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Playing Hints for High Handicappers

CROQUET HINTS for high bisquers

The following advice applies to standard handicap Association Croquet play, where one player (assumed to be the weaker player) has bisques and the other player (assumed to be the stronger player) has none.

For more hints on how to improve see the More Playing Hints link at the top of this page.

The Opening

If you have the bisques and you win the toss it is always better to put your strong opponent in. The reason being that had he won the toss he would almost certainly have put you in, with a view to hitting in on the fourth turn and going round himself.

If you have the first turn play to near corner 4 and your opponent may then lay a tice on the west boundary, in which case you should aim at the tice from corner one, so that if you miss it you will end up in corner 2.  Do not join your partner ball.
This leaves your opponent a difficult break to establish, even if he hits in. A bisque or half-bisque or both may then be used to establish your break in your next turn (especially if your opponent failed to run hoop 1).



Use of Bisques


Where you have many bisques and also a half-bisque use the half bisque early in the game to set up a break with a "full" bisque to follow, remember a half bisque cannot be used to score a point (i.e. run a hoop).

A half bisque may also be used to gain the innings if there is little prospect of scoring a point, but a general rule is to use the half bisque early, the earlier the better.

Offensive Bisques

Say after me . . . "Bisques are for Breaks" !

The bisque deliberately anticipated while you have a stroke in hand is the most valuable. A bisque is least useful when it is one which you are forced to take after missing a roquet or a hoop.

The offensive bisque should be used after shooting at or up to the most distant ball on the court - going to a nearer ball rarely pays off.

A General rule is that it is better to use a half-bisque and bisque, or even two bisques in succession, to get all the balls well placed than to take a single bisque to make a single hoop (you make your way back to the ball near your next hoop in order).  Remember that when you take a bisque all the balls become available for roquet & croquet again.

The four ball break (see below) is the very essence of Croquet; it is the one thing, above all others, which your opponent fears.  There are few, if any, positions on the court from which a four ball break cannot be set up with the use of two bisques.

Aim to win the game in the easiest and quickest way possible.

Defensive Bisques

As mentioned above, a general rule is that "Bisques are for Breaks", however the bisque or half-bisque can have defensive value also.  

Before leaving the lawn, after you break down, consider your opponent's next move.  Have you left him in a position from which he can easily make a break?  Consider taking a bisque or a half bisque to thwart him



4 Ball Breaks

Practise the Four-Ball-Break.  Practise with unlimited bisques and find out the average number you require for an all round break.  The strong player aims at winning his game with two or three breaks.  With the aid of bisques you should do likewise.

A General Plan for your game may be as follows:-

Let's suppose you have , say, 16 bisques and your opponent has not set up a break on the fourth turn and gone round.

In one turn : Use 2 bisques to set up a good break, use up to 5 more for break downs, and take your first ball to the peg, leaving all four balls on or near a boundary, your opponent's separated and your own joined widely.

Your stronger opponent may then hit in and go round. Let us assume your opponent has been unable or chosen not, to peg out your first ball,

In your next turn: Repeat the scheme with your second ball. (i.e. 2 bisques to lay the break and 5 more to get your second ball the peg).
Now use the remaining two bisques to peg out both your balls.  End of turn.  End of game !  You win !




It is better to leave your own two balls together near a boundary than at your next hoop, so that if the opponent shoots at you and misses, his ball may be used to advantage with the first roquet of your next turn.

Do not join up if your opponent is already joined up, since this would allow your opponent to roquet and take off to your two balls.

Rather than leaving your opponent's balls well separated and on or near a boundary, it is better to leave each of your opponent's balls near a different hoop in a way which is helpful to your break or difficult for your opponent.

Three common examples:

Put one of the opponent's balls at your next hoop and the other opponent's ball where it can be used for your break or

put one ball at each of your next hoops - and maybe yourself with a rush to either hoop or

if your opponent's balls are for different hoops, send each ball to it's own hoop - in a position where it is impossible to run the hoop; this leaves things awkward for your opponent



Wide Joins

Your strong opponent, rather than shoot at one of your balls, may end his turn by joining his partner ball on a boundary, say, seven yards wide of it (assuming that you had left one of his balls on or near a boundary).  This is a "Wide Join".  The distance chosen is one where your opponent feels he can hit in if you do not move his balls but, if you do decide to move his balls, makes it less easy for you to set up a break than if the balls were closer.

The break is less easy to set up because if you roquet one of these balls, your take-off to the other is longer and since the ball is on the boundary and you will attempting to get between it and the boundary to hit it further into the court there it is more likely you will go off or fail to get a helpful rush.

If you opponent has set up a distant wide join and you are left in a hoop-running position with your partner ball close-by you have to decide whether to set up the break by running the hoop before or after going to the widely joined balls.  Some points to consider : -

Choose the option which makes it easier to set up the break (rather than automatically "grabbing" the hoop point first).

If you  delay running the hoop you can still return to your partner ball at your hoop, take a bisque, and continue the break.

