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Rules of American Croquet

INTRODUCTION

This introduction to the Rules of American Croquet contains the following information.

The actual (numbered) rules of the game begin in Part 1.


RULES CHANGES IN THE 2006 EDITION

The Six Wicket Croquet rules include a number of significant, but non-substantive, changes such as reducing redundancies, reordering of some material, improvements in wording and style consistency, inclusion of the individual rules in the table of contents, and a new numbering system for the rules. The handicap point system description has been updated to the latest version wherein every sanctioned game involves the gain and loss of at least one tracking point. More substantive changes are given below; numbers in square brackets are the corresponding rule numbers in the previous edition.

  1. 1.3d Order of Play and Starting Area [3]: Starting with an opponent’s ball is specified as a wrong ball fault.
  2. 3.2a Striking Period and Shot [12a]: The beginning of the striking period is more fully defined.
  3. 6.2 Roquet Shots [27]: Following a roquet, the striker ball remains in play and is ball in hand at the conclusion of the shot.
  4. 9.1 Responsible for Position [27b(3), 40b-c]: A single new rule defines responsibility for a ball’s position.
  5. 9.2 Blocking Wicket [20]: Blocks, and responsibility for them, are more clearly defined. All blocks must be announced.
  6. 11.6 Misplaced Balls [50, 51]: Failing to take croquet is added to the misplacement list, and the list is made non-exhaustive. Faults and the limit of claims are detailed.
  7. [54d]: The rule requiring freezing of the deadness board following a dead-ball fault is eliminated.
  8. 13.4 Resetting Equipment [new rule]: Improperly set equipment may be reset. If a ball becomes stuck in an improperly tight wicket, the shot may be replayed.
  9. 13.9a Time-Outs [60a]: Three time-outs are allowed at any point during the game.
  10. 13.11a Last Turn [62a]: Tournament rules may specify that the final ball in last turn not play past the point when the side has won.
  11. 15.1a(2) Bisques [69a(2)]: A continuation shot is not required before taking a continuation bisque.
  12. 15.5 Base Method Handicap Play [new rule]: An alternative method of calculating bisques by subtracting a fixed number from handicaps is allowed.
  13. 16.1 Fourteen Point Game [new rule]: A 14-point game is allowed.
  14. 17.1 Immediately in the Game [experimental]: The “Multiple Last Turns” experimental rule is eliminated. A new experimental rule puts balls fully in the game immediately.

OFFICIAL RULINGS AND INTERPRETATIONS

The USCA Rules Committee may, from time to time, issue official rulings and interpretations to clarify and correct the rules where necessary. Any such official rulings and interpretations will be presented in blue color blocks directly after the rules in question, to distinguish them from the official rules.


AN OUTLINE OF THE GAME

How Play is Made
Play is made by striking a ball with a mallet. The player so playing is called the striker, and the ball that is struck, the striker ball. The striker may never hit an adversary ball with the mallet. By striking the striker ball, the striker may cause it, or any other ball it hits to move and/or to score a point.

  Illustration of the types of croquet shots
 
The five basic types of croquet shots.

The Turn
The players play each turn in the order of blue, red, black, and yellow. A player is initially entitled to one shot in a turn, after which the turn ends unless the striker ball has scored a wicket point or hit another ball. When a wicket is scored, the striker is entitled to play one additional or continuation shot. When another ball (whether opponent’s or partner’s) is hit by the striker ball, the striker is said to have made a “roquet” on that ball and the striker ball is entitled to two extra shots and becomes “dead” on that ball.

The first of these two shots is known as the “croquet” shot, and is made after placing the striker ball in contact with the roqueted ball. The second shot is the continuation shot.

If, in the croquet shot, the croqueted ball is sent off the court or the striker ball is sent off the court without first having made another roquet, the turn ends.

During a turn, each ball the striker ball is “alive” on may be roqueted once, and the striker ball may make another roquet on each ball provided that since last roqueted, the striker ball has scored a wicket point for itself and has thus cleared itself of its “deadness.” Thus, by a series of shots, roquets, croquets, and continuation shots (after a croquet shot or scoring a wicket), it is possible to make many points during one turn. Such a series is known as “making a break.”

Strategy
Along with the objective of scoring the 26 points first, each side should employ offensive or defensive moves that restrict the progress of the opponents.

