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Rules of American Croquet


ALIVE - able to roquet one or more balls. A ball becomes alive on all balls when it scores a wicket and may roquet and take croquet from each ball one time between each wicket point.

ALL-AROUND BREAK - a player scores all the wickets in a single turn.


APPROACH SHOT (also POSITION SHOT) - a shot intended to place the ball in position to score a wicket.

BALL-IN-HAND - any ball that has to be moved, and is therefore lifted and replaced or given a fresh position on the court in accordance with the rules, e.g.:

a) a ball that has made a roquet,

b) a ball off the court or less than 9 inches from the boundary,

c) a wired ball that has been lifted,

d) a ball that has to be re-positioned after a fault or irregularity,

e) a ball that is wired and has claimed the right to be lifted.

BISQUE - a replayed shot or an additional shot given to a player. Bisques are determined by a player’s handicap and serve the purpose of equalizing a game between players of different levels of ability. See CONTINUATION BISQUE and REPLAY BISQUE.


BLOCK (also STYMIE) - when a ball, on which the striker is dead, intrudes in the direct path the striker ball would take to score its wicket.

BLOCK PLAY (also ROUND ROBIN) - a tournament format in which players are assigned to blocks and play one game against each, or most, of the other players in their block. Some form of playoffs to determine the top finishing positions usually follows a round robin.

BREAK - a series of wickets scored by a player in one turn using one other ball (two-ball break), two other balls (three-ball break) or with all balls in play (four-ball break).

BREAK DOWN - when a break or turn ends because no continuation or croquet shot is earned or a fault occurs.

BYE - a position on a tournament ladder where the player is without an opponent. The player then advances to the next round without playing.

CANNON SHOT - when the striker ball drives one ball into another ball, on a roquet or croquet shot.

CAROM SHOT - when the striker ball glances off a wicket, stake, or other ball before hitting a ball.

CHERNOBYL - a defensive opening in which a ball is held back and usually sets in front of wicket #1 to clear on a later turn. More specifically, the Chernobyl Gambit is an opening play where one ball (usually yellow) sets at wicket #1 and the partner ball (red) shoots out on court north of there, offering a tice to the opponent or a ball to play off when the other clears its first hoop.


CLEAR (also CLEAN) - to become “alive” by running or scoring a wicket, or be relieved of deadness under the 1-back rule.

CLIPS - colored clips, one for each ball, which are placed on wickets to show which ball is going for which wicket and in what direction; clips on top indicate the first six wickets, clips on the side indicate the second six wickets.


CONDONE - failure of a player to claim a fault within the limit of claims.

CONTINUATION BISQUE - in handicap play a shot taken as an additional shot from where the striker ball stopped.

CONTINUATION SHOT - a shot earned by scoring a wicket or the shot taken after a croquet shot.

CORNER FLAGS - flags or other devices that mark the corners of a croquet court.

CORNER SHOT - shooting the striker ball into a corner of the court.

CREATE A LEAVE (also GROOM THE COURT) - the process of placing balls during a turn so as to leave the partner ball a good playing opportunity and the opponent a bad one.

CROQUET ASSOCIATION, THE - British croquet governing body founded as the All England Croquet Club.

CROQUET ASSOCIATION, THE UNITED STATES - American croquet governing body founded in New York in 1976.


CROQUET SHOT - the first of two shots earned by the striker for making a roquet.

CROQUETED BALL - what the roqueted ball becomes when the striker takes the croquet shot.

CROSS WIRE - positioning the opponent’s balls on opposite sides of a wicket or the stake, thus preventing them from hitting each other.

CRUSH SHOT - a fault committed when, during the striking period, the striker’s mallet is in contact with the striker ball at the same time the ball is in contact with a wicket or the stake and the striker is not swinging the mallet in a direction away from the wicket or stake. Also referred to as a “three-in-one” (mallet, ball, wicket) fault.

CUT RUSH - when a striker roquets a ball off-center to make it, the “rushed ball,” travel at a desired angle to a pre-selected position.

DANGER BALL (also HOT BALL) - the opponent’s next ball to play.

