CROQUET (from Fr. croc, a crook, or crooked stick), a lawn game played with balls, mallets, hoops and two pegs. The game has been evolved, according to some writers, from the paillemaille which was played in Languedoc at least as early as the 13th century. Under the name of lejeu de la crosse, or la crosserie, a. similar game was at the same period immensely popular in Normandy, and especially at Avranches, but the object appears to have been to send the ball as far as possible by driving it with the mallet (see Sports et jeux d'adresse, 1904, p. 203). Pall Mall, a fashionable game in England in the time of the Stuarts, was played with a ball and a mallet, and with two hoops or a hoop and a peg, the game being won by the player who ran the hoop or hoops and touched the peg under certain conditions in the fewest strokes. Croquet certainly has some resemblance to paille-maille, played with more hoops and more balls. It is said that the game was brought to Ireland from the south of France, and was first played on Lord Lonsdale's lawn in 1852, under the auspices of the eldest daughter of Sir Edmund Macnaghten. It came to England in 1856, -or perhaps a few years earlier, and soon became popular.
In 1868 the first all-comers' meeting was held at Moreton-inthe-Marsh. In the same year the All England Croquet Club was formed, the annual contest for the championship taking place en the grounds of this club at Wimbledon. 1 But after being for ten years or so the most popular game for the country house and garden party, croquet was in its turn practically ousted by lawn tennis, until, with improved implements and a more scientific form of play, it was revived about 1894-1895. In 1896-1897 was formed the United All England Croquet Association, on the initiative of Mr Walter H. Peel. Under the name of the Croquet Association, with more than 2000 members and nearly a hundred affiliated clubs (1909), this body is the recognized ruling authority on croquet in the British Islands. Its headquarters are at the Roehampton Club, where the championship and champion cup competitions are held each year.
1 This was largely the work of W. T. Whitmore-Jones (1831-1872), generally known as W. Jones Whitmore, who subsequently formed the short-lived National Croquet Club, and was largely responsible for the first codification of the laws.
The Game and its Implements. The requisites for croquet are a level grass lawn, six hoops, two posts or pegs, balls, mallets, and hoop-clips to mark the progress of the players. The usual game is played between two sides, each having two balls, the side consisting of two players in partnership, each playing one ball, or of one player playing both balls. The essential characteristic of croquet is the scientific combination between two balls in partnership against the other two. The balls are distinguished by being coloured blue, red, black and yellow, and are played in that order, blue and black always opposing the other two.
The ground for match play measures 35 yds. by 28 yds., and should be carefully marked out with white lines. In each corner a white spot is marked i yd. from each boundary. The hoops are made of round iron, not less than % in. and not more than J in. in diameter, and standing 12 in. out of the ground. For match play they are 3! or 4 in. across, inside measurement. They are set up as in the accompanying diagram, the numbers and arrows indicating the order and direction in which they must be passed. Each hoop is run twice, and each peg struck once. The pegs may be struck from any direction.
Fig. I. Diagram of croquet ground, showing setting of hoops and pegs, and order of play in accordance with the official Laws (1909) of the Croquet Association.
The pegs are ij in. in diameter and when fixed stand 18 in. above the ground. The balls were formerly made of boxwood (earlier still of beechwood) ; composition balls are now in general use for tournaments. They must be 3! in. in diameter and 15 oz. to i6 oz. in weight. It will be seen that for match play the hoops are only f or at the most f in. wider than the diameter of the ball. The mallets may be of any size and weight, but the head must be made of wood (metal may be used only for weighting or strengthening purposes), and the ends must be parallel and similar. Only one mallet may be used in the course of a game, except in the case of bona fide damage.
