About croquet

About Croquet

Croquet is a very old game that had its beginnings in the early 1400's. Below is a brief history of the game. England developed the initial rules of the game in the mid 1800's and the game is now played in about 26 countries around the world. Australia was an early adopter of the game and now has about 8,000 players of which just under 3,000 are in NSW. Since its early beginnings, croquet has evolved into 5 different codes and the rules formalised to provide the modern games.

Croquet is a game that can be played by people as young as 10 but it is an ideal game for those in the senior age group. It one of the few games that can be played by people into their 80’s and, with the population in Australia ageing, its popularity is growing. It can be played equally well by men and women. It is a game that provides moderate physical exercise with a fair amount of mental stimulation and has been recommended by the American Heart Association for its cardiovascular benefits.

Each of the games involves skill in hitting a ball and tactics to outwit the opposition. It can be a 'no holds barred' battle on grass, as each team attempts to 'win' more hoops than their opponent - but in a very civilised way. It has been described as 'a nasty game played by nice people'. Croquet can be played competitively or socially. Individual clubs, as well as the state organisation, hold regular tournaments and carnivals to allow competitive players to pit their skills against players from other clubs. A handicapping system helps level the score between players of different skills. Croquet players tend to be intelligent, positive thinkers with a good sense of humour. It is a very enjoyable and sociable game to play.

With the exception of Gateball, croquet is played on a level lawn which measures 35 yards (32 metres) by 28 yards (25.6 metres). A gateball lawn is smaller than a standard croquet lawn. Croquet lawns are usually tranquil places, often surrounded by trees or gardens, and are pleasant places to while away an hour or 3.

Croquet is a relatively inexpensive sport to play and, apart from suitable clothing, the only equipment to be purchased is a mallet (cost between $100 and $800). For new players, clubs usually have mallets available for loan. Most clubs charge a modest annual fee, plus a daily green fee (usually in the range of $3 to $8).

Croquet clubs are located in most centres in NSW and anyone wishing to try the sport should contact their nearest club. Here is a list of all clubs with their contacts.

Croquet NSW

Croquet NSW is the State organisation responsible for promoting, organising and developing the sport of Croquet in NSW. It also is charged with maintaining a uniform handicapping system and coordinating croquet activities throughout the state. Croquet NSW is affiliated with, and a member of, the Australian Croquet Association Inc (ACA) which is responsible for maintaining the rules of the game(s) of croquet throughout Australia.

The state organisation is managed by several specialist committees reporting to an Executive Committee with all decisions being ratified by a council consisting of delegates from individual croquet clubs.

As at September 2011, there were 68 affiliated croquet clubs throughout the state with just under 3,000 members in total.

Croquet NSW is headquartered at Mackey Park, Tempe, adjacent to the Tempe railway station. Here are its contact details. The organisation has 3 lawns which are used for competition play.

Croquet NSW headquarters at Tempe NSW. The area is shared with the Concordia German club

History of the Game

It is clear that Croquet is a very old game with some indications of it being played as early as the 14th century.

There is some controversy about how it came to England, one possibility being that it was introduced from France via a game called Paille Maille or Pall Mall during the reign of King Charles II in the mid 1600's. In his book entitled "The sports and pastimes of the people of England", Joseph Strutt describes the way Pall Mall was played in England in 1611: "'Paille-maille is a game wherein a round box ball is struck with a mallet through a high arch of iron, with the fewest blows, or at the number agreed upon, wins.' It is to be observed, that there are two of these arches, that is 'one at either end of the alley.' In Samuel Johnson's 1828 dictionary his definition of "Pall mall" clearly describes a game with similarities to modern croquet: "A play in which the ball is struck with a mallet through an iron ring". Despite these similarities it is now believed that Pall Mall was more likely to have been the forerunner of Golf (although it is possible that Pall Mall was introduced to Ireland from France and the Irish may have developed Crookey from it.)

