therefore allocated to particular players only.

Bisque strokes should be used carefully: 1. To prevent an opponent scoring a hoop by removing their ball from a scoring position, and 2. To set your ball up in a virtually unassailable position to score the hoop next time around. Don't waste your shot. A clever tactic here is to use a bisque to place your ball in a hoop without it clearing the hoop; it's then almost certainly ready to score the hoop in the next turn or be propelled through by your other ball. Just watch that you opponent can't clear you from the far side of the hoop.

4 X 4

This is a most interesting variant on Golf Croquet for when you have too many players for the courts available. You need the second colour set of balls, green, pink, brown and white, in addition to blue, red, black and yellow. Also you should, if possible,  have a post with the eight colours on in order. Otherwise the game is the same but with four players on each side. The concentration needed to work out who comes next and who is going to block or remove an opponent ball is huge. But we have found it to be immensely entertaining. Try it!

Association Croquet

Introduction: Association Croquet is played on a level rectangular grass court. There are six hoops and a wooden post - the finishing post. The game is played with four coloured balls - red, yellow, black and blue. The object of the game is to propel each ball in the correct sequence and direction through the hoops and peg out at the finishing post before your opponent using just a (wooden) mallet. If the game is time limited, the number of hoop points is totalled for each side and the side that has the greatest number wins.

There are two teams: red and yellow versus black and blue. The game is played with two or four players. In the four player version each player is allocated a ball and only strikes that ball throughout the game. Sides take alternate turns as in most games, but players may chose which ball to play but then must stick with it throughout their turn; Croquet is like Snooker and Billiards in a number of respects.

ROQUET & CROQUET: The game starts with four turns that must bring all four balls onto the court. After that players have to decide which colour ball to play in their turn; once decided they must stick with that ball throughout the turn. Initially a turn consists of just ONE stroke. Extra strokes are gained by 1. scoring a hoop point, the ball is successfully propelled through its next hoop, or 2. the ball is driven at and hits another ball on the court - a ROQUET. After a hoop score one extra stroke is allowed. After a ROQUET two strokes follow: the first of these is a CROQUET stroke. The striker picks up his ball and places it in contact with the ROQUETed ball where it has stopped - if off the court or in the yard-line area it is placed first on the yard-line. The player then strikes his ball such that both balls move and neither ball goes off court. He then has another stroke, known as the continuation or follow-on stroke; this is just like the first stroke of a turn; if nothing is achieved the turn ends. A player may ROQUET then CROQUET each of the other balls ONCE ONLY in his turn if he wishes. The balls already ROQUETed are "immune" from the process but not immune from being struck by the striker's ball who may simply want to remove that ball from where it lies. After a hoop score or a CROQUET stroke the striker's ball is played from where it stops, including within the yard-line area. But if it has gone off court in a croquet stroke the turn ends. A ball may achieve a ROQUET or hoop run directly from a CROQUET stroke; that is fine but there is only ONE FOLLOW-ON stroke afterwards - these do NOT accumulate.

The layout of 6 hoops and post is illustrated below; this is for 6 hoops and post which is what we usually have time for. The full game of 12 hoops and post requires the rover hoop (red) to be placed in position 5. More details may be found on the croquet association website.

IF the player scores a hoop point during his turn all immunity is off and he may ROQUET then CROQUET all or any of the three other balls again once. In this way he can build a considerable break and score several hoop points.

Pegging out: When a player has completed the series of hoops his next target is to drive his ball to the post and peg out (ball comes off court). BUT it is not advisable to do this alone. He should try to finish the game with both balls pegging out in the same turn; a ball on its own can be very difficult to play out. To help a partner ball a player is allowed to croquet it (PEEL) through its next hoop or to the post; he may also croquet an opponent ball through its next hoop. He may even peg out an opponent's ball but only if his ball is also on the peg (a rover). He should take care not to accidentally peg out his own ball prematurely! Impacting the peg, or a hoop, before a ball is a "rover" has no consequences other than possible inconvenience!

