From its connotations with afternoon tea and the subject of bucolic paintings like Édouard Manet’s The Croquet Game, this classic lawn game has gone a long way. You’ll find various variations and regional nuances when learning how to play croquet.

Variants of Croquet

The World Croquet Federation (WCF) recognizes nine croquet variations, however only Association Croquet and Golf Croquet are used in the World Championships. We won’t go over every croquet variation here; instead, we’ll focus on the most popular ones.

Croquet types include:

  • Association croquet
  • Golf croquet
  • Short croquet
  • Two-ball croquet
  • U.S. six-wicket croquet
  • U.S. nine-wicket croquet
  • Garden croquet 
  • Extreme croquet
  • Ancient croquet

9-Wicket croquet is by far the most popular variation of croquet played as a backyard pastime in North America. 6-Wicket croquet will be played in professional league games sanctioned by the United States Croquet Association (USCA). However, most individuals who play croquet in their lawn for leisure will play 9-Wicket croquet.

Let’s start with 9-Wicket croquet’s regulations and game play, and then go on to more professional croquet. You’ll need a good croquet set to get started setting up the court and playing the game. I propose this Baden Deluxe Series Croquet Set, or look at our comparisons of the most common croquet sets.

Learning how to play croquet

Croquet may not be the first game that comes to mind when deciding what to do in the backyard. It does, however, have all of the ingredients for a pleasant summer afternoon. Its slow speed is great for enjoying the competition of a non-contact sport at a leisurely tempo. Everyone can participate in the game, as it is suitable for both youngsters and adults.

Croquet is a great way to get some exercise and enjoy the day, even if it isn’t a big calorie burner. It is a fantastic choice for novices because the rules are simple to understand. A croquet set is also inexpensive. Let’s start from the beginning to learn how to get started.

What you need

Everything you’ll need for gameplay is included in the standard set. It usually consists of the following:

  • 6 mallets
  • 6 croquet balls
  • 9 hoops or wickets
  • 2 stakes

The majority of them also come with a storage case. You can also acquire a deadness board and metal clips to indicate your next wicket. The latter will be discussed in the gameplay section.

Croquet mallets

The United States Croquet Association prefers wood as a material. Others can be used as long as they don’t give you a competitive advantage. The average length of an adult model is 36 inches.

Croquet balls

Molded hard plastic balls are used in a typical set. Look for ones that weigh no more than 16.25 ounces and have a diameter of 3 5/8 inches if you wish to utilize regulation ones. Blue, red, black, and yellow are the permitted colors in four-player games. For three-team contests, green and orange are allowed.

Wickets

Steel hoops are used in most commercial sets. 12-inch iron wickets with a diameter of 5/8 inch are required under the rules. The standard color is white, with the first one having a blue crown or top and the last one having a red crown or top.

Stakes 

The stakes placement is determined on the game you’re playing. Regulation ones are 18 inches long and 1.5 inches in diameter. From the bottom to the top, the base is white with bands of blue, red, black, and yellow.

Goal

Each ball must pass through each hoop twice and then strike the peg in the precise order. The following is the sequence:

  • Hoop 1: South-west corner northwards
  • Hoop 2: North-west corner northwards
  • Hoop 3: North-east corner southwards
  • Hoop 4: South-east corner southwards
  • Rover: Center-south northwards
  • Hoop 5: Center-north northwards

The balls then come back in the opposite way through each hoop as follows:

  • Hoop 2: North-west corner southwards
  • Hoop 1: South-west corner southwards
  • Hoop 4: South-east corner northwards
  • Hoop 3: North-east corner northwards
  • Hoop 5: Center-north southwards
  • Rover: Center-south southwards

Finally, a ball must hit a peg, a process known as “pegging out,” before being removed from the lawn. The goal is to be the first to pin both balls down.

Court

Let’s start with the sizes, which vary depending on the game. The size of your yard, of course, has the final say. Begin by choosing a location that is somewhat flat and devoid of obstacles. If you wish to add a challenge, though, this isn’t a hard-and-fast rule.

The following are the measurements:

  • American or Six-Wicket Croquet: 105 feet long by 84 feet wide
  • Nine-Wicket Croquet: 100 feet long by 50 feet wide
  • Golf Croquet: 105 feet long by 84 feet wide

Marking the area with rope and stakes or spray paint is a good idea. In games, boundaries are important. Whether one unit equals 5 feet or 10 feet, the typical size is five units long by four units wide. The importance of proportions cannot be overstated.

Croquet Instructions

We’ll start with the basics and work our way up to the various variants available in the United States and abroad. While the rules appear to be difficult, when put into perspective, they make sense.

