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Association Croquet - The Game and How it is Played

 

Introduction

Association croquet is a challenging and intriguing sport requiring tactical ability, judgment and skill rather than strength and fast reflexes. And to dispel the myth that croquet is a vicious game of hitting your opponent's balls into the shrubbery, any ball leaving the lawn is immediately brought back on to the 'yard' line. The game is played as singles or doubles but in either case the blue and black balls always play against the red and yellow balls. In singles, each player uses both balls, in doubles one each.

The Aim of the Game

The object of the game is to make both balls of one side pass through all the hoops in order and then hit the peg before the opponent's. The first hoop has a blue top and the last, 12th, hoop to be run, known as 'rover' has a red top. After the sixth hoop, is run the six hoops are run in the reverse direction; hence they are named 'one-back, two-back', etc. until the 'penultimate' hoop and finally rover. See diagram for the route. Coloured clips are placed on the hoops to remind players (and show spectators) which hoop has to be run next. They are placed on top for the first time through, on the side for the return journey.

Prefer A Video Explanation?

As with so many things the written explanation is far more complex sounding that the actuality, so you may find Basingstoke Club's introductory video of interest [c12mins]. Yes the game needs some practice and skill development, but it is an enthralling game. For more information see the Croquet Association website or contact us.

Starting the Game

To begin a game the balls are played onto the lawn one at a time alternately by each side, from either A or B baulk (see diagram). After that the side can choose which ball to play during each turn. 

Playing Your Turn

At the beginning of a turn a player has only one stroke but, depending on what he does, he may gain extra strokes. If his ball hits another ball it is called a 'roquet' and this gives the right to take 'croquet', the stroke that is unique to the game of Association Croquet and where the fun really begins

The croquet stroke is played immediately following a roquet. The 'striker's ball' is picked-up and placed in contact with the ball just roqueted and two further strokes are now permitted.  First, the player in play [the striker] may strike his ball in any direction desired but must ensure the other ball moves. Both balls should remain on the court, if the other ball goes off the lawn the turn ends. But, if all is well the striker may now have a 'continuation' shot. The croquet stroke is the most exciting stroke in the game and can be played in numerous ways to control both balls. By varying the angle at which striker's ball is hit and the degree of force and the follow-through applied a skilful player can send both balls to very accurate destinations which then enables a 'break' to continue i.e. just like snooker.

Building a Break is made possible by earning these extra strokes. At the beginning of a turn striker may roquet the other three balls and take croquet from them just once but, the moment a hoop is run in order, striker may, once again roquet all three balls. Thus it is possible to run several hoops in one turn. Skilful players often run all twelve hoops in one turn; they may even manage to send their partner ball through some of its hoops. This is called 'peeling' and forms an important part of the Advanced form of the game.

More Advanced Play?

Have a look at Dr Ian Plummer's Oxford croquet site and specifically the virtual lawn with coaching on various aspects - it is good value!

The Basic Laws of Association Croquet

Association Croquet laws are quite detailed but for the beginner and average club player the  document below gives a good grounding.

A Brief Guide to AC Laws for Players New to AC and GC Players Playing Short Croquet

AC Laws

A synopsis of AC laws follows which covers most of ‘everyday’ situations. They are applicable to Short Croquet with one major difference on wiring, see the bottom of page 7

Critical Position Critical Stroke

Critical position - A position in which a ball is at rest where a minor change in the position could materially affect future play. Examples include positions in or near hoops, wired positions, and positions on or near the yard-line or boundary.

Critical stroke - Any stroke for which the striker's ball [i.e. the ball you are playing] is in a critical position as far as the intended outcome of the stroke is concerned.

In AC / SC touching striker’s ball inadvertently e.g. when casting, does not count as your shot. The ball is replaced and you play on. EXCEPT where the Critical position / stroke law is applicable. This is because accurate ball replacement cannot be guaranteed and an advantage could be gained, however, unintended. The solution is to mark striker’s ball, preferably with 2 markers. Then if an inadvertent strike is made the ball can be replaced accurately and the intended, correct shot taken.

If in doubt Mark!