If you run the hoop first you may be able to continue the break without taking a bisque.

Taking off to the most distant ball is frequently better.

The wide join means you have more room to get both opponent balls into the court and less need to leave one near the boundary than if they were closer to each other (this may make taking a bisque worthwhile).

If you choose to end your turn with a wide join yourself do not place a ball near a corner, since if you subsequently shoot at the ball nearest the corner and miss, your striker's ball will end up in the corner and thus close to your partner ball.  This is dangerous unless you intend to take a bisque because your turn will end and your stronger opponent may then have the opportunity to separate or use your balls and the benefit to you of the wide join will have been lost - you may have "lost the innings".




Stalk the balls!  Stalk the balls ! Stalk the balls !
for most players this helps.

Once you have taken up position after stalking, try to avoid moving the position of the feet on the ground and the hands on the mallet.  If you need to adjust your stance or are just not comfortable, start all over again.

Keep the feet, body, shoulders and head as still as possible throughout the stroke with the arms pivoting at the shoulder.  A common problem is allowing the head to rise due to the eyes following the ball rather than remaining on the point of contact of mallet with ball.  If the eyes do follow the ball, even without raising the head this may still effect the quality of stroke.

Strike your own ball in its exact centre with the centre of the face of your mallet and follow through.

Even with the longest of shots you should be able to remain in perfect poise at the finish of the stroke.

Swing back slowly, this gives better control.  On fast lawns very little back swing is necessary.

Curtail the backward swing to the minimum consistent with the strength of shot required - let the mallet weight do the work - do not "push" or "shepherd" after contacting the ball.




Take accurate and deliberate aim after stalking the ball, then hit smoothly with follow through. Gentle and controlled hoop running is a "knack " which can be acquired with practice.

If you are faced with a difficult hoop, before attempting it, consider the consequences of failure.

If you fail to approach a hoop properly with your partner ball, it is generally unwise to end your turn by placing the striker's ball in a perfect hoop running position.  There are two main reasons, (1), you will most likely be wired from your partner ball, thus probably forcing you to play with the hoop ball, and (2) , you cannot alter the direction of the rush after running the hoop and your opponent will have moved one or both of his balls.  Much better is to use the continuation stroke to place your striker's ball to give a rush on your partner ball (remembering not to leave a double target) thus allowing the reception ball to be repositioned for a good rush after the hoop is run.

It is frequently better to use the continuation stroke in playing behind the ball off which you are making the hoop, taking a bisque and approaching again, thus expending just one bisque, rather than, possibly two, if you had stuck on the wire.

Better still is to use the continuation stroke to approach the most distant ball, take a bisque and improve the position of the balls, before returning to the ball at your hoop and approaching it afresh.



The Peg-Out

Generally players will attempt to peg out both their balls in the same turn, first pegging out the croqueted ball with a firm but gentle stop shot and then the striker's ball with the continuation stroke.

When your partner ball is ready to peg out leave it near the peg and if possible use an opponent's ball to pilot your striker's ball through Rover hoop.  After running Rover hoop you can roquet this ball again and take off to partner ball.

If you have to use your partner ball to run rover then be sure to leave a rush back towards the peg after running rover, if you are to peg out in the same turn.   Alternatively and a more reliable technique is to arrange to have one of the opponent's balls beyond Rover before you approach it and use this as the reception ball after running the hoop, then take off to your own ball so as to get a good rush to the peg.

For precise adjustment of the balls in the croquet stroke, the line of the peg must bisect the crescent formed by viewing the further ball over the nearer.  The crescent must be such that an imaginary line joining the cusps is horizontal.  This means stooping low to view.  Some players find it helpful to view also from the side of the peg furthest from the two balls to be pegged out.

When rushing the object ball nearer to the peg take care to avoid rushing it on to the peg, as this will peg it out and you will have no ball to take croquet from and therefore be unable to peg out in this turn (unless you have an unused bisque).



Errors & Faults

Errors are mistakes in play (breaches of the Laws of Croquet).  

An Error is "discovered" when the striker announces it or the opponent forestalls play in respect of it.

Faults are Errors committed during the striking period.

Some common Faults occur when : -

The mallet head, a ball and a hoop or peg are in contact simultaneously and the line of aim is not away from the hoop or peg.  This can occur also when a ball is hit downwards into the ground. This is known as Crush Shot.

The mallet head maintains contact with the striker's ball for an appreciable period of time when the ball is not in contact with any other ball or after the striker's ball has hit another ball.  This includes "shepherding" when the mallet head accelerate or deviates from the initial line of swing when in contact with the ball. This called a Push Shot.

The mallet head contacts the striker's ball more than once in the same stroke or allows the striker's ball to re-touch the mallet.  This is called a Double Tap or Multiple Tap.

Any part of the body or clothes touches any ball.

The mallet touches a ball other than your own

The croqueted ball fails to move or shake a croquet stroke.