The object of the player is to score the points of the game by striking his ball through each of the hoops and against each of the pegs in a fixed order; and the side wins which first succeeds in scoring all the points with both the balls of the side. A metal clip corresponding in colour with the player's ball is attached to the hoop or peg which that ball has next to make in the proper order, as a record of its progress in the game. No point is scored by passing through a hoop or hitting a peg except in the proper order. Thus, if a player has in any turn or turns driven his ball successively through hoops i, 2, and 3, his clip is attached to
hoop 4, and the next point to be made by him will be that hoop; and so on till all the points (hoops and pegs) have been scored. Each player starts in turn from any point in a " baulk " or area 3 ft. wide along the left-hand half of the " southern " boundary, marked A on the diagram, of the lawn till 1906, from a point i ft. in front of the middle of hoop i. If he fails either to make a point or to " roquet " * (i.e. drive his ball against) another ball in play, his turn is at an end and the next player in order takes his turn in like manner. If he succeeds in scoring a point, he is entitled (as in billiards) to another stroke; he may then either attempt to score another point, or he may roquet a ball. Having roqueted 'a ball provided he has not already roqueted the same ball in the same turn without having scored a point in the interval he is entitled to two further strokes: first he must " take croquet," i.e. he places his own ball (which from the moment of the roquet is " dead " or " in hand ") in contact with the roqueted ball on any side of it, and then strikes his own ball with his mallet, being bound to move or shake both balls perceptibly. If at the beginning of a turn the striker's ball is in contact with another ball, a " roquet " is held to have been made and " croquet " must be taken at once. After taking croquet the striker is entitled to another stroke, with which he may score another point, or roquet another ball not previously roqueted in the same turn since a point was scored, or he may play for safety. Thus, by skilful alternation of making points and roqueting balls, a " break " may be made in which point after point, and even all the points in the game (for the ball in play), may be scored in a single turn, in addition to 3 or 4 points for the partner ball. The chief skill in the game perhaps consists in playing the stroke called " taking croquet " (but see below on the " rush "). Expert players can drive both balls together from one end of the ground to the other, or send one to a distance while retaining the other, or place each with accuracy in different directions as desired, the player obtaining position for scoring a point or roqueting another ball according to the strategicalrequirements of his position. Care has, however, to be taken in playing the croquet-stroke that both balls are absolutely moved or perceptibly shaken, and that neither of them be driven over the boundary line, for in either event the player's next stroke is forfeited and his turn brought summarily to an end.
There are three distinct methods of holding the mallet among good players. A comparatively small number still adhere to the once universal " side stroke," in which the player faces more or less at right angles to the line of aim, and strikes the ball very much like a golfer, with his hands close together on the mallet shaft. The majority use " front play," in which the player faces in the direction in which he proposes to send the ball. The essential characteristic of this stroke is that eye, hand and ball should be in the same vertical plane, and the stroke is rather a swing the " pendulum stroke " than a hit. There are two ways of playing it. The majority of right-handed front players swing the mallet outside the right foot, holding it with the left hand as a pivot at the top of the shaft, while the right hand (about 1 2 in. lower down) applies the necessary force, though it must always be borne in mind that the heavy mallet-head, weighing from 3 to 35 Ib or even more, does the work by itself, and the nearer the stroke is to a simple swing, like that of a pendulum, the more likely it is to be accurate. Either the right or the left foot may be in advance, and should be roughly parallel to the line of aim, the player's weight being mainly on the rear foot. Most of the best Irish and some English players swing the mallet between their feet, using a grip like that of the side player or golfer, with the hands close together, and often interlocking. It is claimed that the loss of power caused by the hampered swing usually compensated by an extra heavy mallet is more than counterbalanced by the greater accuracy in aim. The beginner is well advised to try all these methods, and adopt that which comes most natural to him. Skirted players, of course, are unable to use the Irish stroke; and, as one of the most meritorious features of croquet is that it is the only out-of-door game in which men and women can compete on terms of real equality, this has been put forward as a reason for barring it, if it is actually an advantage.
