Synopsis of Backyard Croquet
Backyard Croquet is naturally a less formal game than the six-wicket versions of the sport. Many variations are played. The following USCA-approved version is designed to be simple and quick to play; variations are listed at the end.
The Court and Equipment
The standard court is 100' by 50'. This can be scaled down to fit the available space and lawn characteristics. It should be possible to hit a ball the length of the court, so on long grass it may be necessary to scale down the court. There are nine wickets, two stakes, and four (or six) balls. Each player needs a mallet, although these can be shared.
Croquet sets can be purchased cheaply at many department and toy stores, but most such sets are sized for children. Also, some are not very durable. Adult players will get more enjoyment from the game with the use of a better-made, adult-sized croquet set. Look for a set with sturdy wickets, mallets about three feet long, and heavy, solid plastic balls.
An Outline of the Game
Backyard 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.
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 stakes (incorrectly in some sets). 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 mallet must contact the ball crisply — scooping, pushing, and hitting the ball more than once during the stroke are not allowed.
Starting a Game
The side that wins the coin toss chooses colors; blue plays first. Each ball is played into the game from a point halfway between the finishing stake and wicket #1. (If scaling down the court, maintain the 6' distance between each stake and its nearest wicket.)
Scoring a Wicket
Hitting other balls
If the striker ball hits a live ball we say it has made a roquet, and the striker becomes entitled to take croquet from the roqueted ball. (All balls are live at the start of the turn.) This is done by picking up the striker ball, placing it in contact with the roqueted ball, then striking the striker ball. The croqueted ball is now dead, and remains so until the striker ball scores its next wicket or stake point or until the start of the next turn.
If the striker ball hits a dead ball, it is not a roquet and no extra stroke is earned. However, if the striker is otherwise entitled to play an extra stroke, the turn continues.
You may mark a definite boundary with string or chalk, or simply mark the corners with flags or other suitable markers. Any ball that crosses the boundary is placed in three feet (or the length of a mallet), nearest the point where the ball crossed the boundary. Any ball less than three feet (or the length of a mallet) from the boundary is also placed in the full distance.
Wicket and Hit
A ball scores the turning stake by hitting it in the correct sequence.
The striker earns an extra stroke (called a continuation stroke) for the striker ball by scoring a wicket, or the turning stake, or by taking croquet. The continuation stroke is played as the balls lie. In general, continuation strokes are not cumulative. For example, if the striker ball scores a wicket while taking croquet, only one continuation stroke is earned.
The one exception is that two continuation strokes are earned if the striker ball scores two wickets on one stroke. And if the striker ball scores a wicket or stake or makes a roquet with the first of these two continuation strokes, the extra stroke is forfeited.
Rover Balls and Scoring the Finishing Stake
A ball that has scored all the points except the finishing stake is called a rover ball. Any rover ball that hits the finishing stake, whether or not it is the striker ball, has scored the stake 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 finishing stake.
A rover ball may roquet each other ball no more than once per turn.
Stake and Hit
The following variations can be used singly or in combination.
Variation 1: Out-of-bounds penalty
If any ball, other than the striker ball during a roquet stroke, goes out of bounds, the turn immediately ends.
Variation 2: Carry-over deadness
A ball that has roqueted and taken croquet from another ball may not roquet that ball again until it scores its next point. If the striker ball does hit such a dead ball, no extra stroke is earned and the balls remain where they come to rest. It is highly recommended that deadness is tracked on paper or with a deadness board.
Variation 3: Triples
Played with six balls and two sides: the blue, black, and green balls against the red, yellow, and orange balls. The sequence of play is blue, red, black, yellow, green, and then orange.
Variation 4: Poison
A rover ball is a poison ball. When a poison ball hits another ball, that other ball is removed from the game. If another ball roquets a poison ball, the poison ball is removed from the game. If a poison ball passes through any wicket, it is removed from the game. The object of the game is to be the last player with a ball still in the game, so this is usually played as "cutthroat" (every man for himself).
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