AskDefine | Define croquet

Dictionary Definition

croquet n : a game in which players hit a wooden ball through a series of hoops; the winner is the first to traverse all the hoops and hit a peg


1 drive away by hitting with one's ball, "croquet the opponent's ball"
2 play a game in which players hit a wooden ball through a series of hoops

User Contributed Dictionary



  • (UK): , /ˈkrəʊkeɪ/ or /ˈkrəʊkɪ/, /"kr@UkeI/
  • (US): , /kroʊˈkeɪ/, /kroU"keI/


  1. A game played on a lawn, in which players use mallets to drive wooden balls through hoops (wickets)
  2. A shot in this game in which the opponent's ball is driven away by hitting one's own ball when they are in contact
  3. A croquette.

Derived terms


  1. To drive (the one's opponent's ball) by striking one's own ball placed against it.
  2. To croquet one's opponent's ball.

Extensive Definition

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 origin of Croquet

John Jaques II won a place in sporting history — and a Gold Medal — for introducing croquet into England at the Great Exhibition in 1851. His display there attracted such wide attention that the game speedily became the vogue, not only here but in Europe and throughout the British Empire. It was especially popular in India, reportedly played by The Viceroy himself with a solid ivory mallet, probably made by Jaques as part of their finest set. The attractions of croquet were obvious (in hindsight). It allowed the fashionable set to step outside the claustrophobic Victorian parlour; to “take exercise” and enjoy the fresh air without (heaven forbid) breaking into a sweat; to show off their finery — hence the term, “crinoline croquet”. Moreover, it gave young men and women a legitimate opportunity to mingle and wander off into the proverbial rhododendron bushes, momentarily out of sight of their ever-present chaperones!
“Nothing but tobacco smoke has ever spread as rapidly” commented Dr Prior, an early enthusiast of the game. Certainly Jaques and Son (as it was then called) had no trouble selling its equipment. JJ II was regarded as the greatest authority on the game and in 1864 wrote and published Croquet; the Laws and Regulations of the Game, by which (with some revisions) croquet is still played today.
The origin of croquet is somewhat obscure — John II first glimpsed a version of it in Ireland. And the etymology of the word “croquet” remains “tantalisingly unresolved”. But JJ II’s compilation of rules no doubt saved the sport from flying off in all directions as It seemed in danger of doing during those early years. Lewis Carroll (an avid player at Oxford in the 1860s) reflected the potentially unruly nature of croquet in his memorable passage of Alice’s Adventures Under Ground in which the croquet balls were hedgehogs, the mallets live ostriches, (flamingoes appear in later versions), “and the soldiers had to double themselves up and stand on their hands and feet, to make the arches”. Above ground in the real world, several firms began making croquet equipment, but or John Jaques has survived from that period and continues to lead the market, offering superior equipment for all levels of play. Few people today have a championship-size croquet lawn (35 x 28 yards). Keeping to the 5:4 proportions is desirable but not critical, as croquet can be played practically anywhere. There are croquet clubs all over the world, with tens of thousands of club members, and literally millions of back garden enthusiasts. JJ II’s great-grandsons John V and Christopher are as keen to encourage back-garden croquet as they are to maintain and update their ancestors’ rigorous standards of craftsmanship. Materials and equipment have changed, but not as drastically as in tennis. Hoops used to be large enough for Arthur Law’s (an early player) pet spaniel to run through! Equally, Jaques croquet balls as advertised in the Croquet Association Gazette (1904) were made from “the finest Turkish Boxwood”. Neither is now the case. Hoops have narrowed, and paradoxically, only sets of inferior quality include wooden balls. John Jaques Eclipse balls are requested by the top players for championship play because of their dependable “bounce factor”. Selected for every World Championship including the 1994 World Croquet Championships in which Robert Fulford retained his title.

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; every four years, these countries play the MacRobertson Shield tournament. Many other countries also play.
Croquet is popularly believed to be viciously competitive. This may derive from the fact that (unlike golf) players will often attempt to move their opponents' balls to unfavourable positions. However, purely negative play is rarely a winning strategy: successful players (in all versions other than Golf Croquet) will use all four balls to set up a break for themselves, rather than simply making life as difficult as possible for their opponents. At championship standard Association Croquet, players can often make all 26 points (13 for each ball) in two turns.
Unlike most sports, men and women compete and are ranked together.