1 The words " roquet " and " croquet " are pronounced as in French, with the t mute.
When a croquet ground is thoroughly smooth and level, the game gives scope for considerable skill; a great variety of strokes may be played with the mallet, each having its own well-defined effect on the behaviour of the balls, while a knowledge of angles is essential. Skilful tactics are at least as necessary as skilful execution to enable the player so to dispose the balls on the ground while making a break that they may most effectively assist him in scoring his points. The tactics of croquet are in this respect similar to those of billiards, that the player tries to make what progress he can during his own break, and to leave the balls " safe " at the end of it; he must also keep in mind the needs of the other ball of his side by leaving his own ball, or the last player's ball, or both, within easy roqueting distance or in useful positions, and that of the next player isolated. Good judgment is really more valuable than mechanical skill. Croquet is a game of combination, partners endeavouring to keep together for mutual help, and to keep their opponents apart. It is important always to leave the next player in such a position that he will be unable to score a point or roquet a ball; a break, however profitable, which does not end by doing this is often fatal. Formerly this might be done by leaving the next player's ball in such a position that either a hoop or a peg lay between it and all the other balls (" wiring "), or so near to a hoop or peg that there was no room for a proper stroke to be taken in the required direction. Under rule 36 of the Laws of Croquet for 1906, a ball left in such a position, provided it were within a yard of the obstacle (" close-wired "), might at the striker's option be moved one yard in any direction. This rule left to the striker whose ball was " wired " more than a yard from the hoop or peg (" distance-wired ") the possibility of hitting his ball in such a way as to jump the obstacle. The jump-shot is, however, very bad for the lawn, and in 1907 a further provision was made by which the player whose ball is left " wired " from all the other balls by the stroke of an opponent may lift it and play from the " baulk " area. This practically means that " wiring " is impossible. The most that can be done is to "closewire " the next player from two balls and leave him with a difficult shot at the third. If, however, the next player's ball has not been moved by the adversary, the adversary is entitled to wire the balls as best he can.
The following is a specimen of elementary croquet tactics. If a player is going up to hoop 5 (diagram i) in the course of a break, he should have contrived, if possible, to have a ball waiting for him at that hoop and another at hoop 6. With the aid of the first he runs hoop 5 and sends it on to the turning peg, stopping his ball in taking croquet close to the ball at 6. The corner hoops are the difficult ones, and after running hoop 6 the assisting ball is croqueted to i back, the peg being struck with the aid of the ball already there, which is again struck and driven to 2 back. If the player has been able to leave the fourth ball in the centre of the ground (known as a centre ball), he hits this after taking croquet, takes croquet, going off it to the ball at i back, and continues the break, leaving the centre ball where it will be useful for 3 back and 4 back. A first-class player should, however, be able to make a break with 3 balls almost as easily as with 4. A useful device, especially in a losing game, is to get rid of the opponent's advanced ball if a " rover " (i.e. one which has run all the hoops and is for the winning peg) by croqueting it in such a way that it hits the peg and is thus out of the game. This can be done only by a ball which is itself also a rover. The opponent has then only one turn out of every three, and may be rendered practically helpless by leaving him always in a " safe " position. Inasmuch as a skilful player can cause an opponent's ball to pass through the last two or even three hoops in the course of his turn and then peg it out, it is considered prudent to leave unrun the last three hoops until the partner's ball is well advanced. There is a perennial agitation in the croquet world for a law prohibiting the player from pegging out his opponent's ball. Many good players also think it desirable that the four-ball break should be restricted or wholly forbidden, e.g. by barring the dead ball.
To " rush " a ball is to roquet it hard so that it proceeds for a considerable distance in a desired direction. This stroke requires absolute accuracy and often considerable force, which must be applied in such a way as to drive the player's ball evenly; otherwise it is very liable, especially if the ground be not perfectly smooth, to jump the object ball. The rush stroke is absolutely essential to good play, as it enables croquet to be taken (e.g.) close to the required hoop, whereas to croquet into position from a great distance and also provide a ball for use after running the hoop is extremely difficult, often impossible. To " rush " successfully, the striker's ball must lie near the object ball, preferably, though not necessarily, in the line of the rush. By means of the rush it is possible to accomplish the complete round with the assistance of one ball only. To " cut " a ball is to hit it on the edge and cause it to move at some desired angle. " Rolling croquet " is made either by hitting near the top of the player's ball which gives it " follow," or by making the mallet so hit the ball as to keep up a sustained pressure. The first impact must, however, result in a distinctly audible single tap; if a prolonged rattle or a second tap is heard the stroke is foul. The passing stroke is merely an extension of this. Here the player's ball proceeds a greater distance than the croqueted ball, but in somewhat the same direction. The " stop stroke " is made by a short, sharp tap, the mallet being withdrawn immediately after contact; the player's ball only rolls a short distance, the other going much farther. The " jump stroke " is made by striking downwards on to the ball, which can thus be made to jump over another ball, or even a hoop. " Peeling " (a term derived from Walter H. Peel, a famous advocate of the policy) is the term applied to the device of putting a partner's or an opponent's ball through the hoops with a view to ultimately pegging it out.
The laws of croquet, and even the arrangement of the hoops, have not attained complete uniformity wherever the game is played. Croquet grounds are not always of full size, and some degree of elasticity in the rules is perhaps necessary to meet local conditions. The laws by which matches for the championship and all tournaments are governed are issued annually by the Croquet Association; and though from fime to time trifling amendments may be made, they have probably reached permanence in essentials.