DEADNESS - what a ball has after it roquets another ball. It becomes “dead” on that ball and cannot roquet it again until it scores a wicket to become “alive” or becomes “alive” on it after clearing under the 1-back rule.

DEADNESS BOARD - an adjustable device, with colors to match the balls, designed to help players and spectators keep track of deadness.

DOUBLE BANK - two separate games on the same court at the same time. Striped balls (blue, red, black and yellow) with white stripes, or second colored balls (green, pink, brown and white), are used in the second game.

DOUBLE ELIMINATION - a tournament format in which a player must lose twice to be eliminated.

DOUBLE TAP - a fault that is committed when, during the striking period, the striker’s mallet hits the striker ball twice.

DOUBLE - two balls at rest close enough together that the target area for the striker ball is, in effect, doubled.

DRAW (also PULL or THROW) - on a croquet stroke, the tendency (because of friction) of the croqueted ball to deviate slightly toward the direction of momentum rather than the direction of actual aim. Draw can be a critical factor in precision shots such as stake-outs, peels, and loading pioneer.

DRIVE SHOT - a croquet shot in which the mallet causes the striker ball to travel about one-quarter to one-third the distance of the croqueted ball.

ELIMINATION LADDER - tournament or play-off charts with single, double, or triple elimination layouts.

FAULT - a rules violation subject to penalty.

FOOT (HAND) SHOT- when the striker places a foot or hand on the striker ball to hold it in place during the striking period of the croquet shot. Not permitted under USCA six-wicket rules.

FORESTALL - to intervene to prevent a player from taking a shot when not entitled to, or from playing out of turn.

GAME CLOCK - the clock used to monitor the time left in a game.


HAMPERED - when a wicket, stake, or other ball interferes with a player’s normal swing.

HANDICAP - a number that represents a player’s playing ability relative to all other players assigned a handicap in the same system.

HANDICAP PLAY (also BISQUE PLAY) - a form of competition in which handicap-based bisques are used to equalize play between players of differing ability.

HOOP (see WICKET) - the international term for wicket (“wickets” are used in cricket).


IN THE JAWS - when a ball at rest is breaking the plane of a wicket.

INNINGS - a term denoting control of the game by one side as a result of having the balls positioned so that the side can make an easy roquet and the opponent cannot.

IRISH PEEL - a croquet stroke in which both balls are sent through a wicket.

JOIN UP - a ball plays to a spot near its partner ball.

JUMP SHOT - a shot in which the ball is struck so that it leaves the ground, jumping over a ball, wicket, or stake.

LAY A BREAK - to position balls at wickets so they can be used by the partner to run a break.

LEAVE - the positions of balls at rest after a player has groomed the court and the turn has ended.

LEVEL PLAY - the form of competition with players competing on equal terms and bisques are not used.

LIFT - to lift a ball that has become a ball in hand. Sometimes the ball is not actually lifted but is trundled along with the mallet.

LIMIT OF CLAIMS - the time during which a fault may be called.

OUT OF BOUNDS - when a ball’s vertical axis has crossed the boundary line.

PASS (also WAIVE) - to pass up a turn. The player is then responsible for the ball’s position.

PEEL - when the striker ball causes another ball, either partner or opponent, to score its wicket. Named for Walter H. Peel, founder of the Croquet Association, who was partial to the play.

PEG - see STAKE.


PENULTIMATE - the next-to-last wicket.

PIONEER BALL - in a three-ball or four-ball break, a ball that is positioned at the wicket following the one a player is attempting to score.

PIVOT BALL - in a four-ball break, a ball that is usually positioned near the middle of the court and is roqueted before going to the pioneer ball.


PULL - see DRAW.

PUSH - when the striker maintains contact between the mallet and the ball for an appreciable time or accelerates the mallet head while still in contact with the ball.

QUESTIONABLE SHOT - a play of doubtful legality or one that has a large possibility of being a fault. A referee should watch any questionable shot.

REFEREE - a person certified by the USCA to observe questionable shots and resolve disputes between players.

