Often described as billiards on an outdoor lawn, the game of croquet intertwines the love of the outdoors with the consummate marksmanship that is necessary to be successful at this sport. Born of the game Pall Mall in the early 1600’s, he rules of croquet are quite simple and the game has enjoyed much popularity in its long history.
While leisurely enjoyed by countless families across the U.S., the game is also played as a serious sport. Home courses vary enormously in both dimension and quality. On the professional level, however, croquet is played on a magnificently tended grass lawn approximately 84 ft. by 105 ft. In either case, the game is a source of tremendous fun and technical difficulty.
The Playing Field
At most croquet clubs in the United States, the American six-wicket game is considered the standard. Six metal loops, called wickets, are placed in a symmetrical pattern on the lawn on both sides of the playing field. The essential object of the game is to pass a target ball through these wickets in a particular order. There is also a pair of wooden stakes that are the final target of the player.
The rules of play are fairly straightforward. Each player draws for the color of his ball and play commences in the order blue, red, black, and yellow. On one’s turn, you must pass your ball through a wicket or strike another ball. If unsuccessful, your turn ends. Alternately, the successful passing of the ball through a wicket entitles you to another shot and striking another ball entitles you to two extra shots.
Once you strike a ball, that is, make a roquet, two things happen. First, you place your ball next to the ball you just struck. Then you strike your ball sending the object ball off to whatever area of the lawn you choose. This shot is called a croquet. Second, the object ball that you just sent off is now “dead”. You cannot roquet it again until you pass your ball through a subsequent wicket.
Once through the wicket, all balls become “alive” again. You continue on in this manner until you are unable to make another shot. With enough skill, luck and strategic thinking, it is possible to navigate the entire course without your opponent ever playing a shot. Good luck in that endeavor. It is considered a Herculean task and almost never accomplished even at the highest levels of play.
Standard croquet equipment includes a mallet and colored ball for each player, two end pegs to identify the beginning and ending hoops and a specific number of hoops depending on the game being played. Croquet sets are available that include all of these items from most sports stores, the big box retailers and online from Amazon.
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At it’s simplest, croquet offers hours of family fun. It offers children and adults both a physical and mental challenge. At its easiest, it can be learned in fifteen minutes but, at its most difficult, it is a game that takes years to master. Competitive croquet is an intensely physical and strategically demanding sport.
Croquet sets with a complete set of balls and mallets are available at every sporting goods store and at most big box retailers. All you need is a little room, some motivation and a sunny afternoon to enjoy the fun and challenge of croquet.