It is more likely that Croquet came to England from Ireland in the 1850's. Records show the similar game of "crookey" being played in Ireland in 1834 and 1835. A reference in the 'Irish Daily Mail' in 1835 shows the spelling as 'croquet'.

There is some dispute whether it was a Mr Spratt or John Jaques who first introducing the game in England. There is little doubt, however, that John Jaques won a place in the history of the sport by winning a gold medal (still in the Jaques family's possession) for introducing croquet to England in the Great Exhibition in 1851. Jaques developed the first rules for the game in 1861 and his company, 'Jaques and Son' manufactured and sold croquet equipment. Jaques London still (in 2011) provides a range of croquet equipment.

In 1865, Lewis Carroll, a Jaques Family relation and avid croquet player, wrote the famous novel "Alice in Wonderland" which included a chapter where Alice plays croquet with the Queen of Hearts using live flamingos as mallets and hedgehogs as balls.

Croquet became popular, particularly amongst women, as it was the first game that women could play outdoors in the company of men, although early games were carefully chaperoned. The game's popularity grew in the 1860's where garden parties began to be called croquet parties.

In 1866, Walter Whitmore wrote a book called 'The Field' which codified the rules and discussed the different types of strokes. He is considered to be the father of modern croquet.

1868 saw the formation of the All England Croquet Club with the purpose of creating an official body to control the game and unify the laws. They needed to find a ground and in 1869 leased four acres in Wimbledon. The first croquet competition was held at Wimbledon in 1870.

Croquet went into a decline in the 1880's because women felt that it had become too scientific and the new game of 'Sphairistrike', soon to be known as lawn tennis, became very popular. One of Wimbledon's croquet lawns was set aside for lawn tennis in 1877 and thus it is no coincidence that a tennis court is just half the size of a croquet lawn.

The 1890's saw some resurgence of the game and, in 1896 the United All-England Croquet Association was founded. This was later renamed 'The Croquet Association' (CA) in 1900 and, in the same year croquet was featured as a demonstration sport in the Paris Olympic Games, although the only two nations participating were Belgium and France.

It appears that these early games of croquet were the beginnings of what is now known as Association Croquet. The first mention of a game called 'Croquet-Golf' occurred in an 1896 leaflet "The new game of Croquet-Golf: a game for garden parties". This leaflet (by F H Ayres) commented: "Croquet has become scientific and serious even to tediousness and lawn tennis is far too violent exercise for all but the most enthusiastic. It is claimed that the game is brisker and more energetic than the former and does not involve the flannels and exertion of the latter, while it shows off pretty gowns to advantage, promotes friendliness and even flirtation, and keeps people moving; all of which things the wise hostess regards as important."

Golf croquet may have initially been adopted as a practice game but some felt it had competitive attractions because, in 1913, a small book appeared with the title "How to win at Golf Croquet". One point of particular interest was the jump shot which the author regarded as one of the more exciting procedures but remarked that "some club secretaries prohibit it as likely to damage the lawn".

The Croquet Association approved the rules of Golf Croquet in 1933 and they were printed in the 1934 directory. These laws were written as modifications to the AC laws in that they prohibited jump-shots and required the ball to run the hoop in a single pass.

In 1925, Australian philanthropist, Sir Macpherson Robertson, established the MacRobertson shield, an international Association croquet competition between Australia and the UK. This contest has been held every 4 years since, with competing countries now including Australia, UK, New Zealand and the USA.

The rules of Croquet (Association) were gradually changed over time to improve the game and, in about 1947, Lord Tollemache published 'Modern Croquet Tips & Practise' which describes many of the refinements to the game of Association croquet.

The World Croquet Federation was created in 1986.