Wiring: At the beginning of a turn a player may find that from his ball he does not get a complete sighting of one or more of the other balls on the court due to the hoops or post, or cannot swing the mallet towards one of his balls because the hoop or post causes an obstruction. His ball is said to be WIRED from the ball concerned. Causing this is part of the game (compare snookering), but if a ball is wired from ALL of the others on court AND the opposition had placed the player's ball in that position the player may lift his wired ball and play from either start line when his turn is due. So wiring a ball from one or two of the other balls on court is a good tactic but not usually from all three! It is a good idea to watch where you are leaving your opponent's balls!

Laying up: Your turn will break down - all too easily when a beginner - and you may have a follow-on shot to play but it can't perhaps do what you wanted as you left your ball in the wrong place. You need to lay up. Think carefully where to do this or perhaps try another ROQUET if one might be attempted. Or join up somewhere near your partner ball. Don't try to place your ball in front of its next hoop; your opponent will probably attack you there.

Comment: As with Snooker and Billiards, players can make a break, sometimes lasting several minutes; this is a downside of Association Croquet when playing socially or when there is a time limit. It is for this reason that we have tended to play Golf Croquet which has proved much more sociable with its single stroke play throughout.

The Court is 5 units long and 4 units wide. The post is in the middle and hoops 5 & 6 are 1 unit from the post. The other hoops are 1 unit from the corners measuring at right angles to the boundaries. The yard-line is not marked. In Forde Park a unit is 4 yards. The official full size court is 35 yards X 28 yards so the unit then = 7 yards. It is about twice the size of a tennis court.

We expect mostly to play half-games; that is to go through the hoops as shown then to the post making a total of 7 points potentially for each ball. The full game covers the first 6 hoops and then does the hoops as follows in the reverse direction to those shown: 2, 1, 4, 3, 6, 5 and post making 13 points each. The blue hoop is hoop 1 and the red hoop is the last or ROVER hoop. In the 13 point game the red hoop would be placed in position 5.

The start is made from either start line but these are not usually marked. The first hoop at Forde Park is about 9 feet 2.7m from the start line so is a fairly difficult prospect. A miss will usually leave you an easy target for your opponent who will ROQUET you then have a CROQUET and follow-on stroke to make hoop 1 and may then ROQUET and CROQUET you again to get to hoop 2. So think carefully about your start and don't forget that you can start at the other end if you so wish. (On a full size court the start line is about 6 yards from the first hoop; attempting the hoop is out of the question.) You should play your ball onto court to entice your opponent to have a shot at it and hope he misses!


Image showing the approximate size of our court

Each turn you will be faced with a choice; whether to try to place your ball or make a ROQUET. Normally go for the ROQUET. You start to get control of the game once you interact with the other balls. Once the ROQUET is made your ball is "in hand"; you now pick it up and place it against the ball you have just ROQUETed. It may have gone off court in which case bring it onto the yard-line adjacent. A hoop scored after the ROQUET counts. If you ROQUET more than one ball you may take CROQUET from either ball that you ROQUETed. A form of ROQUET where the ROQUETed ball goes a long way is called a RUSH. It is quite a useful way of getting around the court but needs good alignment (below). Having made your ROQUET you now pick your ball up and place it touching the ROQUETed ball WHERE IT STOPPED. If it has gone over the yard-line it will be placed on it first. This shot has many variations and you need to practice it a lot. The diagram illustrates a simple split. But you can do a "take-off" where you place your ball on the side of the ROQUETed ball and hit towards a target leaving the CROQUETed ball almost where it was. Or you can drive the CROQUETed ball a long way and yours hardly moves. But note the rules for this shot.

Local Rules: Ground conditions suggest some local rules are needed.

If the ball has clearly passed right though the hoop but rolls back into it, we will allow the point. Similarly if a ball lodges in a hollow we will allow a lift to the nearest piece of good ground.