There is now, from the 2021 Laws rewrite, a ruling on ‘close’ positions:

ADJUDICATING CLOSE POSITIONS: SUMMARY OF THE RULINGS

The following table summarises the rulings to be given in different situations when an adjudication by a referee or the players jointly concludes that, within the limits of uncertainty inherent in the measurement, the situation is on the borderline between two options.

Basic Laws

This downloads to enable an 8 sided A5 booklet

[Paper A4 landscape - print back to back, flip on the short side

Keep these rulings in mind when reading through the laws below

Format is question and answer.

Can my opponent object if I follow him around the court while he plays a break? Yes. Keep off the court during his turn and do nothing to cause a distraction like making a mobile call in the opponent’s hearing.

May I run hoops & make roquets before all 4 balls are in play? Yes

Is there a sequence rule? No

What happens if a ball moves between strokes or is accidentally moved between strokes? It is replaced.

What happens if I hit a ball of the double-banked [Db] game? If you inadvertently aimed at and hit a ball of the Db game [it happens] their ball is replaced - your ball is placed where it would have ended-up had it not made the hit – end of turn. If there is a chance you could hit a stationery Db ball - mark it. If you hit their ball as they play at the same time then you both need to estimate where your balls would have ended-up and place them accordingly.

When is a ball considered off court?

A ball leaves the court when any part of it would touch an imaginary wall raised from the inner edge of the boundary.

The AC Law changed wef Feb 2021 and no longer permits a ball in a ‘kink’ of the boundary line to be ruled ‘On’.

The law now says:

If the boundary marking is not straight, the actual boundary at any point is the straight line which best fits the inner edge of the boundary marking in the vicinity of that point.

What happens if I hit two balls, which I am entitled to roquet, at once? Roquet is made on the first ball to be hit.  If both were hit simultaneously you may choose which to play.

What happens if my ball goes off court and then rolls back on again? It’s off and it is replaced at the point is went off.

What happens if I run a hoop and make a roquet in the same stroke? This is ‘Hoop & Roquet’ - take croquet immediately.

What happens if I run two hoops in one stroke? You score both hoops but only get one continuation stroke.

When does a ball complete the running of a hoop? Same as GC

The ball

a. Has not started to run the hoop           b. Has started to run the hoop

c. Has not completed running the hoop   d. Has completed running the hoop

I’m to take croquet and the ball to be croqueted is ‘in the hoop’ may I place my ball in contact to run the hoop? Yes, against e.g. RED from the playing side in any of the situations shown above. But not if your ball would protrude beyond the hoop’s non-playing side.

If I take croquet and the object ball doesn’t move, is it OK to play on? No. The ball must move even if it only rocks and resettles on the spot it started from. It is a fault and often the most contentious. If you are looking at the balls when striking you should see whether it moves or not – if it doesn’t you should admit the fault.

What happens if my ball runs a hoop but, before completing the running, hits a ball that was clear of the hoop before the stroke? The hoop is deemed scored before the roquet was made. When your ball comes to rest it must have completed the hoop run. If not, the hoop is not scored and turn ends unless you were entitled to roquet the ball in question without needing to run the hoop.

What happens if my rover ball hits the peg and a ball that I am entitled to roquet simultaneously? You may choose whether the roquet is made or the peg point is scored.

What happens if I take croquet and both balls run the hoop but striker’s ball hits the object ball again? [The Irish Peel] Balls end-up not touching – a roquet is deemed not to have been made - you now play a continuation shot. Balls end up in contact - a roquet is deemed to have been made - you play a croquet shot.

What happens if the balls do end up in contact after a croquet stroke but the striker's ball did not run a hoop in that stroke? A continuation stroke is played as usual. However, the stroke is a two-ball stroke so it may be difficult to make a roquet or run a hoop.

What happens if one of my balls is in contact with another at the start of a turn? If you choose to play it you must start with a croquet stroke. The same applies if you run a hoop to the boundary and you have to replace your ball on the yard line in contact with another ball - you must play a croquet stroke immediately.

What is the penalty for playing a wrong ball? Striker's turn ends. All play after the wrong ball is struck is cancelled and the balls are replaced in the positions they occupied before the wrong ball was struck.

