Croquet is one of the best open-air sports, for young and old, both ladies and men. It requires skill rather than strength, and a tactical approach rather than quick reflexes.
As with chess, it helps to plan several moves ahead and, as with snooker, you use angled shots and ricochets.
A croquet game is played as either singles or doubles. Blue and Black play together against Red and Yellow.
In singles, each player controls two balls; in doubles, each plays only one ball for the whole game.
2 main types of croquet ...
Simple to follow, spectacular
You always play the balls in colour sequence: blue, red, black, yellow.
The first side to score 7 points wins the game. You win a point by being the first to run a hoop in the right sequence. A single game rarely lasts more than about 40 minutes, although at top level best-of-three is usual.
As soon as one ball has run the hoop, that point is scored and all the balls are immediately due to run the next hoop, like in "match play" golf.
If a ball ends up more than half-way towards the next hoop, without having touched an opponent’s ball in getting there, before that hoop is contested the ball is replaced on one of the penalty spots. A ball that crosses the boundary is replaced at the point where it went off and played from there next time.
The tactical choices normally presented vary between taking position to run the hoop, clearing an opponent’s ball that has already taken position, running the hoop (or at least leaving your ball in the jaws of the hoop) even by jumping over a blocking ball, promoting your partner ball to a better position, taking a defensive position behind the hoop (to clear an opponent ball in the jaws), or giving up and going not quite half-way to the next hoop.
"Rain and cold are irrelevant: players just keep going until the puddles slow down the balls."
Strategic, building breaks
The two balls have to run through the 6 hoops in a set sequence and direction, and then each ball must hit the central peg. You score one point each time you run the correct hoop in the right direction, and then by hitting the peg, a total therefore of 26 points for the two balls. The first side to score 26 points wins the game. Between top level players, a match comprising best of three, or best of five, is normal. Such a match will typically last between two and five hours.
Except in handicap play, a player has the right to run all 12 hoops and peg-out in one turn, leaving himself with just one ball. This would normally only be done if the partner ball had already scored 12 hoops. A player with only one ball left on the lawn is at a severe disadvantage if that ball must still run several hoops. In order
to build a break it must hit one of the opponent's balls, which can become very difficult if the opponent hides them behind hoops. Keeping the “innings” is thus more important at times than running extra hoops.
At the start of each turn the player (or the side in the case of doubles) chooses which ball to play. Normally you choose the ball which is best placed. It is quite normal for one ball of a side to have run several hoops before the other ball has even run through the first hoop.
Each turn consists of just one stroke - but additional strokes can be added in the following ways:
A. When the striker's ball runs a hoop in order, one extra stroke is added.
B. When the striker's ball hits another (an action called a roquet) this adds 2 extra strokes, the first of which is the croquet stroke, and the 2nd the continuation stroke. A croquet stroke is always played with the two balls in contact, and is central to building a break. You are not allowed to put your foot on a ball during the stroke so as to stop it from moving. This is a feature of “garden croquet” played to family rules (and of gateball, an Asian variant of croquet).
In each turn, the player has the right to roquet, and thus to take croquet from, each of the three other balls on the lawn, to help in running a hoop ... and each time your ball runs a hoop this whole process can begin again.
Now you understand perhaps how a player can exploit these possibilities to run through several hoops in a single break.
You can also use your ball to make another ball, also waiting for that hoop, run it. The other ball will then have scored the point for that hoop, but does not get the continuation stroke for having done so. This manoeuvre, called "peeling", is quite legitimate, and is often used in advanced level games to put your partner ball through its last three hoops (a triple peel) or even six (a sextuple) so as not to allow the opponent another chance to play.