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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

For the Dutch food item, see Croquette. For the Smalltalk based 3D environment, see Croquet project.
Winslow Homer: Croquet, 1864
Winslow Homer: Croquet, 1864

Croquet is a game played both as a recreational pastime and as a competitive sport which involves hitting wooden or plastic balls with a mallet through hoops embedded into the grass playing arena.

The game was apparently invented in Ireland in the 1830s as a distant cousin of golf and taken to England as a pastime of the aristocracy in the 1850s, and by the 1870 to its colonies. It may have evolved from the earlier mallet and ball game pall mall.

Croquet made its way to Canada, the United States, Australia, and France, and while never hugely popular has continued to maintain a substantial following.

Competitive croquet

Croquet was an event at the 1900 Summer Olympics and Roque, a variation on croquet, an event at the 1904 Summer Olympics. One of the best known croquet clubs is the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, originally the All England Croquet Club, which hosts the annual Wimbledon tennis championships.

There are several variations of croquet currently played, differing in the scoring systems, order of shots, and layout (particularly in social games where play must be adapted to smaller-than-standard playing courts). Two forms of the game, Association Croquet and Golf Croquet, have rules that are agreed internationally and are played in many countries around the world. More unusual variations of the game include Mondo Croquet, eXtreme Croquet, and Bicycle Croquet.

As well as club-level games, there are regular world championships and international matches between croquet-playing countries. The sport has particularly strong followings in the UK, USA, New Zealand and Australia. Many other countries also play.

Some people consider croquet to be viciously competitive. However, the ability in versions other than Golf Croquet to gain extra strokes favour players who position balls with more care, rather than simply as far away from everything else as possible. At championship standard Association Croquet, players can often make all 26 points (13 for each ball) in two turns.

Croquet terms

  • Backward ball The ball of a side that has scored fewer hoops (compare with 'forward ball').
  • Ball in hand The term when the striker can pick up a ball to changes its position, for example:
    • (i) any ball when it leaves the court has to be replaced on the yard-line
    • (ii) the strikerís ball after making a roquet must be placed in contact with the roqueted ball
    • (iii) the strikerís ball when the striker is entitled to a lift.
  • Ball in play A ball after it has been played into the game, which is not a ball in hand or pegged out.
  • Bisque, half-bisque A bisque is a free turn in a handicap match. A half-bisque is a restricted handicap turn in which no point may be scored.
  • Breakdown To end a turn by making a mistake.
  • Continuation stroke Either (i) the bonus stroke played after running a hoop in order or (ii) the second bonus stroke played after making a roquet.
  • Croquet (Rhymes with "okay") The croquet is the first bonus shot played after making a roquet. The striker croquets by placing his ball in contact with the roqueted ball and striking his ball so that both balls move.
  • Double-banking Playing two games on one croquet lawn at once.
  • Double tap A fault in which the mallet makes more than one audible sound when it strikes the ball.
  • Forward ball The ball of a side that has scored more hoops (compare with 'backward ball').
  • Hoop Metal U-shaped gate pushed into ground. (Called a 'wicket' in the US).
  • Object ball A ball which is going to be rushed.
  • Peg out To cause a rover ball to strike the peg and conclude its active involvement in the game.
  • Peel To send a ball other than the strikerís ball through its target hoop.
  • Primary colours or First colours The main croquet ball colours used which are blue, red, black and yellow (in order of play). Blue and black, and red and yellow, are played by the same player or pair.
  • Push A fault when the mallet pushes the strikerís ball, rather than making a clean strike.
  • Roquet (Rhymes with "okay") When the strikerís ball hits a ball that he is entitled to then take a croquet shot with. At the start of a turn, the striker is entitled to roquet all the other three balls once. Once the striker's ball goes through its target hoop, it is again entitled to roquet the other balls once.
  • Rover ball A ball that has run all twelve hoops and can be pegged out.
  • Rover hoop The last hoop, indicated by a red top bar. The first hoop has a blue top.
  • Run a hoop To send the strikerís ball through a hoop. If the hoop is the hoop in order for the strikerís ball, the striker earns a bonus stroke.
  • Rush A roquet when the roqueted ball is sent to a specific position on the court, such as the next hoop for the strikerís ball or close to a ball that the striker wishes to roquet next.
  • Scatter shot A continuation stroke used to hit a ball which may not be roqueted in order to send it to a less dangerous position.
  • Secondary colours or second colours (Also known as Alternate colours) The colours of the balls used in the second game played on the same court in double-banking, green, brown, pink and white (in order of play). Green and pink, and brown and white, are played by the same player or pair.
  • Tice A ball sent to a boundary to entice an opponent to shoot at it but miss.
  • Wicket US term for 'hoop' (UK).
  • Wired When a hoop or the peg impedes the path of a strike ball, or the swing of the mallet.

