BASIC RULES FOR NINE-WICKET CROQUET
This is the first widespread publication of the USCA's new rules for Backyard Croquet, recommended for most casual play on the traditional double-diamond, two-stake court setting.
- For 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 players.
- Marked boundaries are optional.
- Wickets may be up to twice as wide as the ball.
- For all terrains, but level, short grass is best.
- Game Overview
- The standard double-diamond rectangular court (shown at right) officially
measuring 50' wide and 100 feet long, may be reduced to fit the size and
shape of the space available. (If you reduce the court, try to maintain
a six-foot separation between the Starting/Turning stake and the adjacent
wickets; a shorter distance constricts the playing space and affects game
The game is designed for up to six balls, and may be played with any
number of players from two to six. There are always either four balls (two on each side)
or six balls (three on each side).
A game usually requires from one to two hours to play to its conclusion
- that is, until one of the players or teams has "staked out"
by scoring all the wickets and striking the Finishing Stake with all the
balls on its side.
- The Sides
- There are always only two sides,with the "hot colors"
(red/yellow/orange) competing against the "cool colors" (blue/black/green).
When only four balls are played, the sides are blueblack against redyellow.
- The Players
- When the number of players equals the number of balls on a side, each
player plays only one ball throughout the game. When the number of players
does not equal the number of balls on a side, the players on that side
alternate turns and may play any one ball on their side in a turn. Team
captains may be chosen, and players may confer to decide which ball should
be played in each turn.
- With two players, each of them plays all the balls on a side.
- Starting The Game
- A coin-toss gives the winning side the choice of playing first or second.
Each of the balls must be brought into play in the first round of turns,
in the order of the colors on the stake: blue/red/black/yellow/green/orange.
The starting "tee" is one mallet-length in front of Wicket #1.
- The Turn
- A turn consists of one stroke plus any additional bonus strokes earned
by the ball in play. After the first round of turns, a side may play any one of its balls
in each turn.
At the conclusion of a turn in which a wicket or stake point is scored,
the wicket clip of the color corresponding to the ball should be placed
on the next wicket or stake to be scored by that ball. (If your set does
not include wicket clips, you may use colored clothespins.)
- Bonus Strokes
- There are two ways to earn bonus strokes: by scoring wicket and stake
points or by hitting (also called "roqueting") an opponent's
ball with the ball in play.
- Wicket or Stake Bonus Stroke
- One bonus stroke is earned for passing through your proper wicket in
the order of the course. One bonus stroke is earned for striking the Turning
Stake after scoring Wicket #7. These strokes must be played from where
the ball lies after the point is made. No bonus stroke is earned by a ball
that "pegs out" by striking the Finishing Stake.
- Roquet Bonus Strokes
- You get two bonus strokes when your ball hits (or roquets) a ball of
the other side.
- The Croquet Stroke is the first of these, played either in contact
with the roqueted ball or from one mallet-head's distance, The contact
Croquet Stroke is played by placing your ball in contact with the ball
you hit (roqueted) and striking your ball to make both your ball (the striker's
ball) and the other ball (the croqueted ball) move. If you wish, you may
place your foot on top of your ball to keep it place while you strike it,
sending the croqueted ball in the desired direction.
(Note: You may choose to "outlaw" contact Croquet Strokes
to help equalize playing levels and prevent stronger players dominating
- The Continuation Stroke is the second of the two roquet bonus
strokes, and it is played from wherever the striker's ball lies after the
At the beginning of every turn, a player is eligible to roquet any opponent
ball(s). Each opponent ball may be roqueted for bonus strokes only once
in a turn, unless the striker scores a wicket (or the Turning Stake). Scoring
a point entitles the striker to roquet each of the opponent balls again,
and a skillful player may score several wickets in one turn.
Bonus strokes may not be accumulated: Only the last-earned bonus stroke(s)
may be played. On the Croquet Stroke, if the striker's ball clears a wicket,
the Continuation Bonus Stroke is lost, and only the Wicket Bonus Sroke
may be the played. On the Croquet Stroke, if the striker's ball roquets
another ball on which it is entitled to take bonus strokes, the Continuation
Stroke from the first roquet is lost, and you are entitled only to the
two newly earned bonus strokes.
If your ball clears a wicket and in the same stroke hits an opponent
ball on the other side of the wicket, the hit does not count as a roquet;
you may, however, choose to then roquet the opponent ball with your Wicket
There is one exception to the rule against accumulating bonus strokes:
You may earn two bonus strokes by scoring two wickets in one stroke. (This
commonly occurs at the Starting Stake and the Turning Stake, when you may
score both wickets in one stroke so you can use the two consecutive bonus
strokes earned to attack the position of the other side(s).
If another player sends your ball through its proper wicket (or into
its stake), your ball does score the point; however, there is no bonus
stroke. Bonus strokes may be earned only by the ball in play during its
- Rover Balls
- Rovers are balls which have completed all the
course except for striking the Finishing Stake. Rovers may be staked out
- that is, driven into the Finishing Stake - with any legal stroke by any
player at any point in the game.
- Winning the Game
- The side which scores all the wickets and strikes
the Finishing Stake with all its balls wins the game. In timed games, the
side with the most points wins when time is called; each wicket or stake
scored by each ball counts for a point. If there is a tie, keep playing
until one side scores a point and thus wins the game.
- String or other marked boundaries for the nine-wicket
court shown in the illustration are not essential. Natural boundaries such
as a sidewalk, a precipitous cliff, the surf line, or the neighbor's petunia
bed will work as well. To forestall disputes, make specific agreements
on boundaries before starting.
Boundaries designated by a string or special markings
should be at least 6 feet beyond the outer wickets and stakes.
- Boundary Balls
- All balls sent out of bounds are brought to the
point where they crossed the designated Boundary and placed one mallet-length
inside the court before play resumes. There is no penalty or loss of strokes
for sending any ball out of bounds. Out-of-bounds balls are simply placed
in bounds, and play resumes. All balls that come to rest within the Boundary
Margin - closer than a mallet-length to the Boundary - are immediately
replaced on the Boundary Margin, with the one exception of the striker's
ball still in play on a Continuation Stroke or a Wicket Bonus Stroke, which
is played from from wherever it lies within the Boundary Margin.
- Faults and Penalties
- You must strike the ball only with the face of
the mallet. The mallet may not touch any other ball except the striker's,
nor may it strike a wicket or stake, nor may it "crush" a ball
against a wicket or stake to make the stake or wicket bend or move.
There are no penalties for faults. Out-of-turn
plays and all faults should be corrected by replacing the balls to their
positions before the fault occurred and replaying the shots correctly.
Unless there is a previously appointed referee,
the word of the striker should be accepted in disputes. In disagreements
on replacement of balls to replay fouled strokes, the offending side must
accept the judgment of the opponent.
These rules were written by Bob Alman for the United States Croquet
Association. The USCA, by vote of the Management Committee, recommends
these rules to backyard croquet players and manufacturers of backyard
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