The primary offensive tactic is to use as many balls (both partner’s and opponent’s) as possible to set up what is called a “break,” then score as many wicket points in one turn as possible. By skillful placement of two or three other balls at forward wickets, a player can make all twelve wickets in one “all round break” during the turn. This optimum feat in croquet is the equivalent of a grand slam home run or no hitter in baseball.

Defensive tactics include separating the opponent’s balls, thus forcing long shots to roquet other balls, or knocking the opponent out of position to make its next wicket (particularly when that ball is dead on its partner’s ball). An opponent who is dead on two or three balls and can be kept that way has lost considerable advantage.

Defensive strategy frequently involves one side’s balls joining at the boundary line away from their opponents (to avoid providing them an opportunity to develop a break for their side). This move often baffles spectators, since it appears no one is attempting to make wickets. It is often the case of discretion being the better part of valor. All tactical decisions involve weighing the risk of each move (in terms of each player’s ability) against the reward if the move succeeds. To many, this is the essential challenge of croquet.


CROQUET CUSTOMS AND COURT ETIQUETTE

The following customs and court etiquette, while not warranting specific penalties, should be considered as helpful to the conduct and enjoyment of the game of croquet for everyone and as important as the numbered rules of play. Should a conflict exist with the numbered rules, the numbered rules shall prevail. Remember, croquet is a sport and as such should be enjoyed by all players as a sport played by gracious losers and winners.

Sportsmanship
USCA croquet is a game that should be played with good sportsmanship as the foremost attitude of how a player approaches the game. The paragraphs of this section help describe some of the ways which players should play the game and conduct themselves while playing the game. If a specific incident is not covered in the rules, then the spirit of good sportsmanship should be considered in addressing the situation. Players should strive to play by the rules of the game and not try to circumvent the ethics and the morality of the rules of the game.

Dress Code
Croquet players customarily wear all white apparel on court. In all USCA titled events, such apparel is expected. The tournament director must approve any exceptions.

Courtesy to Players
Courtesy should be extended to one’s opponent(s) as well as to one’s playing partner at all times. Players should respect each other’s playing abilities and opinions, and treat an opponent or partner in the same fashion that they would expect to be treated themselves. The striker must plan and play shots throughout a game with reasonable dispatch.

Presence on Court
In the interest of good sportsmanship, players should avoid any behavior that distracts a striker attempting a shot. This conduct applies to the opponent, and in a double-banked game to the players in the other game, especially when stepping onto the court to start a turn. Only the striker shall be on the court; all other players shall remain outside the boundaries, except in doubles when a partner may come on the court momentarily to indicate a spot or help place a ball for a croquet shot. However, the partner must leave the court immediately after the task is finished. Players should not be in the striker’s line of sight, cross through the line of aim, or make noises or sudden movements that break the striker’s concentration.

This conduct is even more important during double banked games so that interference with the other game is avoided. See Part 14 for further information concerning double-banked games.

Interference with a Shot
A player must not interfere with any ball while a shot is in progress. All balls are in play until the shot is over and must be allowed to completely cross the boundary or come to a complete stop before being touched by any player or equipment. The only exception to this situation occurs when a roquet is made and the roqueted ball is clearly not going to affect any other ball or go out of bounds. In this case, the striker ball may be stopped and given to the striker so that the croquet shot may be taken.

A player must not interfere with the boundary string during a shot. A player may move, stand on, or have a partner stand on the string so that the striking of the striker ball is not interfered with. The four corner flags should be at least 4 inches outside the boundary string and may be temporarily removed so as not to interfere with the striker’s stance or swing.

Spectators
Players should avoid listening to any audible comments from spectators about the game. A player may ask a spectator a question about a point of fact only if the opponent has given consent.

A player should not take advantage of any previously unnoticed error or omission to which his attention is drawn by the comments or attitude of the spectators.

Spectators should avoid distracting or having conversations with deadness boardkeepers or shot clock keepers. Boardkeepers and clock keepers are an important part of the game and concentration on their task is important to the integrity of the game. Their concentration is especially important in the last minutes of a game as the pressures of the game in progress can be greatly intensified. If spectators see any errors (i.e., out of turn, clip placement, etc.), they may bring it to the attention of an official. Care should be taken that doing so does not constitute giving advice to a player.

Advice
No player is entitled to advice from anyone other than one’s partner when playing doubles. It must be a matter of conscience how a player acts after receiving unsolicited information or advice. Warning a player who is about to run a wrong wicket or play the wrong ball constitutes advice.