Association croquet

Croquet being played at a club in the UK
Croquet being played at a club in the UK

In Association Croquet players can take multiple shots in one turn provided they either a) hit the ball through the correct hoop ("run" a hoop), or b) hit another ball. Upon hitting another ball, the player must play his next shot with the two balls touching; the "Croquet Stroke", from which the game takes its name. The winner is the player who, with each of his balls, runs each hoop twice in order and strikes the centre peg.

As long "breaks" (continuous play by one player) became more common as the standard of play improved, "Advanced Play" (a variant of association play for expert players) was introduced. This gave penalties to a player who ran certain hoops in the same turn. In response, feats of skill such as triple peels and even sextuple peels, in which the partner (or opponent ball) was caused to run a number of hoops in a turn by the striker's ball, became more common in order to avoid the penalties.

Over the years, Association Croquet has become highly sophisticated, giving rise to innovative strokes such as the Von Schmieder Sweep This is a novel stroke played on a hoop-bound ball when it lies about 9-14" directly behind the hoop. It allows you to roquet a reception ball lying further behind the hoop. The stroke is played with the mallet held horizontally with the shaft 2-3" off the ground. The ball is believed to be pulled in towards the striker rather than travel along the tangent to the sweep.

The current (August 05) Association Croquet World Champion is Reginald Bamford (RSA). The UK recently won the MacRobertson International Croquet Shield, the major international trophy in Association Croquet.

Golf croquet

In Golf Croquet each player takes turns trying to hit a ball through the same hoop, the winner being the player who manages to hit the ball through the most hoops first. Golf Croquet has the advantage of being easier to learn and play, but its critics claim that the lack of croquet strokes in the game means that it is less intellectually demanding. There are other variations popular in other croquet-playing nations.

Golf Croquet is the fastest-growing version of the game[citation needed], owing largely to its simplicity and fierce competitiveness. Egyptian players overwhelmingly dominate the game.

The current (March 06) Golf Croquet World Champion is Mohammed Nasr (Egypt).

American six-wicket croquet

San Francisco (USA) City Croquet Club Champions, 2006
San Francisco (USA) City Croquet Club Champions, 2006

The "American-rules" version of croquet -- another six-wicket-layout game -- is the dominant game in the United States and puts strong emphasis on strategy. Its genesis is mostly in the international game, but it differs in a number of important ways, most notably in that a ball's "deadness" on other balls is carried over from turn to turn, until the ball has been "cleared" by scoring a wicket. This leads to complicated strategic and tactical problems.

Shot-making ability is relatively less important in the American game than in the international game, and top-level international-rules players are, almost invariably, vastly superior shot makers.

American-rules enthusiasts enjoy the greater mental challenge of their game, along with the reduction in importance of shot-making skill. It is a maxim of the game that good strategy will beat pure physical skill more often than not, and this allows players with fewer physical gifts to be competitive in the sport.

American-rules croquet owes few of its rules but a great deal of its spirit, strategy, and tactics to Kentucky croquet, a variant of croquet played with nine wickets on clay courts. The best-known star of Kentucky croquet was Archie Burchfield, who discovered American six-wicket croquet in the early 1980s, quickly became one of its best players, and introduced new strategies and tactics that enlivened the game. Burchfield died in February, 2005.

The governing body of the American-rules game is the United States Croquet Association [1].

Top American-rules players as of early 2005 include:

Doug Grimsley, Mike Jenner, Kenster Rosenberry, Brian Cumming, Jackie Jones, Leo McBride, Mik Mehas, Jeff Soo, and perhaps the American game's most notable player, John C. Osborn, the son of USCA founder Jack Osborn.