Both codes of croquet were exported to foreign lands but Egypt developed the game of Golf Croquet more competitively than elsewhere. By 1995 the Egyptians were expert, athletic players competing vigorously in the cool of the evening with spectators surrounding the courts shouting encouragement. Games were televised and bookmakers took bets on the game. This was generally unknown to other croquet nations until the World Croquet Federation (WCF) Secretary General, Chris Hudson, was invited to Cairo. When he observed how well the Egyptians played the game he decided to organise the WCF Golf Croquet World Championships. The first championship, using the existing CA rules, was held in Milan in1996 and it was a great success, with the Egyptians dominating. The next world GC championship, held in 1997 in Egypt, used the Egyptian rules and, following this, a WCF working party was established to translate the Egyptian rules to English and to standardise the rules.

Croquet was introduced to Australia shortly after it became popular in England and there are records of it being played in Tasmania the 1860's. As in England, it tended to be overshadowed by tennis and so declined until towards the end of the century when it again started to become popular.

A Croquet party at Bishopscourt, Hobart, Tasmania circa 1880

Croquet was played on a few private lawns in Sydney, NSW, just before the turn of the century and, by 1910, at least 7 clubs had been formed, some of which are still operating in 2011. The Croquet Association of NSW was probably formed in about 1906 and conducted its first tournament on the Sydney Cricket Ground in 1907.

In 1949, the national championships were held in Brisbane and the state representatives decided to form the Australian Croquet Council (ACC) but NSW did not join immediately. At the time NSW had two rival associations, the NSW Croquet Association (CA), which had been formed in 1906, and the Croquet Players Association of NSW (CPA) formed in 1950. The CPA was formed because many NSW players could not get on with the CA officials and also to ensure that NSW had a voice in the recently formed ACC. Between 1953 and 1957 several attempts were made to merge the two associations but there was so much animosity between the two that it did not occur. Instead clubs gradually switched their allegiance from the CA to the CPA and the NSW Croquet Association (CA) finally ceased to operate in 1959. The Croquet Players Association (CPA) later changed its name to Croquet NSW.

Gateball was invented in Japan by Suzuki Kazunobu in 1947. At the time there was a severe shortage of rubber needed to make the balls used in many sports. Suzuki, then working in the lumber industry on the northern island of Hokkaido, realised there was a ready supply of the wood used to make croquet balls and mallets. He revised the rules of croquet and created Gateball as a game for young people.

Gateball first became popular in the late 1950s when a physical education instructor introduced Gateball to the women’s societies and senior citizens’ clubs of Kumamoto City. In 1962, the Kumamoto Gateball Association was formed and established a local set of rules. This version of the game became known nationally when it was demonstrated at a national fitness meet in Kumamoto in 1976. Shortly afterwards the Gateball’s popularity exploded as local government officials and representatives of senior citizens’ organisations introduced the sport around the country.

In 1984, the Japanese Gateball Union (JGU) was founded. Under the leadership of its inaugural chairman, Ryoichi Sasakawa, the JGU developed a unified set of rules and organised the first national meet. The following year, the JGU joined with five countries and regions, China, Korea, Brazil, United States of America and Chinese Taipei, to form the World Gateball Union (WGU).

Gateball was introduced into Australia in 1986 but the first recorded game of Gateball was not played until 1989 when a group of Japanese visitors demonstrated the game at the Coogee Croquet Club.

The sport gradually expanded and the inaugural Australian Gateball Championships were played in Sydney in 1999 and attracted 11 overseas teams in addition to local and interstate teams.

The Codes of Croquet

All the codes of croquet, with the exception of Gateball, are played on a level, flat lawn, the dimensions of which, for a full sized lawn, are 35 yards (32 metres) by 28 yards (26.6 metres). Smaller lawns can be used but the ratio of the longer to the shorter side should be 5:4.

Six hoops and a centre peg are laid out in what is known as a Willis arrangements as shown in the diagram.

The games are played with 4 coloured balls and, since two games can be played on a lawn (double banked) at the same time, 8 different colours are available:

The blue, red, black and yellow balls are defined as the primary balls and the green, pink, brown and white are the secondary balls.

One team plays with the blue and black balls (or green and brown) and the other team plays the red and yellow (or pink and white).