Most Americans don’t know anything about croquet that they didn’t learn from watching Alice play against the Queen of Hearts. But croquet is an intellectually challenging lawn game perfect for a warm afternoon in the sun. Experimental Wifery explains how to add croquet to your next summer party.
How to Play Croquet
There are many different ways to play croquet, but follow these simple rules for a fun introduction to the game.
What You’ll Need
To play a basic game of croquet, you’ll need
- 2-6 players
- A large, open, relatively-flat grassy area
- A mallet for each player
- A ball for each player
- 9 wickets
- 2 goal stakes
Croquet sets are easy to find on-line, but vary widely in quality. Try to borrow a set or look at yard sales and thrift stores before investing in a nice set of your own.
How to Set Up the Field
Determine a play area. A field should be about 100 feet by 50 feet on relatively even ground, but you can improvise with the space and terrain you have.
- Set 1 goal stake at the upper end of the field. Place 2 wickets in a straight line in front of the goal stake, about 1 foot apart from each other.
- Place another wicket in line with the first 2 wickets half-way down the field.
- Set up the second goal stake to mirror the first goal stake and wickets at the opposite end of the field.
- Place 1 wicket half-way between the top and center wickets, about 6 feet from the edge of the playing field. Use the remaining 3 wickets to form the other 3 corners of a square.
How to Play
- Ball color determines play order: blue, red, black, yellow, green, and orange. The blue player places her ball half-way between the center wicket and the top stake. Throughout the game, she will use the face of her mallet to hit her ball through the wickets, but she must do it in the correct order:
- Pass first through the 2 wickets in front of the top stakes. Strike the stake and pass back through those 2 wickets.
- Pass through the wicket in the upper-left-hand corner of the field, the center wicket, and the wicket in the lower-left-hand corner of the field.
- Pass through the 2 wickets in front of the bottom stake. Strike the stake and pass back through those 2 wickets.
- Pass through the wicket in the lower-right-hand corner of the field, the center wicket, and the wicket in the upper-right-hand corner of the field.
- Pass through the 2 wickets in front of the top stake. Strike the stake to win the game.
- Once the blue player has made her stroke, play passes to the red player. Players usually get one stroke per turn, unless they have earned bonus strokes. Players can earn bonus strokes a couple of ways:
- Passing through both wickets at the top or bottom of the field or roqueting earns 2 bonus strokes.
- Going through any other wicket or hitting a stake earn 1 bonus point.
- Roqueting is what makes croquet exciting. When one player roquets another player’s ball, she hits it with her ball. (Hitting another player’s ball with her mallet is strictly against the rules.) Once a player has roqueted another player’s ball, she has 4 options:
- She may place her own ball 1 mallet-head-length away from the ball she hit, in any direction. In this case, she gets no second bonus hit.
- She may take her 2 bonus strokes from wherever her ball lands.
- She may put her ball directly next to the ball she hit and then hit her own ball so that both balls move in a desired direction.
- She may put her ball directly next to the ball she hit and then put her foot on her own ball. By hitting her own ball with her mallet, she can send the other ball hurtling off course in another direction. Hitting another player’s ball this way is probably the most interesting aspect of croquet.
- A player may roquet each other player’s ball only once per turn, unless she passes through a wicket or hits a stake.
- If a player roquets another player’s ball through a wicket or into a stake, the ball’s owner gets credit for passing through that wicket but no bonus strokes.
- If a ball goes out of bounds, the ball’s owner should lay her mallet along the edge of the playing field and place the ball on the other end of the mallet—about 36 inches from the edge of the field.
How to Win
You win croquet by being the first player to pass through all the wickets in the correct order and return to the stake at which play began.
The rules outlined here are only an introduction to the varied world of croquet. In fact, many croquet players compare croquet to chess–another game that is relatively easy to learn but takes a lifetime to master. Look for variations that involve teams, different numbers of wickets, and alternative set-up. Learn more about croquet or play a game for yourself.
What are your favorite summer sports? Let us know in the comments.