To win, you must first get the ball through all of the wickets in the correct order. It’s worth noting that the sequence is mentioned. It’s also necessary with the color ball you’ve got. The stunning turns, like the stakes’ tops, go from blue to red to black to yellow.

Preparing the court

Place one stake horizontally and vertically in the center of the outlined court. On each side, you’ll place three wickets. Place one on each side, one from the bottom and the other from the side. The units correspond to the scale that you used to measure your court. One unit down from the center stake are the center wickets.

The direction you start is south, and the direction you finish is north. Your left side faces west, and your right side faces east.

Based on the wicket layout, the first wicket is the one on your left and closest to you in the southwest corner. 

  • The one on the northwest corner is number two.
  • The northeast corner is number three.
  • The southeast corner is number four.
  • The fifth is the one in the south-central region.
  • The north-central one is number six.

The game is played by traveling through each wicket in this order, then turning around and striking the stake in the opposite direction.

Playing croquet

Toss a coin to see who goes first, with the color ball they chose determining the sequence of play. You can play with two or four players, each with one or two balls (in this case, blue-black or red-yellow). Each player or striker takes one turn to try to get their ball through the wicket entirely.

You are unable to:

  • Slide your ball forward or double-tap it
  • Hit the ball with anything other than the head’s ends
  • Strike the ball so forcefully that it damages the wicket 
  • Strike another player’s ball with your own mallet

Does it appear to be simple? There is, however, a little more to learning how to play croquet that you should be aware of.

Rules and regulations

  1. Blue, red, black, and yellow are the four balls that must be played in that order. The colours are painted on the centre peg to act as a reminder.
  2. To make play easier, the hoops, peg, and other balls cannot be moved.
  3. The striker is the player whose turn it is to play. A turn is made up of only one strike. The blue and black balls are used by one player, while the red and yellow balls are used by the other. Each player strikes his or her own ball in doubles, with blue partnering black and red partnering yellow.
  4. To begin the game, toss a coin. The winner must strike first with the blue ball, and the order of play is blue, red, black, yellow, as depicted on the center peg.
  5. Each player begins on the court one yard away from the corner closest to basket 4. You strike your ball from where it is in subsequent revolutions. The first hoop to be run is hoop 1.
  6. After someone has completed hoop 1, everyone moves on to hoop 2, and so on. The game is played in the order shown, with the first person to complete seven hoops winning.
  7. When no part of the ball protrudes beyond the side of the hoop from where it started, it is called a hoop run. It’s possible that a ball will need more than one turn to complete a hoop run.
  8. When a ball other than the striker’s ball is hit through the hoop by the striker’s ball, the hoop counts for that peeled ball, even if the striker’s ball passes through it as well.
  9. Each round entails striking the correct ball with only the mallet head’s face and no other part of the mallet. Touching your ball by accident qualifies as a strike. You must take your turn when it is your turn; you are not permitted to ‘pass’.
  10. When striking your ball, avoid touching another ball with your mallet, as this will result in a ‘fault.’ It’s also a mistake to hit your own ball twice—a ‘double tap,’ or to slam your ball into a hoop or a peg. When your ball is close to a hoop’s upright and at an angle to the opening, extreme caution is required to avoid these errors. Regardless, forcing the ball through is a mistake!
  11. If you make a mistake, your turn ends, no points are given, and your opponent has the option of taking his turn from where the balls are or having them returned to their original location.
  12. You must not contact any ball, or let it touch you, even if it is not your turn, or you will forfeit your next turn. So be careful not to step over a ball and keep an eye out for moving balls. They have a lot of speed! If you contact the ball, your opponent has the option of leaving it where it comes to rest or returning it to its original location.
  13. It’s critical to avoid playing the wrong ball or out of turn. If this occurs, your opponent has the option of replacing the balls or leaving them where they are, as well as selecting which ball to restart with. For instance, if yellow was played after blue, your opponent can proceed with either the black or blue ball. A hoop point is not awarded for a hoop run by the incorrect ball.
  14. Any ball that has strayed from the court is replaced on the boundary where it went off.
  15. Any ball that is over halfway to the next hoop to be played can be declared ‘offside’ after a turn in which a hoop point is scored, unless it got there:
    1. As a result of the striker’s ball running through the hoop, being peeled through, or peeling another ball through that hoop; 
    2. As a result of an opponent’s stroke, such as the red ball being struck so that it knocks the opponent’s blue or black ball beyond halfway to the next hoop; 
    3. As a result of the striker’s ball being deflected off an opponent’s ball to put the striker’s ball way past halfway to the next hoop.

If a ball is offside and your opponent claims it, and you are asked to transfer it, you must do so to one of two penalty locations — your opponent picks which one. The half-way points on each of the lengthier boundaries are the penalty points. It’s possible that your opponent would prefer you to take your turn from where your ball is currently.

