An Outline of the Game
Judging by the enormous number of Croquet sets sold by Jaques, Croquet may be one of the fastest growing minority sports. It is normally played on a lawn (similar quality to bowls or a Golf Green) about the size of two tennis courts, it can also be played on smaller courts. The handicapping system enables all players (irrespective of age, gender, ability) to have a competitive game. One of the major attractions of the game is the philosophy of absolute honesty and sportsmanship.
Croquet is played on a flat lawn or ‘court’ of size 35 x 28 yards and a ‘short’ version of the game is played on a half sized court.
There are six cast-iron hoops set firmly into the ground, and a peg, the layout never changes. Four balls, coloured blue, red, black and yellow are used, each weighing one pound and having a diameter just fractionally less than the inside width of a hoop. Mallets typically weigh about three pounds.
There are two main variants of the game: Golf Croquet and Association Croquet.
In Golf Croquet, players and balls play in strict sequence, each turn being only one stroke, the objective of each player is to get their ball(s) though each hoop first. When the first hoop is scored all players move on to the second hoop, and so on. (Interestingly, the nation most adept at Golf Croquet is Egypt. Cairo’s many clubs play floodlit croquet in front of sizeable spectator crowds). Each turn comprises only one stroke. The merit of Golf Croquet is simplicity and an analogy between it and ‘Association Croquet’ is like that between draughts and chess.
In Association Croquet a large number of different strokes are used to achieve various aims. Once one ball is struck (‘roqueted’) it allows two further strokes – the croquet stroke – where the player’s ball is placed next to the ball roqueted and both are struck, and a continuation stroke, in which another ball may be roqueted or a hoop run. In this way breaks are established and it is not uncommon for a good player to take a ball through every hoop in one turn. In Association Croquet both of a player’s balls have to go through every hoop (that is twelve – each is run in both directions) and hit the peg to win. A description of Association Croquet could be a combination of snooker and chess on grass, involving a wide range of skills and tactics coupled with hand-eye co-ordination. There are regular World Championships and also an international team tournaments.
Croquet owes much of its recent growth in popularity to having a well-developed handicapping system. Once a newcomer has grasped the basics, they will be given a handicap of about 24. The best players will be on scratch or better. Each point on the handicap scales allows a player to claim a free turn (called a ‘bisque’) at any point during a game. So, two players, be they male or female, ten years old or 90, or even fit or disabled, can play each other off their own handicaps, on equal terms, with no quarter given and none taken. Top-level croquet is played without handicaps.
The North West Federation of Croquet Clubs (NWFCC) is a federation of about 19 croquet clubs in the north west aiming to promote and develop the game of Croquet at all levels. The Federation provides a structure of competitions, coaching, league matches and provides the essential link between the region and the national governing body of the game – The Croquet Association.
The Croquet Association is the governing body and responsible for co-ordinating and promoting the game of Croquet. It is a non profit making organisation funded through individual subscriptions and club levies. There are about 180 affiliated clubs in Great Britain providing croquet facilities for about 8,000 people. There are many non affiliated clubs and it has been estimated that croquet could be played by about 50,000 people in the UK.
The Croquet Association website (www.croquet.org.uk) contains more detailed information about Croquet.
Here are a few suggestions:
Laws of Association Croquet – more info
Laws of Golf Croquet – more info
Automatic Association Croquet Handicapping System – more info
Handicap System for Golf Croquet – more info
Simplified Croquet for the Garden – more info
Clubs and Federations – more info
CA On-line Shop – more info