What is Croquet?
Croquet is a fun outdoor game played on grass between two people or two teams of two. The players or teams compete against each other by striking a ball with a mallet. The balls go through wickets in a certain order as the field is defined. Croquet is played competitively in leagues but also enjoyed by families and friends in backyards.
The game of croquet originated in France in the thirteenth century. Peasants invented the game to pass time and the equipment was quite primitive. The modern game of croquet goes back to 1852 England when a similar game was introduced from Ireland. A sporting goods manufacturer named John Jacques refined the game and began selling croquet sets. The availability of the sets helped croquet grow quickly into a major social and recreational activity of the upper class.
How To Play
There are two teams of one or two players participating in a game. One team plays the black and blue balls, the other plays the yellow and red ones. The teams start play from a point about five meters in front of the first wicket and alternate their strikes. The player must strike the ball with the mallet advancing them through each wicket in the proper order and direction. A team is declared the winner when all the wickets have been cleared by both balls and finished off by hitting the center peg. There are short and long games with six and twelve wickets, respectively. A short game has a winning score of 14, and a long game 26.
The equipment needed to play croquet is quite simple and easily accessible. To begin, find a grassy area for the playing field. Smooth and short cut grass works best, but any grassy field will suffice. The rest of the equipment is usually sold together as a croquet set. The set should consist of at least two mallets, six wickets, a center peg, and four colored balls (blue, black, red, and yellow).
Here is the essential croquet equipment you should have:
- Croquet balls
- Center peg
- Croquet mallets
- Lawn to play on
The objective of croquet is to be the first team to reach the winning score. In a six wicket game the winning score is 14, and in a twelve wicket game it is 26. To accomplish this, each player must strike their ball through the wickets in the proper order and direction. The player must then strike their ball into a center peg located in the middle of the playing lawn. The first team to do this with both balls is the winner.
Rules and Regulations
In America, croquet is governed by the United States Croquet Association (USCA). They hold the major tournaments, set the rules, and regulate all members. There are strict rules for competition, but the more basic rules will give you all the information needed to enjoy the game.
Here are the most important Croquet rules you should know:
- Order of play is: blue, red, black, then yellow.
- You can never strike another player's ball directly with your mallet.
- The player gets one strike per turn except when the ball goes through a wicket or hits a competitor’s ball.
- Each ball must go through the six hoops in the proper order and then hit the center peg.
- The ball must pass entirely through the wicket to be awarded the points.
- Each wicket is worth one point per ball, as is the final center peg.
Strategy is a very important part of a croquet game. A thinking player can beat a more skilled player.
Here are the most important Croquet strategies you should know:
- When your turn comes, your first thought should be whether or not the wicket can be scored. If you consider it probable, then go ahead and shoot for it.
- Remember the “danger ball”, the ball played after yours. If you don’t have a great shot at the wicket this ball does, you may choose to knock it out of position.
- Assuming you can’t make the wicket, try to assist your partner by blocking their ball from the opponent.
- If none of these options are possible, simply strike your ball to an area that allows the wicket to be played next.
Here is the common lingo and slang in croquet:
- Ball in hand: Ball that leaves the court or is temporarily removed.
- Baulk lines: The starting point where the first stroke takes place.
- Continuation: Additional stroke given to a player for running a hoop or taking croquet.
- Dead ball: A ball that has been roqueted.
- Live ball: A ball still able to be roqueted.
- Mallet: The players’ tool used to strike the ball.
- Pegging out: Striking the ball to the final peg after it passed through all the hoops.
- Roquet: The striker’s ball hits another ball.
- Striker: The player whose ball is currently being played.
- Stroke: The hit of the ball by the striker with their mallet.
- Wickets: The six (or twelve) hoops that make up the croquet course and through which the balls must pass.
It is very likely that you have never heard of any famous croquet players, as croquet doesn’t generate much media coverage. However, there are large tournaments held annually that allow for country and world rankings. There is even a croquet hall of fame established in 1979.
Here are the most famous Croquet players you should know:
- Reginald Bamford
- Mark Avery
- Robert Fulford
- Stephen Mulliner
- Ben Rothman
Events and Competitions
Most of the people playing croquet in the US do so as a member of a club. These clubs can be found throughout the country and host many events and tournaments. There are also regional tournaments throughout the US that gather the best players in their respective area. The next level would be the USCA national championships that would gather the best players throughout the country. Croquet is played throughout the world and the best players can compete at the very top level in world championships.
Here are the most popular tournaments in croquet:
- WCF World Championship
- WCF World Team Championship
- USCA National Championship
- Berkshire Invitational