Here’s our indepth croquet rules guide.

Association Croquet 

Croquet is a sport that can be played by two, four, or six people. The goal of the game is to hit your balls through six hoops in the correct order in each direction, ending with a hit against the center peg. The team that completes the course with both balls first wins.

There are two balls on each side, blue and black vs red and yellow. Each player has two balls in singles play. In doubles, each side’s partners must only play their own ball. In the first four turns of the game, all four balls are played onto the court from anywhere along either baulk line.

Throughout the game, the turns will alternate. In a turn, either of the side’s balls may be used, but only one. A turn is initially merely one stroke unless the striker’s ball scores its next hoop or hits another ball during that stroke.

The striker has a continuation stroke when a hoop is scored. When another ball is struck, the striker has made a roquet and is entitled to another stroke. This stroke, the croquet stroke, is made after moving and positioning the striker’s ball in touch with the roqueted ball.

In the croquet stroke the striker must move or shake the croqueted ball. If the croquet stroke is made without committing a foul stroke or forcing the turn to terminate by sending a ball off the grass, the striker is then entitled to a continuation stroke.

If the croqueted ball is sent off the court in the croquet stroke, or if the striker’s ball is sent off without first forming another roquet or scoring a hoop point for itself, the turn is over. Note though that if the striker’s ball goes off the court after running a hoop the turn does not stop. The striker plays his continuation shot after the ball is placed on the yard line. When a croquet ball is roqueted off the court, it is reset on the yard line and a croquet shot is played. 

The striker may roquet and croquet each ball once during his turn, unless his ball scores another hoop, in which case he may roquet and croquet each ball again. As a result, a “break” can last for several strokes.

Continuation strokes

  • Continuation strokes do not add up. As a result, a striker who:
  • makes a roquet and scores a hoop in the same stroke takes the croquet instantly.
  • makes a roquet using a croquet stroke takes croquet.
  • scores a hoop for his striker’s ball using a croquet stroke is entitled to one continuation stroke only.
  • scores a couple of hoops for his striker’s ball in one stroke is entitled to one continuation stroke only.

Ball in hand 

A ball has to be moved when:

  • it has successfully made a roquet.
  • it is in the yard line area or is off the court. The ball then has to be placed prior to the next stroke on the yard line at the point where it left the court. But take note that it is only at the end of the turn when the striker’s ball in the yard line area becomes “in hand.”

Faults or foul strokes

  • If the striker touches the mallet’s head with his hand, or causes the mallet to strike the ball by dropping, throwing, kicking, or hitting the mallet, he commits a foul.
  • The mallet’s shaft, or a hand or arm, is placed on the ground.
  • Any part of the legs or feet can be used to rest the shaft of the mallet or a hand or arm directly associated with the stroke
  • Any component of the mallet other than the end face is used to strike the ball. An unintentional misshit is not a fault unless the stroke necessitates extra caution due to the presence of a hoop, peg, or another ball.)
  • Pulls or pushes his ball to cause it to shift direction after initial contact
  • In one shot, he hits the ball twice or more. A multiple hit caused by a roquet, pegging out the striker’s ball, or interference by another ball pegged out in the stroke is not a fault.
  • Hits a hoop or a peg with the mallet or any part of the body or clothes to move or shake a ball that is at rest
  • When remaining in contact with the mallet, crushes the striker’s ball into a hoop or the peg (unless the striker’s ball is pegged out during the stroke). 
  • With the mallet, touches any other ball besides the striker’s ball.
  • Any part of the body or clothing is used to touch any ball
  • Plays a croquet stroke in which the crochet ball does not move or shake
  • Plays a stroke with the mallet that is likely to cause significant damage to the court

Sanctions and exemptions

  • If the wrong ball is struck, the turn is over. Balls are returned to their original positions previous to the strike in this case.
  • A turn is over as soon as a double hit is made as signified by more than one sound being heard as the mallet strikes the ball. Balls are returned to their original positions previous to the strike in this case. It is, however, permissible for a mallet to strike a ball again after it has roqueted another ball.
  • A turn ends when a “crush” stroke occurs, in which the mallet pushes a non-moving ball against a hoop.
  • After a croquet, a turn is over if either ball rolls out of the court.
  • If the croqueted ball does not move after a croquet, the turn is over. Balls are returned to their original positions previous to the strike in this case.
  • If a ball runs through a hoop in the wrong way, it cannot run through it again until it has gone completely through it in the wrong direction. It can also go around the hoop and enter it from the proper side.

Ending

A ball is a “rover” once it has passed through the final, “rover,” or hoop. It’s normally recommended not to peg out right away, but rather to let the ball “rove” so that it can help the companion ball complete. When both balls have pegged out, the game is over. Even players with average skill levels can peg out both balls in a single turn.