Forestalling play

This means asking the striker to cease play when you think an error is about to be or has been committed - you are discharging your duty as referee of the game.  Forestalling must be done between strokes otherwise it is "interference with play of a stroke".


Remind your opponent to take their continuation shot if they have forgotten.

Tell your opponent it they have misplaced a clip.

Tell your opponent if they are about to strike a ball from a double banked game.

Tell your opponent if a boundary mark has been displaced.

Stop play if : -

your opponent is about to play a questionable stroke, that is, one which would possibly result in a fault, without having it watched - examples are a possible crush stroke and a stroke hampered by a hoop,

your opponent is about to take croquet when not entitled,

your opponent is about to take croquet from the wrong (but live) ball.
A live ball is one which you have not roqueted since starting your turn, running a hoop or taking a bisque.

 your opponent is about to play a single ball stroke when they should be taking croquet,

 your opponent is about to play a stroke when not entitled to do so.

 a ball is misplaced - this can happen when : -

a croqueted ball finishes within the yard line area and is not placed on the yard line,

after running a hoop the ball finishes within the yard line area and is replaced on the yard line in error,

after a croquet stroke, the striker's ball finishes within the yard line area and is replaced on the yard line in error,

after a continuation stroke, the strikers ball finishes within the yard line and is not replaced on the yard line,

a double banker has marked and moved one of the balls of your game and your opponent is unaware of this.

YOU MUST NOT (unless an error has already occurred) :-

Tell your opponent if they are about to play the wrong ball.

Tell your opponent if they are about to run the wrong hoop.

Tell your opponent if they are about to take croquet from the wrong (but dead) ball.
A dead ball is one which you are not entitled to take croquet from (i.e. you have already roqueted and taken croquet from it without subsequently scoring a hoop point).

Tell your opponent if they are about to run a hoop after taking a half bisque.
Remember that the stroke is legitimate but the hoop has not been made and therefore there is no continuation stroke.

Give to or accept from, your opponent, any advice.

Tell your opponent that they have a lift.




As a general rule, it is better to concentrate on the game and to speak to or interfere with your opponent as little as possible during its progress, especially in the case of a player who is unknown to you.

Congratulations or commiserations are best left to the end.

Careful play need not mean slow play.  Take the maximum of pains in the minimum time.  Watch your opponent play and be ready to play as soon as their turn ends, as far as possible - this will make you a popular player and help to make you a good one. 

The players in Croquet are their own referees, therefore you should be familiar with the etiquette and laws of the game, particularly those referring to errors during the striking of the ball (faults). There may also be local "laws" for your club (or the club hosting a tournament).

Replacing balls on yard line - do so with your back to the lawn (facing the court boundary).

Note:  even though I have included this in the etiquette section, this is technically incorrect. Law 12(e) requires this (with some qualification).

Practice at Tournaments - Unless otherwise informed by the Manager, players may assume that they may practise during the five minutes prior to the advertised start of play on the court allocated for their first match, taking care not to loosen the hoops (Reg P4e). 

This may be over-ridden by the specificic regulations for a tournament- but usually not.

If you are about to play your first game against a player who has already played a game (say if you had a bye or late start) then the Manager may allow you a few minutes practise if you ask.




It's only a game !  Nothing really important depends upon the issue.
Croquet is not a life or death affair, but a friendly pastime.

That said, play every game to win or it is pointless to play at all - but more important - Play your best game always, which you may not do if overmuch concerned as to its issue.

You must play your best out of respect for your opponent, to give them something to fight against and a game worth winning.

Do not play with the selfish dread of defeat. Play for the sake of the game, not merely for yourself or for your handicap.

Books worth a read

Title Author Publisher/Supplier approx cost (1999)
NEW 2010  
Complete Croquet
(reviewed in The Croquet Gazette
Issue 327  Aug 2010
James Hawkins The Croquet Association £16.99
Basic Laws of Association Croquet
and Golf Croquet
R. G. Neal The Croquet Association
How to play Croquet Mike Shaw (Nigel Aspinall) Jarrold £3.50
The Laws of Association Croquet
and Golf Croquet
and the regulations for tournaments
The Croquet Association The Croquet Association £3.00
Simplified Croquet
the Mini-Break Way
Peter Danks The Croquet Association £7.95
Play Better Croquet Geoffrey Naylor Hazard Press (NZ) §
Teach Yourself Croquet Don Gaunt Hodder & Stoughton £6.00
Croquet - The Skills of the Game BIll Lamb The Crowood Press £6.00
Plus One On Time D. L. Gaunt D. L Gaunt £5.00
The World of Croquet John McCullough & Stephen Mulliner The Crowood Press £15.00 §
Croquet J. W. Solomon A & C Black £8.00
Commentary on the Laws of Croquet D. M. C. Prichard (Bill Lamb) The Croquet Association £5.00
If you want to see how complicated it can get, borrow a copy of the next one !    
Expert Croquet Tactics Keith Wylie Eastern Rose Publishing £12.00


§ Out of print (possibly available secondhand).

26th April 2019