Croquet is played in many forms, some purely as social entertainment and others as competitive sport.
Simple game formats can be like "garden croquet", where the players contest hoops in a pre-set order and the player who gets their ball through the most hoops wins. There can be many local variations to courts sizes, shapes and layouts to accommodate the geography of the particular garden situation.
These more social forms of croquet often bear little resemblance to modern competitive game played internationally, although they are still "good for practise".
Competitive croquet also comes in a number of formats but that most usually played is called ASSOCIATION CROQUET. This game provides one of the finest and most intelligent of all outdoor sports, requiring delicate skills rather than physical strength and tactical ability rather than rapid reflexes - for this reason it is sometimes referred to as the "Queen of Games".
Croquet provides, arguably, more of a challenge than Bowls, a greater variety of shots than Snooker, similar physical exercise and handicapping to Golf and some of the mental stimulation of Chess.
It is one of the few sports in which the whole family can compete on equal terms.
It can be played at any age by men and woman on equal terms and uses a handicapping system that allows for good croquet between players of unequal abilities. It provides light healthy exercise with no particular physical stress other than a considerable amount of concentration.
The basics of Association Croquet.
Games are played between two sides either as singles or doubles and always with four balls. Each side uses two balls. Blue and Black are always paired against Red and Yellow.
In Singles one player plays both balls, in doubles each player plays one ball only.
Both balls of a side have to be played through 12 hoops (i.e. each of the 6 hoops twice) in defined order and direction and each ball must then be made to hit the centre peg. One point is scores for each hoop and peg, a total of 26 points for both balls. The first side to score 26 points wins.
A hoop point is scored each time a ball passes through the correct "hoop in order". The order and direction for each hoop is shown in the diagram below, the order being 1 (the one with a blue top), 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 in the "forwards" direction and then 1-back, 2-back, 3-back, 4-back, Penultimate and Rover (the hoop with a red top) in the "backwards" direction.
A point is scored only if a hoop is run in the correct order and direction, you cannot skip a hoop and come back to it later !top
Pairs of black dots represent hoops (uprights).
Brown arrows indicate direction of play through hoops 1 - 6 (forwards).
Blue arrows indicate direction of play after hoop 6 through hoops 1b - 4b then PENULTIMATE and ROVER (backwards).
PEG indicates position of the peg (last point of game).
The inside of the white line is the playing boundary of the court.
Grey line here shown inside the white boundary line is an unmarked "yard-line" on which balls are replaced after going off court.
At start of game balls are played from anywhere on either of the BAULK-LINEs (here shown in yellow) at players' discretion.
A toss of a coin decides which side starts and which pairs of balls are used.
Sides play alternate turns, and must use the first 4 turns to play their balls on to the court. To start a ball may be placed anywhere on the two Baulk lines (A or B, yellow in diagram above) and then hit into the court - if the ball goes off the court it is replaced on the invisible (shown grey above) yard line opposite the point it crossed the boundary line. Pairs of balls can be played in either colour order. Opening tactics are generally concerned with playing the balls into safe positions (it is generally not good tactics to attempt to run hoop 1 in the first turn).
Coloured clips (same colour as balls) are attached to hoops to show how far round the course each ball has gone and indicate the next hoop required by the corresponding ball. All clips are placed initially on (the blue crossbar of) hoop 1. Clips are place on the crossbar (top) of a hoops during the first ("forwards") circuit and on a hoop upright (side) during the second ("backwards") circuit.
When a ball has scored all 12 hoops its clip is placed on the centre peg. When that ball is subsequently made to hit the peg, under specified rules a peg point may be scored and the ball and clip are removed from the court.
At the start of each turn a side can decide which ball it will play with (strike) for this turn - normally the one most favourably placed - only this ball can be struck in the same turn. One ball may run many hoops before its partner ball has run any.
The player whose turn it is to play (called the "striker") is initially entitled to play one stroke, usually to make the strikers ball hit one of the other 3 balls (called a "roquet") but it may also be used to run the next hoop in order (and therefore score a point) or simply be hit to a safer position (a defensive shot).
If the striker scores a point for itself, the striker is then entitled to another stroke (called a "continuation stroke").
The roquet is often played so as to move the roqueted ball (called a "rush") into a more favourable position in preparation for the next stroke (called a "croquet" stroke).
The croquet stroke is played by the striker picking up the striker's ball and placing it in contact with the roqueted ball and then striking it again so that both balls move (or at least shake). The croquet stroke is played so as to position both balls into more favourable positions for continuing the turn.
After the croquet stroke the croqueted ball may not be roqueted and have croquet taken from it again by the strikers ball until the next hoop in order has been scored (or until the next turn begins).
After the croquet stroke the striker is entitled to another stroke (called a "continuation stroke") which may be used either to roquet one of the un-roqueted balls or to score a hoop.
Thus only three croquet strokes can be played (one for each of the other three balls) before a hoop must be scored. If this is not achieved the turn ends (all clips are attached to the appropriate hoops) and the other side has a turn.
In a similar way to snooker, a break is built by manoeuvring the balls into positions to facilitate scoring as many hoops as possible.
The essence of this is to score the next hoop in order with a continuation shot after a croquet stroke having already placed balls "ahead" in a favourable position for scoring the next plus one hoop in order, and so on for all 12 hoops if possible.
Like snooker there is a maximum number of strokes that can be made in a break, in snooker this is 38 and in croquet it is 91.
The process is repeated with the second ball for a side until it has run all 12 hoops and is "on the peg".
The first side to cause both balls to hit the peg (according to some rules) wins the game.
When balls are hit off the court they are generally replaced on an invisible "yard line" (see grey/yellow line on diagram above) according to rules which determine whether the turn ends or continues..
The Laws of Association Croquet define all aspects of the sport, for example when faults are committed and the consequences, equipment specifications and so on (click below).