CROQUET, Fr. from croc, a crook, or crooked stick (Du Cange, Glossarium). The game has been derived by some writers from j^i'Me-ina-Me (mall), which was played in Languedoc at least as early as the 13th century. Mall was fashionable in England in the time of the Stuarts. It was played with a ball (jiila), and a mallet very similar to the mallets now in use, 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 number of strokes. Croquet certainly has some resemblance to paille-inaille, played with more hoops and more balls.
It is said that the game was brought to Ireland from the south of France by the eldest daughter of Sir Edward Macnaughten some twenty-five years ago ; but Mr Dickson, an ivory turner, of Gracechurch Street, London, remembers having made a set of croquet implements for Ireland over forty years ago. At all events, the re-introduction of the game by Miss Macnaughten, under whose auspices it was first played on the lawn of the late Lord Lonsdale, in 1852, marks the time when it became of sufficient im-portance to find a regular maker of croquet implements in London. Shortly afterwards, in 1856, Mr Jaques of Hatton Garden, London, saw the game in Ireland, and commenced manufacturing it in England, where it soon became very popular.
One of the first symptoms that tho game had taken root was the playing of a public match on the bowling green at Evesham in Worcestershire in 1867. In 1868 the first all-comers' meeting was held on the cricket ground at Moreton-in-Marsh. In the same year the All England Croquet Club was formed, and on the grounds of this club at Wimbledon the annual contest for the championship takes place. The laws of the game, which are used in all public matches, were settled by a conference of delegates from the principal croquet clubs in 1869, 1870, and 1873 (Conference Laws, De la Rue and Co.). In addition to these, laws for the regulation of prize-meetings (Horace Cox) were issued hy the A. E. C. C, which are the authority for the management of such meetings. Accord-ing to these laws, match games are played on a ground measuring 40 yards by 30, with four balls, two forming a side against the other two,one player owning two balls, or four players each taking one ball. In match play the hoops and pegs are set and run as in the diagram
The hoops are of -J-inch round iron, painted blue, and are 4 inches in width (inside measurement) for handicaps, and for ladies and ordinary matches, and 3f inches wide, steel braced, with oak sockets, for championship matches for gentlemen. They and the pegs are thus named in order i.e., in the order in which they are to be run or made. First hoop, second, third ; three to peg, two to peg, one to
peg; turning peg; first, second, and third back; three, two, and one to go out or last hoop ; winning peg.
-Setting of Hoops. - Pegs in centre line of ground,
Distances on a full-sized ground. 8 yards from nearest boundary. Hoops up centre line of ground 8 yards apart and 8 yards from pegs. Corner hoops 7 yards from centre and in a line with pegs. Starting spot 1 foot from left-hand corner hoop and opposite its centre.
The height of the hoops and pegs and various minor matters have been also settled by the same authorities. The balls are of boxwood, 3§ inches in diameter, and should weigh not less than 14\ oz. There is no restriction as to the size, weight, number or material of the mallets employed; in striking, the cue and mace strokes are not allowed, and the head of the mallet only must be used. The most approved mallets have box-wood heads and ash handles ; they weigh from 3 lb to 4 lb, and are from 32 inches to 35 inches in length. The patterns vary considerably.
In playing the game, the objects are to make all the points (hoops and pegs) of the balls belonging to one side, in the order shown in the diagram, and to prevent the adversaries from doing the same. The side that first succeeds in making all its points in order wins the game. The striker is entitled to another stroke, or to continue his turn so long as he succeeds in making his next point, or in causing his ball by a stroke of the mallet to hit another ball (called making a roquet), when he must place his ball in contact with the one roqueted, and striking hi3 own ball with the mallet he must move the two balls which are in contact, sending them in any directions he pleases, called taking croquet. If in his stroke after taking croquet he hits another ball or makes his next point, he similarly continues until he fails to do either, when it is his adversary's turn. Each ball can only be roqueted once during each turn, unless a point in order is made, when each ball can again be roqueted as at first. This rule does not apply to the winning peg, as when that is hit in order the ball is out of the game.
The striker should stand with the feet about 15 inches apart, with the toe of the right foot at right angles to the line of aim, the other being somewhat turned out. The body should be inclined over the ball, so that the player can look down upon it. The mallet should be grasped with both hands, and the striking face placed close to the ball, so that a line drawn through the mallet head and centre of the ball gives the line of aim. The striker, having taken his aim, should keep his eye on his own ball, and should then lift the mallet, and strike the ball quietly and without hurry, in the line of aim. For gentle strokes the wrist is mainly used ; harder strokes are played more from the arm and sltoulder.
When able to make a roquet at several yards with tolerable certainty, the learner should next practise rushing, i.e., roqueting with such force as to move the ball aimed at some distance, and cutting, which is a rush played fine instead of full. To avoid accidentally jumping over in playing rushes, care must be taken not to hit down on the striker's ball; this is effected by carrying the mallet up towards the left shoulder after striking,just the stroke that would be called badly hit at cricket.
When able to rush, the strokes made in taking croquet, viz., splitting, taking off, rolling, passing, and stopping, should be practised.
The split, which sends the two balls in different given
directions, may be made to a A
-Illustrating the "split'1 at croquet.
certainty by dividing the angle, as in the half push at billiards. Thus, if the striker wishes to croquet his own ball in the direction A (fig. 2), and the other ball in the direction B, he must aim in the direction C, and strike, not push his ball.
