In 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
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.
About 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
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."
One 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.
United States Croquet Association
Croquet: The Sport,
Jack Osborn and John Osborn
Croquet World Online Magazine
The World of Croquet
The details on croquet
The source for croquet equipment and Canadian and U.S. prices