Croquet is an outdoor game that is played by vacationing families as well as serious competitors. The object of the game is to pass a wooden ball, by striking it with a mallet, through hoops, called wickets, placed at certain positions on the ground. The goal is to get the ball through the hoops, in a certain order, using as few strokes as possible.
History of Croquet
While a game similar to croquet can be traced back to at least 1611, the modern day game was explained on paper for the first time in 1856 by Isaac Spratt. Spratt was an English toy dealer who is most known for having codified the lawn games of croquet and badminton. Before Spratt wrote down his explanation of the game, along with the first use of the word "croquet," the game existed in various forms in several other countries. In England it was known as Pall Mall from the Latin palla malleus, which means ball and mallet.
At the same time that Spratt was commonly cited as the one who wrote down the rules, there was another man, John Jaques, claiming the same thing. It is debatable as to whether Jaques (pronounced Jakes) was the first to write the rules or not. Jaques is credited though for popularizing the game. He published a set of rules in 1857, 1860 and 1864. The company he started, Jaques of London, is still a major producer of professional and casual croquet equipment used in the world today.
Croquet quickly became a popular pastime in England. In the 1860s the game began to spread to other English speaking countries such as the United States, Canada and Australia. It may have been a much bigger game throughout the world today had it not been in competition with another new game at the time, tennis. The club where the Wimbledon tennis tournament started was originally known as the All-England Croquet Club.
Croquet was an official event in the 1900 Summer Olympics held in Paris, France. Nine of the ten players that year represented the country of France. Belgium was the only other country to have a croquet player, yet he did not even complete the first round of his competition. That allowed France to take 7 of the 9 possible medals. There were no other competitors in the team competition which gave France the Gold. No country received the Silver nor Bronze medals.
Playing Croquet as a Sport
There are many variations of the game of croquet. Croquet leagues exist nationally and internationally that allow teams and individuals to play for world rankings. Most of the championships are yearly events. However, there are others which are held every two or four years: meaning that the winners of these events are highly regarded. One such event is the MacRobertson International Croquet Shield tournament which is held every four years. Croquet is one of the few sports where men and women compete against each other even at the professional level.
There are professional associations in many countries where one can get information and instruction on playing the game. In the United States it is the United State Croquet Association. In England it is The Croquet Association, and Canada has Croquet Canada.
The professional sport of croquet has several variations. In the United States Six-Wicket and Golf Croquet are the two most popular. The sport of Association Croquet is governed internationally by the Croquet Association (of England), the United States Croquet Association, the Australian Croquet Association, and Croquet New Zealand.
Equipment used for the sport of croquet is very similar to the game many may have played growing up. There is a wooden mallet along with wooden balls. The mallet is much larger than the one used in the backyard game. It has both a longer handle and longer (and therefore heavier) head. The wickets, however, are much different than the ones used in the casual game. Professional wickets are narrower and made of cast iron.
Playing Croquet as a Backyard Game
Because the backyard game of croquet is intended to be a more casual, recreational game, the size of the field does not have to be exact. Officially the field size should be 100 feet by 50 feet and as flat as possible. But most of the time the size and topology of the field is determined by the size of the available available.
In Nine-Wicket Croquet there are also many variations of the rules. It is recommended that before starting a game that all the players agree on the rules that will govern that particular game. Unlike professional croquet, there is no governing body to determine game play. The rules printed with croquet sets will be similar to one another, but large variations come when families make up their own rules for game play.
Like professional croquet the idea is to pass the wooden balls through the metal wickets in a certain pattern. At the end of the sequence the ball has to hit a wooden stake. Depending on the type of game being played, there may be one or two stakes on the field. Different rules allow the players to hit the other balls with various benefits. Sometimes it will earn a player a free stroke, or it may push the opponents ball into a poor position for their next turn.
Whether one is interested in croquet as a family game or as a professional sport, there are many opportunities to play. Croquet may never be introduced in the Olympic Games again, but there are clubs around the world where people can go to learn to play.
Croquet is a great family game that can be enjoyed by the grand kids as well as the grand parents. The game, or sport, seems to becoming popular once again.