Croquet is an accessible, strategic game that can be played by young and old players alike, with some sets even designed for children. Essential croquet equipment includes mallets, wickets, a court, stakes, and croquet balls, with optional accessories such as corner flags and clips for marking.
Croquet is a fun, accessible sport that is perfect for social occasions. It is a relatively low impact sport that involves good aim, coordination, and strategic skills, and it can be played by young and old players alike. The object is to score points through wickets while making it tactically difficult for your opponents to get their balls through the wickets. You can set up your croquet court on any mowed, clear field, whether that's in the park, on a professional court, or (most commonly) in your own backyard. It's especially enjoyable in nice weather!
Along with the court, the main pieces of equipment for a game of croquet are the six balls, mallets for striking, wickets (also called hoops), and two stakes to mark boundaries and determine striking order. Additional accessories include a bag for your equipment, corner flags to define perimeters of the court, and clips to mark which wicket your ball needs to go through next. The easiest way to get all this equipment together is to purchase a croquet set, which can come in adult and children's versions alike.
An orderly croquet bag is especially important because a lot of pieces and tools are involved in the game. Your croquet bag is a zip-shut bag that straps in your hoop mallet, striking mallets, stakes, and wickets. It also includes a compartment for your croquet balls. Usually the bag comes with any croquet set that you purchase.
Croquet balls are hard, typically plastic balls that come in sets of 6. With a diameter of 3 ⅝ inches, they are larger than pool balls but smaller than baseballs. Every set includes the four main colors of red, yellow, black and blue, plus two secondary colors such as white, green, or pink. The colors correspond with the order of play laid out by the stake's color pattern. In a standard singles game of two people, one player plays with the red and yellow balls, while the other takes blue and black. In a six person game, everyone plays with one ball. Balls for croquet were once made of wood, but in modern times, they're almost always plastic.
Croquet clips are optional accessories that mark which wicket your ball is supposed to go through next in order to score. Like the stake, they are colored to correspond with each player's balls. After you score a wicket, the clip is picked up and moved to the next one you need. They're an especially useful tool for beginners, who may have a hard time keeping track of the proper path that their ball is supposed to follow on the court.
Corner flags are optional markers that lay out the perimeters of your croquet court. They are placed at all corners of the rectangle to remind players not to go out of bounds. The flags are often red, black, blue, and yellow, corresponding with the main colors of croquet balls. Some sets might include corner pegs instead of corner flags, or both flags and pegs to mark corners. Many players like to connect the flags with strings or chalk lines.
The court is the rectangular plane of land you will be playing on. A clear patch of lawn is just fine for your croquet court. The official full court size is 100 by 50 feet, but it's perfectly fine to adjust those proportions to what you have available. Croquet, after all, is more popular for being an accessible backyard activity than it is for being a rigorous, formally competitive sport. It's a good idea to mark the boundaries of your court with chalk or a string to help keep you on course. You should make sure the grass is mowed well enough for an even playing surface, or your ball might get trapped or hindered by the grass.
The hoop mallet, or wicket mallet, is a short, usually rubber hammer used to pound the wickets and stakes into the ground. Hoop mallets are usually included in every croquet set. It's especially important to make sure you plant the wickets solidly enough into the ground because they're knocked into a lot by the 1-pound croquet balls. You should do a wobble test for each wicket you hammer down to make sure it won't come unlodged midgame.
The mallet is the tool you use for actually striking the ball. It looks somewhat like a golf club, but it has a shorter handle (usually 33 to 36 inches) and a block-like prism or cylinder at the bottom called the head. There are a few different grips you can employ, but overall the correct way to swing a mallet is to swing it forward like a pendulum. The striking sides for the ball are at either end of the head, and not the longer, wide sides. You can hold the mallet between your legs or from the side. A mallet might be made of wood, hollow carbon, or fiberglass, and sometimes with a cushioned grip at the top of the shaft.
Shoes for croquet should be comfortable and have a flat sole. Although the game itself doesn't call for highly strenuous running, you can be on your feet for a long time playing croquet, so you want to make sure you're comfortable. Heels or pumps won't fare well in the typically-grass field. Athletic sneakers are ideal.
The stakes, also called pegs or winning pegs, are two 18-inch poles that are planted on either side of the croquet court central to the shorter side of the rectangle. Like the corner flags, they help establish boundaries, and they also allow you to score a stake point once you reach a stake on either side of the court.
The colors on the pole correspond with the colors of the balls, and they indicate the order of who gets to strike first. The typical order for turns indicated by most stakes is blue first, then red, black, yellow, and the two secondary colors last. Some stakes have an extension on top to hold the croquet clips when they're not in use.
It's important to stay hydrated for any sport, and especially those that take place in the sun. Having a water bottle on hand will ensure you're hydrated and free to play croquet outdoors for as long as you want.
Wickets, also called hoops, are the metal arches you must try and get your ball through to score a wicket point. They are set up in a specific numbered order that must be followed in a game, meaning you can't just hit your ball through the wicket that's closest to you. Wickets are typically just a little wider than your croquet ball.
Wickets can be set up on the court in a variety of traditional ways, some which use more of them and others which use fewer. One of the most popular variants of croquet in America and the UK is the 9-wicket game, an arrangement of wickets that looks like two diamonds adjacent to each other. The 6-wicket game, which takes the path of a loose spiral, is another popular setup seen often in professionally competitive croquet.