Two important American croquet publications are Croquet World Online [2] and the National Croquet Calendar.

Backyard croquet

An informal "backyard croquet" match, Michigan, United States, 1994.
An informal "backyard croquet" match, Michigan, United States, 1994.

Croquet has become a popular backyard game in Canada and America, where croquet sets are commonplace in most department stores and sports shops. Such sets typically consist of 6 wooden mallets with plastic bumpers on both striking surfaces. The mallet head and handle usually come unassembled and are joined by screwing the handle into the head. The 6 balls are either of wood or, more commonly, plastic. They are coloured blue, red, black, yellow, green and orange. Also included are 9 wire wickets and two wooden stakes. There is often a carrying case or stand with the set.

Setup is just as in standard 9-wicket rules. It is a double-diamond pattern formed by 7 wickets, with the middle wicket serving as a shared point for both diamonds. Beyond the wickets at either end are one additional wicket and one stake. The diagram included with the set indicates that there is to be a 6 foot distance separating the wickets at the outer end of each diamond, and 6 more feet between the outermost wickets and the starting and turning stakes. In practice, however, this part of the diagram is typically disregarded, and a mere "mallets-head-length" (about 10 inches) separates one wicket from the other, and the outermost wicket from the stake. This allows the ball to more easily be hit through both wickets in one stroke.

The standard game is "cut-throat," with each player trying to beat all the others through the course to the final stake. A player's score is disregarded. Instead, the game is considered a race. The game is sometimes considered over as soon as the first player strikes the final stake. Alternatively, players continue playing for second place, third place, etc., until only one player's ball remains.

Play order is determined by the order of the stripes painted from top to bottom on the stakes. The mallets are sometimes also painted in multicoloured stripes to remind players of the playing order. The usual order is blue, red, black, yellow, green, and finally orange. After orange is done, play continues with blue again. This order sometimes varies, depending on the set being used.

The first player begins by setting his or her ball beside or in front of the first stake. The player then attempts to strike the ball through the first two wickets. Though disallowed in some yards, players might sometimes use the technique of striking the ball not with the end of the mallet, but with the side, or even shoving it with the side, rather than striking it. Another technique disallowed in some yards, but tolerated in others, is to set the ball in direct contact with the stake, and to propel it by striking the stake, rather than the ball itself.

A bonus stroke is granted for each wicket the ball goes through. At the starting and turning stakes, two bonus strokes would be granted for getting the ball through both wickets in one stroke.

Two bonus strokes are also granted for hitting another ball. Hitting a ball cancels out all bonus strokes accumulated from wickets, and going through a wicket cancels all bonus strokes accumulated from hitting a ball. A player can therefore acquire no more than 2 bonus strokes at a time.

If a player hits another ball, that player is considered "dead" on that ball, and can acquire no more bonus strokes from hitting that ball until he or she has gone through the next wicket (or struck the next stake) in the course.

After hitting another ball and gaining bonus strokes from it, a player has three choices as to ball placement. The player may play the ball where it lies, pick up the ball and place it right next to the struck ball, or pick up the ball and place it one mallets-head-length away from the struck ball.

If the ball is placed right next to the struck ball, the player may "send" the other ball by placing a foot on his or her own ball and then striking it so as to send the other ball away. Care must be taken not to unintentionally send one's own ball during this manoeuvre, and not to injure one's own foot with an overzealous and poorly aimed swing. Holding the ball in place with a hand, rather than a foot, is also acceptable in some yards. A "send" counts as one stroke, and the player has one more stroke after performing it.

Players must play their balls through the wickets in a certain order. From the starting stake and the first two wickets, they proceed forward and right to the third wicket, then forward and left to the fourth, middle wicket, then forward and right to the fifth wicket, then forward and left to the sixth and seventh wickets, and then to the turning stake. After striking the turning stake, the player may pick up the ball and place it again in the same manner as with the starting stake, or else play it where it lies. The player then proceeds back through wickets 7 and 6, in that order, then forward and right to the eighth wicket, then forward and left to the fourth, middle wicket (going through the other direction, this time), then forward and right through the ninth wicket, then forward and left through wickets 2 and 1 in that order, and finally striking the starting stake to win the game. Players do not get bonus strokes for going through a wicket backwards, or out of the proper order.