What happens if I take croquet from the wrong ball? If ball was dead – end of turn. If ball was live – replace and then take croquet from correct ball assuming no other turn ending fault committed e.g. croqueted ball sent off the court. If realised after two strokes have been taken (limit of claims) the game just continues.

What happens if I fail to take croquet when I should or take croquet before making a roquet? In either case the balls are replaced and you continue your turn correctly.

Is there any penalty if I send a ball over the boundary in a single ball stroke? No. In a hoop shot your ball is replaced on the yard-line and the turn continues; if you make a roquet and the roqueted ball goes off it is replaced on the yard-line and the croquet shot is played from there; if your ball goes off, it becomes a ball in hand and is placed for the croquet stroke in the usual way.

Is there a penalty if I send a ball off the court in a croquet stroke? Yes. If the croqueted ball is sent off the turn ends immediately. If your ball is sent off the same applies unless it either ran a hoop in order or made a roquet in the course of the stroke before going off. Note that there are no exceptions for the croqueted ball, not even if it is peeled through its next hoop before going off.

What happens if I play when not entitled to do so? This usually happens when the striker carries on playing after running a wrong hoop. All play from when the striker ceased to be entitled is cancelled and the balls are replaced in the positions at which play should have stopped. Any bisques used are re-instated. [SC – Beware on the ‘Hoop 3’ start - replacement can be very challenging – be alert.

What happens if a ball is wrongly pegged out and is removed from the court? The balls are replaced as they were before the error was committed and the player then in play continues without penalty.

How do I peg-out? You may not peg out your ball in a stroke unless, either before or during that stroke, the partner ball becomes a rover ball or an opponent’s ball is pegged out.

What happens to the score when balls have to be replaced because an error is discovered? The general rule is that any hoops scored after an error do not count if the balls have to be replaced. There are some exceptions to this if the error is discovered at a later stage but, in practice, errors are usually discovered at once or not at all.

What is a fault and what happens if I commit a fault? A fault is an error of execution in playing a stroke. The penalty is the immediate end to the turn and the cancellation of any hoops scored in the stroke. You must then ask your opponent if the balls should be left where they are or replaced as they were when the fault was committed. When opponent has advised which, you may then take a bisque [if you have any left].

A FAULT only happens during a stroke which is from the beginning of the backswing to when you quit your stance under control. If you jump up in the air to avoid the striker's ball hitting your foot and land on another ball, bad luck, it is still a fault because you were not 'under control’. The Laws list 16 faults but the most important ones are:

1.   Touching the head of the mallet with your hand.

2.   Failing to hit the striker's ball cleanly i.e. pushing, double-tapping and hitting the ball with the edge of the face in a hampered stroke.

3.   Crushing or squeezing the striker's ball against a hoop or the peg.

4.   Touching any ball with your clothes or any ball other than the striker's ball with the mallet.

5.   Failing to move or shake the croqueted ball in a croquet stroke.

Is there any redress if my opponent misplaces a clip and, as a result, I take a shot under a misapprehension about the state of the game? You are entitled to a replay if you realize what has happened before the second stroke of your opponent's next turn.

May I use a marker to help me play a ball to a particular spot? No. The only ‘marker’ you may use is your mallet. A doubles partner may indicate a spot while you take aim but must move away before you strike.

May I play a Bisque / Half Bisque if I am in play and ‘time’ is called? No. If you call for a bisque and then time is called before you take the shot you may not use the bisque i.e. your turn ends. If a ‘Golden Hoop’ situation occurs i.e. into Extra Time you may play an unused bisque.

How is a ball wired? A ball is said to be wired from another ball if;

the path of any part of the first ball to any part of the target ball is impeded by a hoop or the peg, or

if a hoop or the peg prevents a free swing of the mallet.

If a ball is wired from the other 3 then a lift is conceded. If you and your opponent agree it’s a lift fine – if you disagree, call a referee. See ‘Adjudicating Close Positions’ above.

NB: In Short Croquet, at turn end having played both or one of opponent’s balls and left them such that they are wired and do not have a clear shot, one to the other, you concede a lift – even if your balls are ‘open’ to the opponent’s balls. If you only played one of opponent’s balls leaving it wired your opponent may only lift the ball you played. [If opponent left a ball in a hoop i.e. wired, and you played the ‘open’ ball then your opponent may only lift the ball you played]. But note the requirement is not that the opponent has a clear shot one ball to the other but that the opponent is not wired one from the other. If one of your balls is on the line between opponent's ball a lift is NOT conceded.