Association croquet

Association Croquet is the proper name of the game of croquet that is most widely played throughout the world and at international level. In Association Croquet one player (or in doubles, one team) takes the black and blue balls, the other takes red and yellow. On each turn, the player can choose to play either of his balls, and must continue to play that ball for the rest of the turn. Each turn initially consists of one stroke, but the turn continues if the player either a) hits the ball through the correct hoop ("runs" a hoop), or b) hits another ball (a "roquet"). Upon hitting another ball, the player must pick up their own ball and play their next shot with the two balls touching: this is the "croquet stroke" from which the game takes its name. After the croquet stroke, the player is allowed a further "continuation" stroke, during which the player must again attempt to make a roquet or run a hoop. Each of the other three balls may be roqueted at most once until a hoop is run, at which point they become available again. The winner is the player who, with both balls, completes a prescribed circuit of twelve hoops and then strikes the centre peg (making a total of 13 points per ball).
Good players will often make "breaks" of several hoops in a single turn, and the best players routinely take a ball round the full circuit in one turn. As long breaks became more common, "Advanced Play" (a variant of Association play for expert players) was introduced. This gives penalties to a player who runs certain hoops in the same turn. In response, feats of skill such as triple peels and even sextuple peels, in which the partner ball (or occasionally an opponent ball) is caused to run a number of hoops in a turn by the striker's ball, became more common in order to avoid the penalties.
Success in Association Croquet depends on a combination of physical skill and careful strategy, and perhaps most of all on cool assessment of risks and probabilities. A handicap system ensures that less experienced players always have a chance of winning even against formidable opponents. Players of all ages and both sexes compete on level terms.
The current (February 10 2008) Association Croquet World Champion is Chris Clarke (GB). The world championships are organised by the WCF (World Croquet Federation) and usually take place every 2 or 3 years. The next world championships are to take place in May 2009 in Palm Beach, Florida. The Great Britain team won the last MacRobertson Shield tournament, which is the major international test tour trophy in Association Croquet. It is contested every 3 to 4 years between Australia, GB, USA and New Zealand. Historically England/GB have been the dominant force winning 13 times out of the 19 times it has been held.
The world's top 10 Association Croquet players as of 7 October 2007 were Reg Bamford (South Africa), Robert Fulford (England), Chris Clarke (England), David Maugham (England), Keith Aiton (Scotland), Stephen Mulliner (England), Rutger Beijderwellen (Netherlands), James Death (England), Aaron Westerby (New Zealand), and Bruce Fleming (Australia).
The governing body is The Croquet Association, which has been the driving force of the development of the game and the laws and tounament regulations, now prepared by the International Laws Committee, established by the croquet associations of England and Wales (CA), Australia (ACA), New Zealand (CNZ) and the United States (USCA).

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, owing largely to its simplicity and fierce competitiveness. Egyptian players overwhelmingly dominate the game.
The current (March 6) Golf Croquet World Champion is Mohammed Nasr (Egypt).

American six-wicket croquet

The "American rules" version of croquet -- another six-wicket-layout game -- is the dominant version of the game in the United States and is also widely played in Canada. Its genesis is mostly in Association Croquet, but it differs in a number of important ways that reflect the home-grown traditions of American "backyard" croquet. Two of the most notable differences are that the balls are always played in the same sequence (blue, red, black, yellow) throughout the game, and that a ball's "deadness" on other balls is carried over from turn to turn until the ball has been "cleared" by scoring its next hoop. Tactics are simplified on the one hand by the strict sequence of play, and complicated on the other hand by the continuation of deadness. A further difference is the more restrictive boundary line rules of American-rules croquet. In the American-rules game, roqueting a ball out of bounds or running a hoop out of bounds causes the turn to end, and balls that go out of bounds are replaced only nine inches from the boundary rather than a yard as in Association Croquet. "Attacking" balls on the boundary line to bring them into play is thus far more challenging than in Association Croquet. Together, these features of the American-rules game lead to complicated strategic and tactical situations in which defensive plays are frequently preferred.
American-rules croquet emphasizes strategy and tactics over pure shot-making ability. Because the American rules can severely punish unsuccessful offensive plays and reward a more cautious, defensive approach, shot-making ability is relatively less important in the American game than in Association Croquet, and top-level Association Croquet players are, almost invariably, vastly superior shot makers.
American-rules enthusiasts enjoy what many regard as 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.
In American-rules croquet, hoops are referred to as "wickets" and the peg is referred to as the "stake."
American-rules croquet is a distant cousin of Kentucky croquet, a variant 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.
Top American-rules players as of late 2007 include 2007 USCA National Singles Championship winner Paul Scott, 2007 USCA National Doubles Championship winners Brian Cumming and Lionel S. (Stewart) Jackson, John C. Osborn (son of USCA founder Jack Osborn), Leo McBride, Bob Cherry, Ron Lloyd, Jeff Soo, Danny Huneycutt, Freeman A. (Bill) Berne, Kenster Rosenberry, Rich Lamm, Matt Baird, Ted Knopf, Doug Grimsley, and Paul T. Bennett.
Two important American croquet publications are Croquet World Online and the National Croquet Calendar.
This version of the rules is also not-uncommonly used in home and college lawn games in England, sometimes with minor variations, probably because it doesn't overemphasise shot-making ability.

