Just knocking balls thro' hoops! Sounds easy! But there's a lot more to croquet than meets the eye.
There are two games, the one with the easiest rules is Golf Croquet. Is it like golf? Not on your life, the game is played with four balls. The balls are played in order-blue, red, black and yellow. Each player's turn is a single strike of his own ball. The player, or pair playing blue and black v. -opponent/s red and yellow. The aim is to progress any one of your pair thru' the hoops in sequential order. The first to score seven hoops is the winner.
Sounds simple, except that your opponents will be trying their best to stop your progress by striking their ball to cannon yours as far away from the hoop as possible. Skill?? Compare the hoop with a golf hole. The hole is twice the size of a golf ball. The width of a hoop is only 3-4 mm wider than the croquet ball. A croquet player's strike to successfully score a hoop from 20 yards is just as satisfying as the golfer's drive from tee to green or a 20 yard putt!
The other game is Association Croquet. This is tactical, like snooker on grass, except that your two balls must make all six hoops in order, then back again in reverse order to finish at the centre peg. Basically, each competitor, or pair, take turns to strike. Each turn consists of a single strike but extra strikes can be earned by causing the opponents ball to hit any of the other balls. This is called a roquet (ro=kay) The opponents ball is then placed against the hit ball gaining a second strike, a croquet (cro-kay). This shot is arranged to send the hit ball to a suitable position for future use or to disadvantage the opponent, and the players ball to a suitable position for a continuation shot to roquet another ball, or perhaps run the next hoop. This enables the skilled player as in snooker, to make a "break" of several hoops. A handicapping system enables beginners to play on level terms and have as many as 24 extra turns which are called bisques (bisks).
The Croquet Club play from April to the end of September in the summer with a reduced schedule in the winter when only one lawn may be available. We have mix-ins on Monday afternoons for Association Croquet and Thursday afternoons for Golf Croquet.
It's a fine sport, why not try it. The game offers a chance to meet new friends, hone a new skill with gentle exercise as a bonus. We hope to see you at any time or all the time at The Winchester Club!
'Cricket will be reduced to the status of croquet.' So said Lord MacLaurin, in a clumsily misguided attempt at shaking up domestic cricket.
He got it the wrong way round. Croquet players admit when they have committed an error, it is expected that the winner will buy the loser a drink after the game, and we do not stop play for rain. Cricket needs to RAISE its standards to match those of croquet.
Not unlike real tennis, fives and polo, mention of playing croquet bears overtones of gentle afternoons of leisurely pursuits for the wealthy or retired. Not a truly competitive game, nor one for the masses - as the comment of Lord MacLaurin implies. How mistaken he is. As with most sports and games, croquet's origins are uncertain. The first mention of the game was about1846 in Ireland, though there are theories that it originated still earlier in French convents. There are claims that it was introduced into England appropriately in Hampshire, in 1851 and the game was certainly reported in The Field in the 1850s.
By 1862, the company Jaques was offering boxed croquet sets for 15 shillings, while Wimbledon was a croquet club long before the new fangled game of lawn tennis appeared. The pony roller still used at Wimbledon today was given to the croquet club in 1874.
Many of the game's terms are French, such as bisque (a free turn), roquet (hitting another ball to take croquet), and croquet (putting the two balls touching together to hit). This use of French might indicate that the game was played in high society rather than denote its origins.
There are two versions of the game: Association, and Golf. The former is divided further into handicap and advanced. Golf is a simplified form, whereby each hoop is played separately for a point: a game at which Egypt consistently win the world championship. In Association, the player endeavours to make a break through a number of hoops, using the other balls by taking croquet off them. Handicaps indicate the quality of a player much as in golf. Ken Smith, of the Winchester Croquet Club, is the only person 1 have come across who has achieved a scratch handicap at both golf and croquet.
As with many games, croquet is readily adapted to playing on garden lawns, where a somewhat eclectic mix of rules can apply, but there are some myths about the game that should be dispelled. For instance, hitting your opponent's ball off the lawn into the bushes when taking croquet is a foul and ends your turn. Similarly, the practice of putting your foot on your ball whilst taking croquet was outlawed in 1903. Nor are you allowed to 'crush' your ball through a hoop when it is in contact with the upright. players are often surprised by the narrowness of competition hoops (1/8th inch wider than a ball), compared with the more generous settings usually often found on private lawns.
While it is true that private croquet lawns are not found in every other back garden, the game is more popular than is readily apparent. Many people do play on private garden lawns, rather than committing to a full competitive season at a club - an afternoon or evening's croquet can be a particularly enjoyable social occasion. Ten years ago 1 won the U.K. National Garden Classic tournament, and it was only then that I joined Winchester Croquet Club, with the added pressure of competition.
Our club is part of the Winchester Tennis and Squash Club, at Bereweeke. There are about 50 members and two lawns, with playing surfaces among the best in the South. Winchester is the venue for the Croquet Association's one ball tournament, a further version of the Association game. There is a full programme of tournaments through-out the summer and area league competitions. The Southern League consists mainly of Berkshire and Hampshire clubs including Winchester. Littleton, Basingstoke and Ryde. The winner this year was Aldermaston.
Having played hockey and cricket for more decades than I care to recall, croquet offers an equally intense, competitive game - if that's what you want - or just a pleasurable and relaxed time, as would a friendly in those other sports. What all three have in common, at an amateur level, is their acceptance and adherence to a civilised sporting code. This makes playing enjoyable and an occasion to be savoured. It is only at the professional level in cricket that this might not apply.
I wonder whether Lord MacLaurin has ever played croquet, or did he make his comment through a mistaken perception. rather than reality? As with all games and sports, at the highest level croquet is fiercely competitive yet still retains high standards of behaviour and traditions.
Cricket and other sports need to learn from croquet, not denigrate the game.