1. Black is not wired from Blue because it’s left edge can hit the blue ball’s left edge.

2. Black is clearly wired from its partner ball and vice versa.

3. Black is wired from Blue because Black’s left edge cannot hit Blue’s left edge. It is only marginally wired but, it is wired. It may be unrealistic over any distance to want to cut Blue’s left edge with Black’s left edge but that is not relevant. It’s wired. It is ‘tight’ and the benefit of doubt is given to it being a wiring if necessary.

4. However close - Blue is in the hoop therefore, regardless, both are wired.

Are these all the laws? No. They are the basics and you should be familiar with them. If in doubt about any shot, check with your opponent and ensure you are both content with the intended course of action. If not – call a referee.

Notes on the 7th Edition Law Changes

Notes From Zoom Presentation on Saturday 6th March 2021 on the 7th Edition Laws

1.         I attended the Chiltern Academy Zoom meeting on the 7th Edition Laws presented by Cliff Jones. The ‘record’ facility was deactivated as concerns have arisen with regard to the General Data Protection Regulations [GDPR]. Consequently, I offer the notes below.

2.         Critical / Non-Critical Strokes

This is the major change. All it is really saying that if you are about to make a critical stroke then accidentally touching the ball, more likely if you are a ‘caster’, counts as the stroke. This is due to the fact that replacing the ball with absolute accuracy may not be possible. In such strokes a very small change in ball position may affect the shot outcome materially.

In all likelihood, the striker will be checking with his opponent to confirm whether or not the stroke is critical. If the shot is critical but does not necessarily warrant a referee then all the striker has to do is to ‘mark the ball’. This simple procedure has the important effect of making the shot non-critical as, now, the ball could be replaced accurately.

3          Laws Lacuna re Critical Strokes

Richard Wood, amongst others, has noted that the rewrite has, inadvertently, omitted a couple of crucial words at Law 8.5.2 / 3:

8.5.2 NON-CRITICAL STROKES In a non-critical stroke accidental contact between the mallet and a ball before the striker intended to strike the striker’s ball does not of itself constitute playing a stroke. After such accidental contact, Laws 8.5.2.1 to 8.5.2.3 apply.

1.     8.5.2.1 The striker must, if aware of the accidental contact, attempt to avoid any further contact between the mallet and the striker’s ball during the striking period.

2.     8.5.2.2 Nevertheless, if there is a further contact between the end-face of the mallet and the striker’s ball in the swing in which the striker intends to strike it, the stroke is played. Any prior accidental contact is ignored for the purposes of determining whether a fault was committed but is otherwise treated as part of the stroke.

3.     8.5.2.3 If Law 8.5.2.2 does not apply, the stroke is annulled. Any balls moved must be replaced and the striker may start a new stroke and striking period, except that the new stroke may not be any critical stroke that could have been an alternative to the annulled stroke.

This lacuna, effectively, means that any error committed in an annulled stroke is ignored. This is, obviously, unintended and it is anticipated that the Commentary will correct.

The Correction:

OFFICIAL RULINGS ON THE 7TH

EDITION OF THE LAWS OF

ASSOCIATION CROQUET

 

Law 8.5.2 and the reference to it in

Law 8.3 (April 2021)

The term “a ball” in the first sentence of Law 8.5.2 is to be interpreted as covering the striker’s ball and, if the stroke is a croquet stroke, the ball from which the striker is taking croquet. It does not cover any other ball that the mallet could contact during the stroke. The clause in that same sentence “before the striker intended to strike the striker’s ball” is to be interpreted as “before the final swing of the mallet towards the striker’s ball”.

4.         Faults Laws 29

Note the new ‘Exemptions & Limitations’ on Law 29.1 et seq.

Law:

29.1.1  touches the head of the mallet with a hand, or slides the mallet along the striker’s foot or leg to guide it (for exemptions see Laws 29.2.1 and 29.2.2);

29.2     Exemptions and Limitations

29.2.1  The fault of touching the head of the mallet in Law 29.1.1 is committed only if the striker touches the mallet head during the final swing of the mallet towards the ball.

