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Where did the Game of Croquet originate?
The Game of Croquet, whose roots go back to the 1300's in England, has evolved greatly over the years. The name has also undergone many revisions. The first recorded date that the word "Croquet" was used was in the 1830's. A French Physician decided to use a form of the game as an out-of-doors exercise for his patients and naming it "Crooked Stick" — the French word for this is "Croquet."

A Handbook of Croquet, published in England in 1861 helped revitalize the sport in the United States. Between then and 1899, an "American Version" of the game emerged but did not stabilize for many years. Lawn Croquet became popular with the wealthy in this country in the 1920's, and soon after WWII it became a backyard game for all ages, with very little observation of rules — much to the distress of organizations such as the National Croquet Association in America which had tried since 1879 (when it was founded) to standardize the game.

American Lawn Croquet used nine wickets for the game while British lawn croquet used only six. As you will see, the six wicket game had an appeal - perhaps because the interaction between players was greater? Whatever the actual reason, in 1977 Jack Osborn organized six Eastern United States Clubs into the United States Croquet Association (today the standard bearer for serious Croquet in America), and wrote a new rule book for an American Version of the sport. (For a more detailed history of the game, go to the Hickok Sports site.)



The Play of the Game in 6 Wicket Croquet (this animated graphic shows the correct sequence.)

  This animation shows the six wickets are run through twice by each ball in the order and direction shown. Black arrows are the first 6 wickets; Red arrows run back through the wickets for the last 6. Each wicket and the center Stake count a point, for a maximum of 13 points per ball. As there are always two balls per team, the winning team is the one which first scores 26 points when both balls hit the center stake. If the game is a "timed game," the Winning Team is the one which scores the most wickets.
HERE for a printer friendly version of this diagram.)


Ball Colors and how they are used

The Play of the Game uses four balls which are played by two teams. The balls of one side are colored Blue and Black, and the other side is assigned Red and Yellow. (This sequence in which the balls are played are on the center stake — blue, red, black, yellow.)

Croquet always is played with two teams, each playing two balls. Imitating the setup of tournament play, commonly one of two formats is used. In a "Singles" format, each of the 2 players play two balls in rotation. In the "Doubles" format there are two teams of two players each, each of whom plays one ball.


There is a special tournament format in which 8 balls are used — called "Double Banking." To distinguish between the two sets of teams, the first team uses balls with solid colors, while the second team uses the same colors but each ball has a white stripe to distinguish between them.

(Note the graphic to the right.)


Bonus Strokes

An extra stroke, for example, can be earned by passing through the next wicket (aka a "hoop"). Two extra strokes can be earned by hitting a live ball, referred to as a "roquet." For the first stroke the player's ball is placed in contact with the ball that was roqueted. The roqueted ball is hit in such a way that both balls move (referred to as a "croquet shot."). The second Bonus Stroke is a "continuation stroke" played from wherever the striker's ball lies after the Croquet Stroke.


This colorful board seen alongside of any Croquet Court is called the "Deadness Board." When an opponent's ball is roqueted (hit) for "Bonus Strokes" (as described above), that ball cannot be struck again until the original player passes through the next wicket. Until this happens, the ball is referred to as "dead."

As "roqueted" balls for bonus strokes are key parts of the strategy of the game, a careful record must be kept. This is the function of the "Deadness Board." "Deadness" is recorded for each player by sliding a cover to uncover the "dead" color. The column of colors on the left represents the color of the ball played.

On this board, at this moment, the "Red Ball" player is dead on the "Yellow Ball"; and the "Black Ball" player is dead on the "Red Ball."


Wickets (Hoops)

The first thing a new player notices is the narrow opening of the wicket. This is because most are familiar with the wickets used in "Backyard Croquet" which are wider, and have a thin "wire" construction for their uprights.

For tournament level play hoops must measure 3 3/4" between the stanchions. Also in tournament play, the difference between ball diameter and hoop opening must be approximately 1/16 of an inch.





An Example of Strategy — Playing a 4 Ball Break
This is a tactic where one player plans to use the other balls on the court as sources of extra strokes. The principle is (1) Roquet (hit) a Ball and two additional strokes are earned, (2) The Striker's Ball is placed against the Roqueted Ball and stroked again (known as a "croquet shot"), (3) Where the ball ends, the Striker's Ball gets its next stroke (known as a "continuation shot"), (4) If the player can roquet another ball, the sequence continues.

This sequence is repeated as many times as possible. A variety of strokes are used to facilitate the play, i.e., rush shots, half rolls, split shots, etc. If 2 balls are used it is called a "2 Ball Break," etc. A Champion Player might be able to use "Playing the Break" to complete the court and hit the stake in one turn! In Croquet this is an equivalent of a "Grand Slam Homer," or a "Hole in One."



More Detailed Game Rules
The above description is only intended to outline the major points of play. It is not a complete listing of all rules. Handicapping, Bisque, Clips, Duration of Play and others are what make modern croquet both a challenge and a sport requiring considerable skill.

For those interested in looking at the Abbreviated Rules of the game of "Six Wicket Croquet," click this link to the Website of the USCroquet Association. If even greater detail is of interest, the Full Rules are at this other link to another page of the same Website.



Modern Croquet expends considerable effort to be certain that the physical materials and manufacture of Balls and Mallets are kept as uniform in performance as possible. Otherwise a good player might capitalize on special characteristics of the equipment to develop an unfair edge on the competition.

The English Croquet Association Equipment Committee has been authorized to set testing standards of equipment produced in the manufacture of croquet equipment. To explain further, consider the following:

(1) Balls probably have the greatest potential to be unequal. Hence the Equipment Committee states that balls must be tested and have specific characteristics. (The following is offered as an example of a few of the requirements):

  • Size: Between 3 19/32 and 3 21/32 of an inch in diameter.
  • Weight: 15 3/4 ounces to 16 1/4 ounces
  • Bounce (resilience): When dropped from a height of 60 inches onto a steel plate it must rebound to a height of not less than 37 inches, and the rebound heights of balls played together must not differ by more than 2 inches.
  • Milling (surface grooving to increase the ball's attachment to the grass): Ball surface must be grooved in the same pattern (diamond shaped) and with equal depth, but milling is the most difficult parameter to quantify. Grooves must be deep enough for balls to adhere properly and consistently to the course during a croquet stroke. But if this milling is too deep, the ball will not bounce as high as it would have with shallow milling; and overly deep grooving can cause roqueted balls to "mesh" in play and produce unpredictable directions.


(2) Mallets
Croquet mallets are constructed with a flat striking point, and often has a groove along the top to aid in aiming the stroke.

Considerable attention is paid to the materials in the mallet shaft, as they must be highly resilient and provide just the right amount of flex for controlled croquet shots. Too flexible or not flexible enough can impede the accuracy of a good shot. Contemporary shafts are commonly made of Ash wood, or Aluminum.

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