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Synopsis of American Croquet

The Court and Equipment

  Court Diagram
  Figure 1: Court Setup

The standard court is 105' by 84' (35 yards by 28 yards). Unless short grass is available (1/4" or less), the court should be scaled down, keeping the proportions from the standard court. On ordinary grass, such as a sports field or residential lawn, 50' by 40' is a good size. There are six wickets, one stake, and four balls. Each player needs a mallet, although these can be shared.

It is possible to play on an ordinary lawn and with an inexpensive croquet set such as can be found at department stores. However the game is much more satisfying when played with higher-quality equipment and on the flattest and smoothest lawn with the shortest grass that you can find. Look for a set that has sturdy wickets, mallets sized for adults (about three feet high), and heavy, solid plastic balls. Or, better still, find a nearby USCA croquet club.

An Outline of the Game

American Croquet is played between two sides - the blue and black balls versus the red and yellow balls. In singles each player plays two balls; in doubles each player plays the same ball throughout the game.

The object of the game is to maneuver the balls through the course of wickets and into the stake, as shown in Figure 2. The side which first does so with both its balls wins the game.

  Court Diagram   Court Diagram
  Figure 2a: First Six Points Figure 2b: Last Seven Points

Play is made by striking a ball with a mallet. The player who is playing a turn is called the striker, and the ball in play for that turn is the striker ball. Turns are played in the sequence blue, red, black, yellow, and so on throughout the game. This sequence of colors is usually painted on the stake. Each turn is initially one stroke, but extra strokes are earned when the striker ball hits another ball or scores a wicket point. By making good use of these extra strokes it is possible to score many points in one turn.

The striker ball may cause other balls to move and score points. However, the striker must never strike any ball other than the striker ball. The striker must play using the mallet only, and must not play a stroke while touching any ball with hand or foot. The striker must strike the ball with one of the mallet's two striking faces, never with a side face or the shaft. The striker must strike the ball cleanly and only once during the stroke.

Starting the Game

The winner of a coin toss chooses whether to play first with blue and black or second with red and yellow. Each ball is played into the game from the starting tee (see Figure 2, above), starting with blue.

Scoring a Wicket

A ball scores a wicket point by passing through a wicket in the correct direction and sequence, as shown in Figure 2.

Clips

Clips

Each ball has a corresponding clip, used to show which wicket the ball needs to score next. For wickets #1 through #6, the clip is placed on top of the wicket. For the remaining wicket points, the clip is placed on the side of the wicket. At the start of a game, all four clips are placed on the top of wicket #1.

Hitting Other Balls

If the striker ball hits another ball we say it has made a roquet, and the striker becomes entitled to play a croquet stroke. The croquet stroke is played by picking up the striker ball, placing it in contact with the roqueted ball, then striking the striker ball in such a way as to make both balls move. The striker ball is now dead on the other ball, and remains so until it scores its next wicket point.

A hit is not a roquet if either ball has not yet scored the first wicket, the striker ball was dead on the hit ball, or any ball other than the striker ball goes out of bounds.

Boundaries

A ball goes out of bounds as soon as its center lies directly over a boundary. When a ball goes out it is placed nine inches in from where it crossed the boundary. A ball less than nine inches from the boundary is also moved in, unless it is the striker ball and is entitled to play an extra stroke.

Clips

Keeping Track of Deadness

A deadness board is strongly recommended for keeping track of deadness. However, most lower-cost sets do not include one. You can buy one, make your own, or keep track on paper. There are also small hand-held deadness boards.

Wicket and Hit

The striker ball cannot both score a wicket and make a roquet on the same stroke. Whichever happens first takes precedence.

Continuation Stroke

The striker earns an extra stroke (called a continuation stroke) by scoring a wicket for the striker ball or by playing a croquet stroke, so long as no ball went out of bounds during that stroke. The continuation stroke is played as the balls lie.

If the striker ball scores two wickets on one stroke, or scores a wicket during a croquet stroke, only one continuation stroke is earned.

No continuation stroke is earned if the striker’s ball makes a roquet during a croquet stroke, the roquet requiring that the striker immediately play a croquet stroke.

Rover Balls and Scoring the Stake

A ball that has scored all twelve wicket points is called a rover ball. If the striker ball is a rover ball and any rover ball hits the stake, that ball has scored the stake point and is removed from the game. Play continues in the usual sequence, skipping over the missing ball. The game ends when both balls of a side have scored the stake.

A rover ball that is dead on two or three balls is cleared of deadness when is passes through any wicket in any direction. If it is the striker ball and no ball has gone out of bounds, the striker earns a continuation stroke.

A rover ball may roquet each other ball no more than once per turn.

Stake and Hit

The striker ball cannot both score the stake and make a roquet on the same stroke. Whichever happens first takes precedence.

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