Law:

29.1.2  rests the shaft of the mallet or a hand or arm on the ground, an outside agency, or any part of the striker’s legs or feet (for exemptions see Law 29.2)

Law 6th Edition said:

8.6 Law 28(a)(3) - 'rests the shaft of the mallet or a hand or arm directly connected with the stroke against any part of his legs or feet'

Exemptions and Limitations

29.2.2  A fault is not committed under Laws 29.1.1 or 29.1.2 if the touching, resting or sliding occurs after the striker has completed the swing in which the stroke was played.

BUT: the new law omits the caveat ‘directly connected’. This means you may no longer, for example, play a shot one-handed with the other hand supporting you on the ground.

Law:

29.1.6.1           to contact the striker’s ball more than once in a croquet stroke, or continuation stroke when the striker's ball is touching another ball (for exemptions see Law 29.2.4 and for limitations see Law 29.2.5); or

Exemptions and Limitations

29.2.5  A multiple contact between the mallet and the striker’s ball is a fault under Law 29.1.6.1 only if the striker or a referee or other person asked to adjudicate the stroke, aided by nothing more than spectacles or contact lenses, sees a separation between mallet and ball followed by a second contact between them.

Comment: No using a ‘slo mo’ camera to record the shot! But the caveat means, re ‘aids’, that the referee must be absolutely sure the requirements to call a fault are unquestionable. [Still tricky!]

The Exemptions and Limitations carry this ‘aids’ point on in 29.2.6. & 29.2.7

Law:

29.1.12 touches any ball with any part of the body;

6th Edition Laws – 28.16 Law 28(a)(13) 'touches any ball with any part of his body or clothes'

And the Commentary said: Note the definition of 'clothes' in Law 28(c). This includes a clip, so woe betide the striker whose clip falls off his pocket and hits a ball during the striking period.

As 29.1.2 omits the word ‘clothes’ the infamous clip dropping off your apparel and hitting a ball is no longer a fault!

5.         Close Positions

The new laws give firm instruction on how close situations should be adjudged and there is a new Table to assist.. To clarify – you may still call a referee if striker and opponent disagree.

NB. The ball on or off situation allowed for the ball to be declared ‘on’ where the linesman had ‘sneezed’ and caused a very definite ‘kink’ in the boundary line. This is no longer the case. Law 4.3, Boundaries, is much expanded to clarify which ‘edge’ when several line markings are visible and, importantly requires the on / off decision to be based on the definition highlighted below:

4.3       BOUNDARIES

4.3.1       The boundaries must be clearly marked. Where more than one boundary marking is visible and it is not obvious which one should be used, the most recent defines the actual boundary or, if that cannot be determined, the innermost defines the actual boundary. Exceptional cases may be dealt with under the overriding law (see Law 63). If the boundary marking is not straight, the actual boundary at any point is the straight line which best fits the inner edge of the boundary marking in the vicinity of that point.

6.         Lifts

When a ball is lawfully lifted and placed on the yard-line it may be placed in contact with another ball and croquet taken. Croquet may only be taken from the ball it touches on initial placement. This may be important if a ball is lifted when the balls, already on the yard line, are in corner 1 or 3, in contact, on the A or B Baulk yard line with the second ball, north or south respectively. The lifted ball may only be placed in contact with the ball on the baulk yard line. The balls may be re-arranged for the canon shot, but croquet can only be taken from the ball on the baulk yard line.

7.         Using a Ball that is an Outside Agency Law 33

Law 33 deals with a striker using a ball belonging to the double-banked game. It is straightforward. However, after defining the situations, note what law 33.1.2 says:

33.1.1 This interference occurs if it is discovered before the limit of claims that the striker has struck, or otherwise included in the game subject to the exclusions in Law 33.1.2, a ball that is an outside agency because it is:

33.1.1.1 a ball not belonging to the game; or

33.1.1.2 a ball of the game that has not yet become a ball in play; or

33.1.1.3 a ball of the game that has been pegged out and removed from the court.

33.1.2        Law 33.1.1 does not apply to any attempt to roquet a ball from a game that is double-banked on the court, nor to any croquet stroke played with the objective of roqueting a ball from that double-banked game in the next stroke.