Replacing Balls and Placing Clips
All players should ensure that all balls are, as required, correctly:

  1. placed in bounds where they went out of bounds,
  2. on the nine inch line, and
  3. replaced after a fault.

It is the responsibility of each player when scoring a point for any ball to remove the clip immediately and at the end of the turn to place all clips moved on the correct wicket.

Calling Faults
The rules provide that a fault or misplay shall be called by any player as soon as it is observed (rule 12.1). This includes the striker calling any fault committed, regardless of adverse consequences to the striker’s game. During a game, the players are the referees unless a third party (preferably a currently certified referee) is called to watch a questionable shot, and therefore have an obligation to the game and the opponent to call any faults that they commit.

Questionable Shot
If a striker is about to attempt a shot of which either the legality is in doubt, or the result may not be clearly apparent (i.e., a possible fault, when aiming at a ball in or near a wicket, or a long stakeout), the striker should call a referee to watch the shot. If the striker does not call the referee, the opponent may request the referee watch the shot. (See rule 13.6 for appeals).

When Players’ Opinions Differ
When players’ opinions differ about ball replacement after a ball has been moved, the player who caused the ball to move replaces the ball but defers to the opponent as to the exact position. When the question is whether a roquet was made on a ball, or whether the roqueted ball moved on the croquet shot, the opponent defers to the opinion of the striker. If there are any reliable witnesses, the players may consult them in order to resolve the differences, but only if both teams agree to do so.

Referees
Players should avoid verbal confrontations with each other by expressing their legitimate concerns to the referee.

The USCA has a program to certify players as referees and a certified referee should be called to watch questionable shots or to resolve disputes over the rules (see Part 13). A referee is called by raising the mallet above the head or, if necessary by calling out “referee.”.

If an opponent believes a striker is making repeated faults such as “pushing” or “double tapping” or failing to move the roqueted ball in a croquet shot, the referee may be summoned to watch subsequent shots (rule 13.2b).

Whatever the rules provide, it is a matter of conscience how a player uses the referee. It is not good sportsmanship to harass an opponent’s concentration with an unnecessary call for the referee to watch a shot.

A striker should call a referee to watch the stake to confirm a rover’s attempt to hit the stake if the distance of the shot requires a referee.

Conclusion of the Game
The winner of a game is responsible for removing the balls and clips (but not before the final score is agreed upon) from the court at the end of the game. This should be done expeditiously especially during a double banked game. When double banking, players should get off the court quickly so as not to interfere with the other game. All players should shake hands with the opponents and thank the time and boardkeepers.

Detrimental Behavior
Courtesy and good sportsmanship are expected of all players and officials at all times. Players are under an obligation to avoid acts that may be considered detrimental to the game of croquet. For example, players should not:

  • swear at a player, official or spectator,
  • use obscene, abusive or insulting language or gestures, or
  • throw a mallet or hit a ball in protest or anger.

Any spectator or player who abuses an official or player, or interferes with the game will be warned and directed by the Tournament Director to desist. If the abuse or interference continues, the person may be directed to leave the tournament area. In a case of flagrant abuse, the directive to leave may be given without a warning. Any such instance should be reported to the USCA Grievance Committee.


THE STANDARD COURT

The standard court is a rectangle, measuring 35 by 28 yards (105 by 84 feet). Its boundaries shall be marked clearly, the inside edge of the definitive border being the actual boundary. Nylon string (#18) stapled or otherwise affixed to the ground is recommended for use as the boundary lines.

Court References
The four corners of the court are known respectively as Corners 1, 2, 3, and 4. The four boundaries are known as South, West, North, and East boundaries - regardless of the orientation of the court (figure 1).

The Standard Setting
The stake shall be set in the center of the court. The wickets shall be set parallel to the North and South boundaries, the centers of the two inner wickets, 21 feet to the north and south of the stake, the centers of the four outer wickets, 21 feet from their adjacent boundaries. This is the preferred court size and should be the official setting for major tournaments.

Modified Court Size and Setting
Should the area be too small to accommodate a standard court, a modified court may be laid out in accordance with the above by using a smaller modified length unit and by maintaining the same proportions of five units long by four units wide For example, units of ten feet could be used to set the court dimensions. Thus 40 feet wide by 50 feet long with the stake in the middle at the intersection of the two diagonals is a possible setup. The corner wickets are 1 unit (10 feet) from their adjacent boundaries. The center wickets are 1 unit (10 feet) in each direction from the stake. Local conditions may require other layouts, but the size above is generally considered the minimum for this game.