Double tapping: It is very easy to double tap the balls. We will only enforce the rule against double tapping on more experienced players.

Crush shot. Where the balls end up against the hoop and it is particularly difficult not to "crush" the balls against the hoop. Only novices will be allowed to replay the shot.

CROQUETed ball fails to move (usually on a take-off). We will allow the shot to be taken again by novices. For all others the turn ends.

CROQUETed ball runs off the court at the north end; there is a slope here that almost accelerates the ball when the grass is very short and the ground dry. We allow a either ball on a croquet shot to leave the north side of the court by up to one yard without penalty. The croqueted ball is placed on the yard line and the striker's ball is placed just inside the boundary line. I do NOT vouch for all of these rules. There are many external websites that cover the rules in considerably more detail.

An Outline of One Ball

In this game two players have one ball each, otherwise the game is played exactly the same as Association Croquet (above).

So how is it different in practice?
It is much more difficult to get a big break with only one other ball on the court to aim at; so turns change much more rapidly. 

As the wiring law applies you must leave both balls at the end of your turn fully visible to each other if you have moved your opponent's ball during that turn; otherwise they may take a lift to baulk and may gain considerable advantage.
You need to develop good hoop shooting from 4-7 yards and an ability to make the ball run on towards the next hoop.
So what else matters:
The relatively short sessions of play mean that no-one is standing around much waiting while the other makes a big break so this game can be played in winter conditions. Also the game is usually over in about 35-40 minutes enabling lots of play. A tournament may be completed in a day.
Also it is possible to quadruple bank, i.e. have four games going on at the same time on a full-size court. At Forde Park we could manage 2 games quite easily on each court so 8 players at a time spread over our two courts.

Two-Ball Match-Play Croquet

This is a game that gets people playing something like Association Croquet in moments. It has elements of Association Croquet (AC) and Golf Croquet (GC) as I will explain.
It is a game for 2 players and they have 1 ball each.
Players play a single shot at a time unless they score a hoop in which case they get 1 extra shot (AC) or if they roquet (strike) the other ball with theirs they get 2 extra strokes - a croquet stroke and follow-on stroke (AC).
But once the first hoop is scored, play moves on to the next hoop (GC). The game is played best of 13 points (GC).
Croqueting a ball off court is not, apparently, a fault. You may only take croquet once in a turn unless you achieve a hoop score then you may roquet and croquet the other ball again (AC).
This is another game that can be played relatively quickly with multiple games on each court if you wish.

Snake - a possible new game for three players...

This game is based on Association Croquet but with only three balls it is that much more difficult to build a significant break. So why SNAKE? Well we've all played Snakes and Ladders in our youth or with our children. In this game there are no ladders and just one snake: any ball that hits the post, except the strikers ball when a rover, loses all the hoop points scored up to that time and has to start all over at hoop 1! (The ball is not moved from where it comes to rest after striking the post.)

Because there are three sides and not two there are issues about what happens with foul croquet shots; we discovered that the balls could be replaced where they were but sometimes neither were played immediately. So we decided that the balls would be left where they came to rest and relocated as usual on the yardline if over it or off court.

We also thought it appropriate that a successful croquet to the post should end the striker's turn. A referee may need to watch anytime a ball may pass close to or be aimed at the post to adjudicate possible snicks; usually the neutral player.

A player that gets ahead is very vulnerable to being attacked by the other two players acting together! Suppose Blue is ahead but misses a shot and his turn ends; Red could play towards Yellow giving Yellow an easy roquet or even a rush towards Blue. In the ensuing croquet shot Yellow should try to get a line on Blue towards the post for the follow-on stroke. A reasonable roquet followed by a croquet will usually send Blue onto the post and hence back to the beginning!

Worth a try? We think so and we've had a lot of fun with it. It is quite a good game to have available as quite often we find we have seven players for the two courts.

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Clive Sawers - (updated July 2017)