There are as many variations on these rules as there are yards in which the game is played, and care must be taken to make the "house rules" clear before the start of the game.

One popular variation is "Poison" or "Snake" rules. In this game, a ball that reaches the starting stake again is considered a Snake, or Poison. This ball "kills" or eliminates other non-poisonous balls from play if it strikes them, or is struck by them. If a Snake hits another Snake, the struck Snake is killed. If a Snake hits a stake or goes through a wicket in any direction, it is killed. If a non-poisonous ball strikes a poison, it may do the same things as if it had hit another ball. That includes sending the poison through a wicket, killing it. The last player on the course wins the game. Just as with regular balls, a Snake gains 2 bonus strokes for hitting another ball. The scoring for this type of croquet is as follows: the more wickets you go through the higher in the rankings you are. So, if one person goes through half the wickets, and one person gets poison, then the poison person cannot do worse than the person who hasn't gotten poison yet.

Another variation is team play, where pairs or trios of players compete against other teams to be the first with all members completing the course. Teams are typically blue, black and green versus red, yellow and orange. In couples play, it is blue and black versus red and yellow, or blue and yellow versus red and green versus black and orange.

Yet another variation is "Obstacle" or "Golf" rules, in which players must go through a unique course of wickets that has been designed to be long and difficult. Wickets are often placed in inconvenient spots, such as under bushes or on the sides of hills. The idea here is to maximize originality and absurdity, and there are often numerous additional rules toward this aim, such as the rule that you may not take a stroke without a drink (preferably alcoholic) in your hand.

The United States Croquet Association (USCA) is the governing body of croquet in the United States. The Official USCA 9 Wicket Croquet Website is

Croquet variants

Mondo croquet

Mondo Croquet is just like regular croquet only much, much bigger. Mondo Croquet is played on an enlarged figure 8 course using sledge hammers and bowling balls. Bent rebar is used to create the course. Standard zombie rules apply, with slight modifications. Official rules can be found on the official web site.

Mondo Croquet was created in 1998 by Lord Peters. Annual World Championships are held every summer in Portland, Oregon. Mad Hatter attire is required.

  • The Official Mondo Croquet Web Site

eXtreme croquet

Taking the principles of backyard croquet to the next level results in the phenomenon of eXtreme Croquet. This variant shuns the serene settings of traditional croquet for more challenging terrain including those that contain trees, roots, hills, sand, mud, or moving or still water. eXtreme Croquet uses the traditional English figure-eight standard layout, but several additional rules, rules that vary from location to location, are also employed.

  • The Connecticut eXtreme Croquet Society

Bicycle croquet

Based on the rules of conventional croquet Bicycle Croquet probably came about in and around Graz/Austria in the beginning of the 20th century. The modern variation of Bicycle Croquet (from German "Fahrradkrocket") has been played since 1997, when Mike Fugeman (England) and Wolfgang Wendlinger (Austria) reinvented the Sport in Aigen im Ennstal/Austria. The homepage of BCCGraz (Bicycle Croquet Club Graz) gives the following description of the sport:

Bicycle croquet - the game
In addition to a high level of fairness BC demands strict control over a player's body and soul. The correct control over ones bicycle is essential for an exciting and stimulating BC-game. The Rund (German for ball) is played through the gates by the Holz (mallet, German for wood). A time limit of 10 seconds has to be met for every individual play. The players alternate strokes and are not allowed to touch the ground with any part of their body. He or she who manages first to hit the peak at the end of the course with their runds wins the game.
  • Bicycle Croquet Club Graz

