Croquet Information


Insider Info

dotIn croquet, players whack different colored balls through a series of wickets (square hoops stuck in the ground) using a mallet. The winner is the player or team that either runs their balls through all of the wickets first, or scores the most points in a specified amount of time.

Croquet differs from other ball sports. The ball and mallet are heavier and there are more stroke techniques.

Croquet is played either for fun in the backyard or for competition on a croquet court. Anyone can play, regardless of gender, age or physical abilities.

Traditionally, backyard croquet is played with nine wickets on a double-diamond court with two stakes at each end. The game uses up to six balls and as many players. It requires two to three hours from start to finish.

The United States Croquet Association rules are used in tournament games in Canada and the U.S. The game is played with six wickets, which are narrower than the ones in nine-wicket croquet. There are four balls and only one center stake.

Lawns are well maintained, very short and level. The official court size is 84 feet by 105 feet. The ball is sent through each of the six wickets twice. Each wicket and the center stake count for a point, for a total of 13 points maximum for one ball, or 26 points maximum for a side.

Croquet involves complex strategy and advanced shot-making skills. Winning has little to do with luck or strength, says Alison Streight. "Men and women play each other and all ages play together," she says. The game is also quite safe, she adds, because the ball doesn't normally leave the ground without you knowing about it.

Streight first played nine-wicket croquet as a child in her backyard. Later, she was introduced to the USCA game. In this game, says Streight, the wickets are very narrow, high and immovable. The croquet balls weigh about one pound and are made of a plastic composite material. The mallets weigh about three pounds but can vary according to personal preference, she says.

You also need four colored clips to mark the passage of the balls through the wickets, a deadness board to keep track of how many balls you have hit, and a boundary cord.

dotAbout one million people in North America play informal backyard croquet, according to the USCA. Between 5,000 and 10,000 people play regulation croquet in the U.S. and Canada.

In the U.S., mallets cost from $40 to very expensive, says Johnny Mitchell of Houston, Texas. Adult sets start at $100 and go up to $1,500. In addition to mallets, some people may buy wickets (start at $45 each), stakes (start at $30), deadness boards (start at $50), and balls (start at $60 for a set of four).

Although croquet's roots can be traced back to the 14th century in Europe, it did not gain wide acceptance in North America until the 1930s and 1940s. Croquet has seen explosive growth over the past two decades. Players expect the game's popularity to surge, primarily because it is a fun game that can be played right in your own backyard.

However, USCA croquet is still a small sport, says the association. The USCA believes this may be because it is hard to understand croquet as quickly as you can figure out the basics of golf, tennis, and bowling.

Being a good croquet player calls for the kind of physical skills developed in billiards and golf, and the tactical thinking of board games like chess and Parcheesi. The rules are simple enough, but mastering the tactics and strategy require diligent practice.

"I would highly recommend croquet for anyone who has a logical mind and enjoys games such as chess and bridge," says Streight. She plays at least twice a week. "They will find it becomes quite a passion. In our club we have not lost a member due to lack of interest."

Getting Started

dotOne way to learn croquet is to go to an instructor. Your city croquet clubs can refer you to them. Houston has a club. These clubs will supply equipment for the beginner for a fee.

Bob Kroeger of Cambridge, Massachusetts, is a USCA instructor. He says instruction can begin around 10 to 12 years of age. As far as how long it takes to become proficient, Kroeger says anywhere from a few months to a few years. It depends on the person's resources, motivation, natural skill and proximity to a lawn. He charges $50 per hour.

Streight and Kroeger both got their starts in their own backyards. Of course, this requires a small investment on your part, in the form of a croquet set.

Those that take a liking to croquet may eventually be croquet instructors, such as Kroeger. As a croquet expert, you could also start your own club, charging a membership fee to maintain equipment and croquet lawns.

Associations

United States Croquet Association
Internethttp://www.croquetamerica.com/home.asp

Publications

Croquet: The Sport,
by  Jack Osborn and John Osborn

Croquet World Online Magazine
Internethttp://www.croquetworld.com/home.asp

Links

The World of Croquet
The details on croquet

Oakley Woods
The source for croquet equipment and Canadian and U.S. prices