How to crack it at croquet: an expert guide from our Nailsea & District stalwart!

PUBLISHED: 09:00 26 March 2020

Nailsea & District Croquet Club's James Galpin (captain), Graham McCausland, Ryan Cabble and Brian McCausland after winning the 2019 Final of the South West Federation Level Play Golf Croquet League

Nailsea & District Croquet Club's James Galpin (captain), Graham McCausland, Ryan Cabble and Brian McCausland after winning the 2019 Final of the South West Federation Level Play Golf Croquet League


Most people’s impression of the game of croquet is that it is ‘Alce in Wonderland’ or a vicious game, or played by more elderly people.

Jumping a ball through a hoop at croquetJumping a ball through a hoop at croquet

None of these are close to the truth and neither is it a relatively simple game of balls being hit with a mallet through a hoop. A few minutes watching two top-class players battling it out will prove there is far more to it!

There are two main types of competition croquet, for that is what it is: a serious game played at world competitions – Association Croquet and Golf Croquet.

Most forms are played on a lawn approximately the same size as two tennis courts with a pattern of six hoops and a post in the middle.

Balls are struck with the mallet to attempt to get through the hoop to score points. Even going off the lawn is often allowed. However, different forms of the game have different rules.

Hoop scoring at croquetHoop scoring at croquet

Golf Croquet is probably the easiest to explain and follow and can be played as singles or doubles, but the object of the game is to ‘win’ hoops by passing the balls through them.

Balls are played in order of colour (blue, red, black, yellow) and once a hoop is won, the game moves to the next hoop. The person, or team, who wins seven hoops first, wins the game.

It is always tempting to place a ball near a hoop, nicely aligned for your next turn. but your opponent can knock your ball out of the way, use it to glance off, as in snooker, and score their own hoop.

If you try to block a hoop they can go over the top. Strategy of where you place the balls and when you strike for the hoop becomes key, especially when the good players can hit your ball from the other side of the lawn.

Playing a croquet shotPlaying a croquet shot

Association Croquet appears to have more complex rules and the aim is to get both the balls around the pattern of hoops, with placement of all balls critical.

You can hit any other balls on the lawn – a Roquet stroke. You can then place two balls together and play again: a stroke called a Croquet. This allows you to place both these balls at strategic places on the lawn.

In this way, you can create a ‘break’, and hence continue and win. Good players will take their ball through 12 hoops without having to stop their turn. Sitting on the sidelines watching this is frustrating and impressive.

So why play? Croquet keeps you fit and mentally agile, often play will need thought of what may happen many strokes ahead. Even leaving the lawn is complicated, with positions having names, such as in chess. For example, there is a ‘Dream Leave’, otherwise known as ‘Three ducks’.

There are also many variations of the game that are fun to play. Speed Croquet, playing against the clock, with timing being done by two large stop-clocks as seen in chess, is hard but great fun. No time to think. Or think ahead. And run for those balls which are chasing off the lawn. No time to wander back!

Then there is One Ball, where there are only two balls in play: one for each player. Hard to Roquet, but also hard to hide. There are other variations such as Short Croquet (played on half-sized lawns) and 18-oint croquet. Good players are even given extra challenges under Advanced Play rules, such as putting two balls through a hoop at the same time: a peel.

Croquet has something for everyone. It has a handicap system, as in golf, so if you are old enough, or young enough, to hold a mallet there is variation of the game for you. You too can enjoy playing chess on a lawn.

*Like many local sports clubs, Nailsea & District Croquet Club is closed during the COVID-19 infection. It will welcome back present and new members as soon as possible

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