EQUIPMENT

The Wickets
The wickets shall be of round iron, 5/8-inch diameter and of uniform thickness. They shall be 12 inches in height above the ground, measured from the ground to the top of the crown of the wicket, vertical and firmly fixed.

The crown shall be straight and at right angles to the uprights. The distance between the inside of the uprights for normal play shall not be less than 3 11/16, nor more than 4, inches apart; for tournament play, not more than 3¾ inches; and for National Championship play 1/16 inch greater than the diameter of a ball in use on that court, with a maximum upward tolerance of 1/32 inch. All wickets on any court should be of the same dimensions.

The wickets shall be painted white, the crown of the first wicket colored blue and that of the last wicket, which is known as the rover wicket, red.

The Stake
The stake has a uniform diameter of 1½ inches and a height of 18 inches above the ground and may be made of any suitable material. It shall be vertical, solid, and firmly fixed in the ground. It shall be white with blue, red, black, and yellow bands descending in that order from the top. The first 6 inches above the ground shall be white. There may be a detachable extension on top of the stake. It shall be about ½ inch in diameter and 6 inches in length. It is designed to hold clips and shall be detachable from the top of the base.

The Balls
Croquet balls shall be colored respectively blue, red, black, and yellow. Balls to be used in USCA Titled National, Regional, Sectional, District, or State events shall have been approved by the World Croquet Federation. The size of these balls shall be 3 5/8 inches in diameter with a milled surface and of even weight, not less than 15¾ ounces, nor more than 16¼ ounces. For these USCA titled events, all balls shall, when dropped from a height of 60 inches onto a 2-inch steel plate imbedded in concrete, rebound to a height of not less than 30 inches nor more than 45 inches. All balls within a set must not vary in rebound by more than three inches. Faulty or damaged balls may be changed during play. For all USCA sanctioned events, the manufacturer and model of the balls to be used should be included in the entry forms distributed to players prior to the event.

The Mallet
The head of the mallet shall be of wood or any other material, provided that the player shall gain no advantage over wood. Metal may be used for weighting or strengthening. The two end faces shall be parallel, perpendicular to the bottom, and must have identical playing characteristics and not have a playing advantage over a head made entirely of wood. There may be a beveled edge that shall not be considered as part of the face.


COURT ACCESSORIES

The following accessories should be supplied for guidance, convenience, and decoration. The accessories do not form part of the setting of the court. Accordingly, any such accessories impeding a striker may be temporarily removed.

Clips
There is one clip for each ball: blue, red, black, and yellow. The function of the clips is to indicate the state of the game on the court. The clip corresponding with that ball shall distinguish the next wicket or the stake in order for every ball at the beginning of every turn.

  Deadness Board
 
Deadness Board
In the example above, blue is dead on red, red is dead on yellow and blue, black is dead on blue, and yellow is dead on blue and black.

Deadness Board
In order to aid the contestants (and spectators) in identifying balls which have deadness, a board approximately 2’ high x 3’ wide is used with the four ball colors permanently affixed in proper sequence vertically on the left side and 12 colored squares (three each of the four ball colors) painted or affixed to the background with white squares which can be moved to expose or reveal the background colored squares. These colored squares are arranged in horizontal rows next to the vertical column on the left side of the board. The horizontal rows are laid out in the same order as the four colors descending on the vertical column. The white squares can be moved so as to cover or uncover the colored squares to show a ball’s deadness.

Clocks
Games may be played with time limits (normally an hour ten minutes to two hours); a “game clock” is used to measure this.  A “shot clock” may be used to limit a player’s time to shoot to 45 seconds.

Corner Flags
Flags colored blue, red, black, and yellow shall be placed in corners l, 2, 3, and 4, respectively. The flags shall be mounted on staffs about one foot high. The staffs shall be at least 4 inches from the boundary. These are used primarily as an aid in judging distances and are not essential to the game. Boundary string should not be attached to the staff of the corner flag; it should be attached in the corner separately.

Check Fences
A check fence high enough to arrest the progress of balls may be placed around the outside of the court at least one yard outside the boundary.


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