Saturday, 25 June 2011


The latest game session had 8 of us ready to play and the elected game was Croquet. Okay, so Croquet is not a board game (I am not including Carpet Croquet or Tiddly-Winks Croquet), but it certainly is an excellent game combining both tactical and physical skills.
Man armed with a Croquet Mallet

So what is in my big croquet box (and it is a big box)? A Centre Peg, 6 Hoops, 4 Mallets, 4 Balls and a small Rule Book. Before going too far I ought to talk about quality of equipment. If you are going to get a set it is worth investing in a decent set. The balls need to be weighty to run properly on the grass and you need a solid mallet to get proper strikes. The hoops need to be solid enough that they don’t shake or move when a ball hits them, the set I have (and which is shown in the photos) is at the lower end of the scale of decent sets. My set is quite old and most sets now include corner flags, scoring clips (I use painted clothes pegs) and a wooden mallet (to knock the hoops and peg in) as well as the above items. There are quite a few companies who make croquet sets and I cannot comment on who does or does not do a decent set, the set in the photos is a Townsend set and my match mallet (not featured in the article) comes from Jaques

The balls split by team colours
A hoop with scoring clips attached
So how do you play Croquet? I will give only the basic rules here so no complaints please (the official rules I have is nearly 50 pages long), we were playing for fun and  an introduction to the game, so full rules were secondary. Each team (a team can consist of one player and  normally not more than 2 players) plays with a pair of balls either red and yellow or blue and black. The aim of the game is to get both your balls through all the hoops and then hit them on to the central peg. On their turn a player goes on to the lawn and uses the mallet to hit one of their balls once. Then it becomes the turn of the other team. However a player may earn bonus strokes, the first method is by running a hoop, that means getting your ball completely through the metal hoop, success results in getting another turn. The second way is by hitting another ball with your chosen ball, yours or your opponents, this is called a roquet. After a roquet you pick your ball up and place it touching the ball you hit, you then strike your ball with the mallet again, in a way so that the other ball moves, this is the croquet shot after which you get one more free stroke. You may roquet each of the other balls once in a turn, an extra bonus is gained if you run a hoop as the roquet count resets and you may once again roquet all the other balls. In this way it is possible to complete all the hoops and peg out in one turn.

Joe shows how to run a hoop

An old man leaping at the chance to roquet
 The skill of Croquet is in how you play your shots, a little knowledge of angles and vectors helps as does practice in the various types of shots you can do with your mallet. Roll shots and stop shots by putting top spin or bottom spin on the ball; on a perfect lawn there is also the nap (similar to a snooker table) to consider. A good player will run several hoops before their turn ends. Once you get to this stage preplanning of where you are placing the other balls during your croquet shot is very important, its not about splitting your opponent up (though this can be a satisfying consequence) its about placing balls ready to run the next few hoops.

Joe finds hoop but no blue ball, where is it?

Hidden behind a tree, Team 2 deny their ball is off the lawn
So on to our particular game. The first thing to mention is the lawn, a lot of hard work had gone into carefully mowing it prior to the game, it was an open green complete with trees, manhole covers and tussocks and although smaller than a competition lawn it still required a certain skill and deftness to negotiate successfully. We split into 2 Teams with the 2 captains taking turns to pick. Team 1 was Wendy (Captain), Steve, Adam and myself; Team 2 was Becky (Captain), Joe, Steve and Phil.

Hoop 2, Team 2 got there first
We were only playing 6 hoops so the Rover hoop was at hoop 6. Initially we were all playing well and although Team 2 got there first, we were running neck and neck through the first 2 hoops. Team 2 then started to slowly edge ahead and were on hoop 6 whilst Team 1 who had missed a couple of hoops, including myself missing a sitter (aaarrgghh the agony of it all), were still on hoop 4. Team 2 then made their assault on the centre peg, pegging out one of their balls, Team 1 saw their opportunity to attack and pushed Team 2’s remaining ball towards the corner, but not far enough, they returned to the peg on their next turn and Team 1’s second attack failed, Team 2 pegged out their second ball and one the match. The final score was Team 1 - 7 points, Team 2 - 14 points. Team 2 must be congratulated for a level of accuracy which Team 1 never quite achieved, also their team spirit, sometimes calling on all members of the team to discuss and plan a shot before playing it.

Steve, Phil, Becky and Joe (Team 2) discuss a difficult lie

Adam, Wendy and Steve (Team 1)
It was an excellent match, the threatened rain stayed away (except whilst I was setting up the course) and everyone had fun. Next time though Team 1 will be giving no quarter.    

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