Having just missed the deadline for laws suggestions I contacted Ian Vincent, the UK Rep on the World Croquet Laws Committee on the subject and his response is below and was endorsed at Saturday’s meeting:

From: Ian Vincent <ian.vincent@cantab.net

Sent: 06 October 2020 22:57

To: Chris Donovan <chris@navonod.plus.com>
Subject: Re: AC - Deliberately Playing a Ball of the other Game when Double-Banked

Dear Chris,

You are right that this situation is not covered by the current, 6th Edition, Laws, which is why it is confusing and that inconsistent rulings are given.  I think the ruling usually given is the one you describe: that the striker has played a valid stroke and (if the double-banked ball is roqueted) suffered interference from it, with no replay available.

The proposed 7th Edition attempts to improve on this by treating the situation as an additional type of interference.

Law 30.1 was carried forward from the 6th Edition and is intended to prevent e.g. an opponent kicking a ball just before the striker is about to roquet it.  It is not intended to disable the new Law 33.

I am currently proof-reading the commentary for the new Edition, and will suggest that this situation is included as an example.

Best wishes, Ian.

8.         Interferences

Discussion on interference by a double-banked ball hitting balls in the other game was discussed. This followed the discussion on critical / non-critical strokes. The agreed, far from perfect, remedy for when this happens is to guestimate where the errant ball would have ended-up and the struck ball is replaced as accurately as memory allows. Often this is most unsatisfactory. This is not to ignore the possible replay laws but, more often than not, it is the Double-banked ball striking a stationary ball. Unsurprisingly, the meeting concluded that the best rule is ‘if in doubt mark it’ because we all know ‘if something can go wrong, it will’.

9.         Time Limited Games - Precedence

The Laws now state who takes precedence when double-banked games get in each other’s way. A welcome clarification:

59        DOUBLE-BANKED GAMES

 

59.2     PRECEDENCE Except when a ball in a critical position may interfere with play in the other game as specified in Law 59.3.2, precedence should normally be given to players in the following order:

59.2.1     to a player who will not require balls from another game to be marked and moved;

59.2.2     to a player who is most likely to get clear of the relevant area first;

59.2.3     to a player who is making a break;

59.2.4     to a player of a game that is time limited and has less than 15 minutes remaining; if both games are in that state, to the player whose game has less time remaining.

10.       Restoration of Time

Again, much more detail. Does a ‘call of nature’ constitute ”becoming unable to play owing to illness…” in older players?  Answers on a post card please!

61.4     SUSPENSION OF TIME Unless otherwise specified in tournament regulations or event conditions, time is suspended only if play ceases for any of the following reasons:

61.4.1     REFEREEING a refereeing event such as resetting equipment or repairing damage, but not normally for testing for wiring nor merely when a referee is called to watch a stroke;

61.4.2     LOST BALL a lost ball being searched for or replaced;

61.4.3     PLAYER UNAVAILABLE a player having been called away on official tournament duties or becoming unable to play owing to illness or injury;

61.4.4     ADJOURNMENT the game being pegged down or the players taking a meal break;

61.4.5     OTHER DELAY any other event or situation, including weather and disruption by double-banking, that leads to a delay of at least 5 minutes.

It was agreed that 61.4.3 applied when a playing referee was called away and did not return when his turn otherwise started.

11.       Equipment – Hoops

Law 5.2 Hoops, is much expanded at 5.2.3 on hoop adjustment. It is now specific that protruding ‘carrots’ that may impede a stroke may be corrected, i.e. knocked in.  It is perfectly acceptable that, to preserve the initial hoop setting carrot are left slightly protruding above ground level if the passage of the ball through the hoop is not impeded.  However, a tight shot affected by protruding carrots can be remedied if striker requests. Usual caveat re other ball positions etc still stand.

Closing Remarks

I regret written explanation takes so much longer than face to face discussion but, I hope, the above is helpful.  There is much to be put into an A6 Laws Booklet and it will be interesting to see how thick it is!  The Commentary is hoped to be published simultaneously.

Chris Donovan

Chairman Sidmouth CC                                                                                                                                 8 March 2021

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