The take off is merely a thin FlG- 2-' split, in which the roqueted
ball is moved slightly. If an imaginary line is drawn through the balls and another at right angles to it, as in diagram, and the aim made a little to the right of the second line. viz. at A (fig. 3), the striker's ball will travel in
FIG. 3.Illustrating the " take off" at croquet, the direction required, viz., to B, and the other ball to C. When taking off from the side of the ball furthest from the striker, the aim must be slightly to the left of the line of aim.
Rolling croquet, in which the balls are sent together in nearly the same line, is made by trailing the mallet after the balls as soon as the stroke or tap is made. Care must be taken not to make a second tap, or the stroke is foul.
Passing croquet is a sort of roll. The front ball must be placed about 30 degrees out of the line along which it is intended to pass the striker's ball, in order to avoid a kiss, and, after the stroke, the mallet must remain in con-tact with the striker's ball, and its rate of going must be accelerated by a push. If the ball is hit twice the stroke is foul.
The stop stroke is made by means of a sharp clean tap, the mallet being arrested in its onward course as soon as it has struck the ball. For stop strokes, where it is desired to move the striker's ball very little and to send the other ball a considerable distance, a light mallet (called a stop mallet) is required.
In addition to the mastery of these strokes and also of the jump stroke, which is played by striking down on ths ball, and is very useful for running narrow hoops at an angle, strength has to be learned in order to obtain position. Judging strength is mainly a matter of practice.
When the above strokes can be played with tolerable certainty, they should be made use of in practising hreaks. A break is made when two or more points are scored in order. To practise the break, place the striker's ball on the starting spot (see diagram of setting) ; place a ball several feet on the other side of the first hoop, a ball near the second hoop, and one in the middle of the ground. Make the first hoop, and then roquet the ball placed near. Drive this ball by a medium roll near the third hoop, and leave the striker's ball near the ball in the middle of the
ground. Roquet this ball and take off to the second hoop. Use the ball placed there to make that hoop ; then roquet it after running the hoop and send it to the hoop three to peg, going to the middle of the ground with the striker's ball. Take off to the third hoop, make it with the ball placed there to help, and then send it to the hoop one to peg, going with the striker's ball to the one in the middle of the ground. Then rush it to hoop two to peg, and take off to the hoop three to peg, or failing a rush, roll or split it to two to peg, and the striker's ball to three to peg. Make that hoop, and split, roll, or rush the ball placed there to help to hoop second back, going to ball placed near hoop two to peg.
By judicious repetition of these or similar tactics there is no limit to the number of points that can be made. The practice should be continued until, on good ground, with 4-inch hoops and three balls to help, the break of fourteen points becomes a feat easy of accomplishment.
In order to become an adept at the game, judgment must be added to mere execution. Judgment cannot be taught in writing, further than by laying down certain principles of play. They are briefly as under :
1. Keep the partner balls together, the adverse balls apart.
It is clear, from the remarks on the break, that at most one or two points can be made without a ball or balls to help ; hence going to the next hoop in order is very poor tactics, if we regard the advantages gained by helping partner by keeping near him, and by separating the adversaries, or at least giving partner the opportu-nity of separating them.
2. When out of the break, it is often a nice point whether to go to
partner, or to finesse to the boundary, or to take a shot at the oppo-
nents. As a rule a long shot should not be attempted if failure
would leave the ball in the adversary's game, where it may be
brought into play to help him in his break. Also the question
often arises whether to separate the adversaries at once or to con-
tinue the break. The answers to these questions must depend on
the striker's estimate of his ability and of his adversary's ability,
and on the state of the game.
The principal exception to playing to partner's ball is when che ball played with is a rover and the adversary is also a rover, and has a fair probability of making a roquet next time. For, under these circumstances, the opponent will take off to the two adverse balls and rush the rover up to the winning peg, and very probably peg it out.
3. Keep the last player in your game.
The object of this is to prevent the adversaries from combining at their next stroke. It compels the next player either to take an uncertain shot which may bring him into the game, or to finesse.
The last player may be kept, either by sending him to partner during or at the end of the turn, or by putting him near partner's hoop and then going to partner.
The striker should, if the opportunity offers during his break, pick up the last player for the reasons already given.
When sending the next player away, choose such part of the ground to send him that if he takes a shot it brings him into partner's game.
4. Make the break with two or three balls to help, in preference
The reason is obvious to those who have practised the break. Skilful players endeavour to keep all the balls in the break ; but the safe plan for novices is to dismiss the next player and to make the break with two balls to help.
5. When in the break do not play uncertain strokes on the next
For any mistake made then gives the break to the adversary. It is, however, a matter of judgment how far risks may be run, varying with the amount of skill and nerve of the striker.
When partner's ball is a long way off, using the last player to help is just as dangerous as using the next player.
6. At the end of the break play partner's game.
This is accomplished by leaving him the last player's ball to help and going to his hoop, or vice versa, or by leaving him a rush to his hoop and a ball at his next hoop but one, and in several other ways, which will be apparent to any thoughtful player.
See Walter Jones Whitmore, Croquet Tactics, London, 1868 ;
Arthur Lillie, The Book of Croquet, London, 1872 ; R. 0. A. Prior,
M.D., Croquet Notes, London, 1872 ; James Dunbar Heath, The
Complete Croquet Player, London, 1871. (H. J.)