Backyard croquet

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" (also known as "Snake" or "Zombie"). In this game, a ball that reaches the starting stake again is considered a Poison. (In some versions, it must complete the last hoop but not hit the stake.) This ball "kills" or eliminates other balls (Poison or not) from play if it strikes them, and also gets the usual two-stroke bonus after doing so. If a Poison ball hits a stake or goes through a wicket in any direction, it is killed. If a non-Poison ball strikes a Poison, it may do the same things as if it had hit another ball; this includes the possibility of sending the Poison through a wicket, killing it. (In some versions, a non-Poison ball that strikes a Poison is killed, instead of getting bonus strokes; so the only effective way to kill a Poison ball is to complete the course and become Poison yourself.) The last player on the course wins the game, with other players ranked according to the number of hoops completed.
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 is also played in many private gardens in England, under a wide variety of rules. It appears that many families allow a croquet shot to be taken with one foot resting firmly on the striker's ball, so that the opponent's ball can be dispatched to a distance (perhaps beyond the next hoop, ready to be roqueted again), while keeping the striker's ball well-placed for the next hoop, for instance. This tactic is outlawed in Association Croquet.

Croquet variants

Mondo croquet

Mondo Croquet is just like regular croquet only 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.

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.

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.

Wacko croquet

A version of Backyard Croquet, intended to be played inside or outside, using standard mallets and balls, but using wickets and stakes constructed out of PVC piping. The number of wickets is variable, usually up to 12 total. Often played in office locations, large indoor carpeted space, or non-standard lawn configurations, this variant offers opportunities to design unique layouts for play. Various objects can be defined as "in play" and bounced off of, others can be defined as "out of bounds".

Croquet in art and literature

  • Winslow Homer, Édouard Manet, Louise Abbéma and Pierre Bonnard all have paintings titled The Croquet Game.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Lewis Carroll featured a surreal version of the game in the popular children's novel Alice in Wonderland, A hedgehog was used as the ball, a flamingo the mallet, and playing cards as the wickets.
  • In the Thursday Next series of novels, notably Something Rotten, Jasper Fforde depicts an alternative world in which croquet is a brutal 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.

Croquet in politics

On 25 May 2006, the British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott was photographed by the The Mail on Sunday playing croquet at his official residence, Dorneywood.,,14049-2206420,00.html Following shortly after a sexual scandal that had forced Prescott to resign his ministerial responsibilities while retaining his salary and privileges,,17129-2167472,00.html, 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, while the TV Five announced that they would be running a series featuring croquet matches played at country houses pitting "rich" against "poor" players.,,1789053,00.html

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

See also

External links

croquet in Danish: Kroket
croquet in German: Croquet
croquet in Estonian: Kroket
croquet in French: Croquet
croquet in Galician: Cróquet
croquet in Italian: Croquet
croquet in Macedonian: Крокет
croquet in Dutch: Croquet
croquet in Norwegian: Krokket
croquet in Polish: Krokiet (gra)
croquet in Portuguese: Croquet
croquet in Russian: Крокет
croquet in Finnish: Kroketti
croquet in Swedish: Krocket
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