See The Encyclopaedia of Sport; The Complete Croquet Player (London, 1896) ; the latest Laws of Croquet, published annually by the Croquet Association, and its official organ The Croquet Gazette. For the principles of the game and its history in England, see C. D. Locock, Modern Croquet Tactics (London, 1907) ; A. Lillie, Croquet up to Date (London, 1900).
Croquet in the United States : Roque. Croquet was brought to America from England soon after its introduction into that country, and enjoyed a wide popularity as a game for boys and girls before the Civil War (see Miss Alcott's Little Women, cap. 12). American croquet is quite distinct from the modern English game. It is played on a lawn 60 ft. by 30, and preserves the old-fashioned English arrangement of ten hoops, including a central " cage " of two hoops. The balls, coloured red, white, blue and black, are 3j in. in diameter, and the hoops are from 35 to 4 in. wide, according to the skill of the players. This game, however, is not taken seriously in the United States; the Official Croquet Guide of Mr Charles Jacobus emphasizes " the ease with which the game can be established," since almost every country home has a grass plot, and " no elaboration is needed." The scientific game of croquet in the United States is known as " roque." Under this title a still greater departure from the English game has been elaborated on quite independent lines from those of the English Croquet Association since 1882, in which year the National Roque Association was formed. Roque also suffered from the popularity of lawn tennis, but since 1897 it has developed almost as fast as croquet in England. A great national championship tournament is held in Norwich, Conn.,
every August, and the game which is fully as scientific as modern English croquet has numerous devotees, especially in New England.
Roque is played, not on grass, but on a prepared surface something like a cinder tennis-court. The standard ground, as adopted by the National Association in 1903, is hexagonal in shape, with ten arches (hoops) and two stakes (pegs) as shown in diagram 2. The length is 60 ft., width 30, and the " corner pieces " are 6 ft. long. An essential feature of the ground is that it is surrounded by a raised wooden border, often lined with india-rubber to facilitate the rebound of the ball, and it is permissible to play a " carom " (or rebounding shot) off this border; a skilful player can often thus hit a ball which is wired to a direct shot. A boundary line is marked 28 in. inside the border, on which a ball coming to rest outside it must be replaced. The hoops are run in the order marked on the diagram, so that the game consists of 36 points. Red and white are always partners against blue and black, and the essential features and tactics of the game are, mutatis mutandis, the same as in modern English croquet i.e. the skilful player goes always for a break and utilizes one or both of the opponent's balls in making it. The balls are 3 1/4 in. in diameter, of hard rubber or composition, and the arches are 3 3/8 or 3 1/2 in. wide for first and second-class players respectively; they are made of steel 2 in. in diameter and stand about 8 in. out of the ground. The stakes are 1 in. in diameter and only ij in. above the ground. The mallets are much shorter than those commonly employed in England, the majority of players using only one hand, though the two-handed " pendulum stroke," played between the legs, finds an increasingly large number of adherents, on account of the greater accuracy which it gives. The " jump shot " is a necessary part of the player's equipment, as. dead wiring is allowed; it is supplemented by the carom off the border or off a stake or arch, and roque players justly claim that their game is more like billiards than any other out-of-door game.
Fig. 2. Diagram of roque ground, showing setting of arches and stakes and order of play, in accordance, with the official laws (1906) of the National Roque Association. The game of roque is opened by scoring (stringing) for lead from an imaginary line through the middle wicket (cage), the player whose ball rests nearest the southern boundary line having the choice of lead and balls. The balls are then placed on the four corner spots marked A in diagram, partner balls being diagonally opposite one another, and the starting ball having the choice of either of the upper corners. The leader, say red, usually begins by shooting at white; if he misses, a carom off the border will leave him somewhere near his partner, blue. White then shoots at red or blue, with probably a similar result. Blue is then " in," with a certain roquet and the choice of laying for red or going for an immediate break himself. The general strategy of the game corresponds to that of croquet, the most important differences being that " pegging out " is not allowed, and that on the small ground with its ten arches and two stakes the three-ball break is usually adopted, the next player or "danger ball" being wired at the earliest opportunity.
See Spalding's Official Roque Guide, edited by Mr Charles Jacobus (New York, 1906).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)