More croquet games

While this game is entertaining, you can also play other variations that are both entertaining and demanding. Nine-wicket croquet and golf are two of our favorites. A lot of the rules are the same. There are, however, some distinctions to be aware of.

Croquet Nine-Wicket

The primary difference, as the name says, is the number of wickets. As a result, the pattern on the court differs as well. Instead of the two open triangles, there are two diamonds stacked one on top of the other in the center. The two stakes are in the middle of each diamond’s north and south ends, with a wicket in front of each one leading to the center and bottom.

At the south end of the court, the game begins. The order is followed clockwise, starting at the northern stake and ending at the southern stake, following the east side of the diamonds. If you’re playing in a two-player game, the rover ball is a great addition. If one of you gets through the hoops first, you can strike the stake and play spoiler instead of finishing the game. You may attempt a roquet shot until you are struck. After that, you’re finished, and your ball is kicked off the court.

You can also play a poison ball, which is a cutthroat variation of the game. As the rover, you can strike other balls and knock them out of play in this edition. You must jump through all of the hoops or you will be eliminated from the game. If you’re hit, you’re out as well. The match is won by the last player on the court. This variation is one of our favorites since it raises the competitive stakes and elevates croquet to a new level.

Golf

It’s only natural that croquet and golf should be combined. While the preceding varieties are popular in the United States, this one has a global following. The United States Croquet Association has created rules and regulations for it as well.

With the same number of hoops and the same design as six-wicket croquet, the setup is identical. The game is played in the same order forward and backward. The only difference is that if you score seven points first, you win. The goal is to be the first player to shoot the ball through the hoop. Then you understand what I’m getting at. It’s similar to the game of skins, in which one individual wins the hole. The fact that everyone has the same objection adds to the thrill.

There is one sinister twist throughout the game. It’s an offside if your ball travels more than halfway to the next wicket outside of your stroke or an opponent’s action. This isn’t good. That means your teammate can put you in a penalty area, or time out, on the west or east side of the field.

Changing the rules

The rules for playing croquet are straightforward. You do, however, have some flexibility in terms of personalizing it. You can establish several conditions for going out of bounds, for example. If you have an impediment on your site, you can make it a focal point by requiring the players to take an additional turn or strike.

You can also factor in the passage of time. To make the game more thrilling, you can set limitations for the shot or even the entire game. Why don’t you add a few more points? While we’ve discussed the standard criteria, you can increase them by doubling or even tripling them to extend gaming.

History

While the exact origins of croquet are unknown, it is believed to have originated in Europe in the 1850s or even earlier. The variations we’ve talked about have an American tinge to them. They aren’t, however, the only way to enjoy this backyard game.

Garden croquet, for example, is a British version that is comparable to six-wicket croquet played in the United States, with regulations specified by the World Croquet Federation. It’s a popular transitional game between casual games with friends and competitive games with larger stakes.

Ricochet is Australia’s version, with its own set of regulations and its own governing body.

Learning how to play the game

Croquet isn’t simply about hitting the ball and knocking your opponents out of the game. That’s one way of going about it. It’s all about strategy and control, just like golf. To assess your strokes, you’ll need to understand how to read the course. Your approach is crucial. Often, little is more.

A good grip is also important for a precise hit. If you’re right-handed, the typical position is to grab the top of the mallet with your left hand. With your figures pointing down, place your right hand on the shaft. It’s a relaxing and strain-free way to hold it. It also allows you to exercise control. Another effective approach to control the ball’s motion is to hit it low and put a spin on it. You can keep the strike on target and prevent it from straying somewhere it shouldn’t follow the attack.

You should also practice striking multiple balls, as if you were playing a roquet. It’s preferable to figuring it out on the job, as it were. Learn to judge the impact of your ball strike on yourself and the other ball you’re hitting. It’s also here that the material makes a difference.

When dropped from 60 inches, they must bounce between 30 and 45 inches, according to regulations. In any case, given the surface on which you’re playing, it’s a moot question.

Last thoughts

If you wish to compete, we recommend purchasing regulation equipment and learning how to use it right away. Commercial items aren’t the same as what you’d use on the court. While we discussed the specifications, you’ll find that high-quality equipment has a significant impact on gameplay. We advocate putting in some more effort, especially when it comes to the wickets. After all, they are the ones who take the hits.

Croquet is unique in that it connects people from all around the world. It’s a game that anyone can enjoy, even with the variations. The rules aren’t complicated, especially if you’re playing for fun. It seamlessly bridges international borders and age groups.

Learning to play croquet, whether you’re young or old, American or not, is a great way to meet new people no matter where you live. It’s valuable to get active and spend some quality time outside.