Croquet in art and literature

The Croquet Game, …douard Manet, 1873.
The Croquet Game, …douard Manet, 1873.
  • Winslow Homer, …douard Manet, Louise Abbťma and Pierre Bonnard all have paintings titled The Croquet Game.
  • A surreal version in the popular children's novel Alice in Wonderland, as well as the subsequent Disney movie. A hedgehog was used as the ball, a flamingo the mallet, and playing cards as the wickets.
  • Norman Rockwell often depicted the game, including in his painting Croquet.
  • A favorite subject of Edward Gorey, a croquet reference often appeared in the first illustration of his books. The Epiplectic Bicycle opens with two illustrations of the main characters playing with croquet mallets.
  • In Issues 29 and 30 of Dave Sim's Cerebus, the title character talks and plays almost 40 games of "Wickets" with an invisible elf. The matches, which include croquet-related trash-talk, correspond to pages 85-90 in the graphic novel "High Society."
  • Bill Watterson often depicted the title characters in Calvin and Hobbes playing, or attempting to play croquet. Later in the series, parts of the croquet set were integrated into the sport Calvinball.
  • H. G. Wells wrote The Croquet Player, which uses croquet as a metaphor for the way in which man confronts the very problem of his own existence.
  • A garden version of the game is depicted in the cult film Heathers. Each of the five main characters dresses mostly in his or her croquet color, and a major characterisation is made of how one character will roquet-croquet her victim, but our hero takes the two shots and proceeds.
  • In Martin Scorsese's The Aviator, when Howard Hughes visits Katharine Hepburn's home in Connecticut, the family is playing croquet. Later, Hughes kicks a croquet ball and Hepburn says to him "It doesn't count unless you use the mallet."
  • In the Knots Landing episode "A Fine Romance" (December 29, 1988), Paige (Nicollette Sheridan) and Greg (William Devane) play a game of strip croquet.
  • In the Thursday Next series of novels, notably Something Rotten, Jasper Fforde depicts an alternative world in which croquet is a mass spectator sport. In the final of the Superhoop '88, Thursday Next leads the Swindon Mallets to victory over their arch-rivals, the Reading Whackers, by engaging the services of a group of Neanderthals, thereby saving the world from imminent destruction.
  • In the filmclip for I'm Not Okay (I Promise) by My Chemical Romance, at the start a student comments to his friend that his interests include croquet, therefore he will never make it. Later in the video, while the band is playing croquet, the lead singer is tackled by a stereotypical jock.
  • A television advertisement which was shown in the United Kingdom in 1999 urging citizens "not to be so British." To prove this point, it showed a couple dressed in conservative British clothes playing the game in their front yard, while confused adolescents look on.
  • An episode of Star Trek Voyager featuring the Q continumn features individual Q playing croquet with balls representing planets.
  • In an episode of The Simpsons entitled The Father, the Son, and the Holy Guest Star, croquet figures prominently in Marge's vision of Protestant Heaven.
  • In the film Heathers, the girls often play croquet. It is a metaphor for the cultured cruelty they practice on each other.

Croquet in politics

On 25 May 2006, the British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott was photographed by the Mail on Sunday playing croquet at his official residence, Dorneywood. [3] Following shortly after a sexual scandal [4] that had forced Prescott to resign his ministerial responsibilities while retaining his salary and privileges [5], the incident was portrayed as evidence that Prescott had little real responsibility for running the country during the absence of the Prime Minister. Shortly afterwards, Prescott announced that he would no longer make use of the Dorneywood residence.

It was also reported that the incident led to a 300% increase in sales of croquet equipment at Asda [6], while the TV Channel 5 announced that they would be running a series featuring croquet matches played at country houses pitting "rich" against "poor" players. [7]

Croquet clubs

Although croquet has fallen in popularity in recent decades, there still are many croquet clubs across the United States. Many colleges have croquet clubs, as well, such as Bates College and Harvard University. Notably, St. John's College and the U.S. Naval Academy engage in a yearly match in Annapolis, Maryland. Both schools also compete at the collegiate level, and the rivalry continues to be an Annapolis tradition.

UBC Croquet Society

Arizona Croquet Club

For croquet clubs in the UK visit The Croquet Association's Clubs and Federations page.

External links

  • The Croquet Association including the Official Laws of Association Croquet
  • Croquet Canada
  • United States Croquet Association
  • A Synopsis of the Laws of Association Croquet from Oxford Croquet
  • The Rules of Croquet nine-wicket or garden croquet
  • Honors Croquet League
  • The Connecticut eXtreme Croquet Society
  • History of Croquet
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