REPLAY BISQUE - in handicap play a shot that is replayed.


a) HALF-ROLL, TWO-THIRDS ROLL and THREE-QUARTER ROLL SHOTS - croquet shots during which the striker ball travels about that fraction of the distance of the croqueted ball.

b) FULL-ROLL SHOTS - croquet shots during which the striker ball travels about the same distance as the croqueted ball.

c) PASS-ROLL SHOTS - croquet shots during which the striker ball travels farther than the croqueted ball.

ROQUET - a shot in which the striker ball hits a ball it is “alive on.”

ROTATION - the order in which each ball is played as reflected in the descending colors on the center stake: blue, red, black, and yellow.


ROUT - a play where the striker’s partner ball is sent out of bounds next to the opponent’s spent ball, thus setting the partner ball with an easy roquet. Technically, a rout (an acronym of “rushing out”) is played on the rush or roquet stroke, and striker remains alive on the routed ball. However, the attack is usually played on the croquet stroke; this is a “croquet out,” but it is still frequently called a rout. The same play can be accomplished by sending the opponent’s spent ball to partner.

ROVER - a ball that has scored all twelve wickets, but has not yet hit the stake. The twelfth wicket is also called the rover wicket.

RUSH - a roquet in which the striker attempts to send the roqueted ball to a pre-selected position.

RUSH LINE - a line extending from a ball about to be rushed, to its intended target spot. A player imagines the rush line to assist in determining the point on which to roquet the ball.

SCORE A WICKET - to pass through a wicket in the proper order and direction so that when the ball comes to rest it has cleared the plane of the playing side of the wicket.


SCRATCH PLAYER - a player with a zero handicap.

SHOT (also STROKE) - it begins when the striker’s mallet contacts the ball and ends when all balls set in motion by the striker have stopped rolling or have crossed a boundary.

SHOT CLOCK - the clock used during a game to measure the striker’s allowed 45 seconds to play each shot.

SIGHT LINE - a line set lengthwise on top of the mallet head to aid a player in aiming the direction of the stroke.

SPENT BALL (also COLD BALL) - the opponent’s ball that has just played and does not represent an immediate threat during the opponent’s next turn.

SPLIT SHOT - a croquet shot that sends the striker ball and the croqueted ball in different directions.

STAKE (also PEG) - the center stake in a six-wicket game.

STAKE OUT (also PEG OUT) - when a rover ball hits the stake or is made to hit the stake by another rover ball.

STALK - to line up a shot by approaching the ball from several feet behind, walking up along the direction of aim. Most players consider stalking essential to improved accuracy.

STOP SHOT - a croquet shot where the striker ball travels about one fifth, or less, the distance of the croqueted ball.

STRIKER - the player whose turn it is to play, or is playing, or, in a few rules, the player whose turn has just ended.

STRIKING PERIOD - it begins at the start of the backswing, with intent to strike the ball, and ends at the conclusion of the follow through.



TAKE-OFF - a croquet shot, in which the striker ball makes the croqueted ball move at almost a right angle to the striker ball. A thin take-off moves the croqueted ball very little, from a few inches to just shaking it, while a thick take-off can make the croqueted ball move much farther.


TICE - positioning a ball where the opponent is tempted (enticed) to shoot at it, usually with great risk to the opponent.

TIME LIMIT - for a game in USCA tournament play, usually one and one-half hours, but may vary depending on the number of courts and entrants; for an individual shot, forty-five seconds.

TRIPLE PEEL - an all-around break in which another ball is peeled through the last three wickets it is required to make and then pegged out.

TURN - it starts when the previous player’s turn ends. The player’s turn ends when the player commits a fault or fails to earn a croquet or continuation shot.


WATERFORD DOUBLES (also ALTERNATING DOUBLES or SCRAMBLED DOUBLES) - an increasingly popular block-play format in which doubles players are assigned a new partner each game. The final positions are usually determined by each player’s win-loss record.

WICKET (also HOOP) - a device through which croquet balls pass to score points. It is a straight-sided form with a flat or curved top, twelve inches in height above the ground and usually made of iron.

WIRED BALL - a ball obstructed from another ball, on which it is alive, by a wicket, stake, or ball on which it is dead.

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