A hammer stroke is one in which a player strikes down steeply on a ball, usually when facing away from the direction in which the ball is intended to move. This is usually because a hoop or another ball is close to the ball to be played and hampers a normal forward swing. However, it should be noted that it is also possible to play a stroke in such a position using a side stance that allows the player to face the direction in which the ball is intended to move.
If a player wishes to play a hammer stroke, it is important that they should not be able to improve their tactical position by playing an unlawful stroke. Accordingly, hammer strokes should routinely be watched by a referee (or, if no referee is available, by an experienced player) to ensure that the stroke is allowed to affect the tactical balance of the game only if it is played fairly.
The typical faults that can arise when a hammer stroke is played are:
It should also be remembered that Rule 11.3.1 gives an explicit standard of proof. A fault is to be declared if (a) the player who played it or (b) a referee (or other observer requested to watch the stroke) believes that it is more likely than not that the relevant event occurred.
The risk of committing a double tap or maintaining contact increases with the steepness of the angle at which the mallet comes down onto the striker's ball. A firmly-played hammer stroke will make the ball rebound from the court surface if it is played cleanly. If this does not happen, and the ball squirts along the ground after being hit by steeply-descending mallet head, this is evidence that the ball was trapped between the ground and the mallet face and that repeated or prolonged contact with the mallet face occurred. A muffled contact sound provides similar evidence because a cleanly-played hammer stroke should sound the same as a normal unhampered stroke.
Slow-motion video evidence has shown that hammer strokes played at an angle of 30 degrees to the horizontal (i.e. hitting the ball at 10.00 or 2.00 on the clock face where 9.00 or 3.00 respectively correspond to normal horizontal contacts) can give rise to double taps, even though this is not obvious to the naked eye and the sound is not clearly different to a clean stroke.
Accordingly, to foster consistent playing and refereeing standards, it should be normal practice to fault any firmly-played hammer stroke where the mallet strikes the ball more steeply than at 45 degrees to the horizontal (i.e. hitting the ball at 10.30 or 1.30) and the ball is not seen to rise significantly from the surface as a result.
In addition, a badly-played hammer stroke that strikes the ball at 45 degrees or less to the horizontal may also cause a ball to squirt along the ground and/or give rise to audible double taps. If either occurs, the stroke should be faulted unless the referee believes that it was more likely than not to have been a clean stroke.
Gentle hammer strokes are sometimes played when a ball in or near a hoop is hampered by another ball close behind it. These strokes are less likely than firmly-played strokes to give rise to the faults listed above and a referee should rely on their eyes and ears to decide whether a particular stroke is clean or faulty.
If a hammer stroke leads to the mallet hitting the court surface and making a mark or causing damage, this should be judged using the separate guidance on the interpretation of such damage.
Jump strokes are a normal part of Golf Croquet and, except for two situations described below, do not give rise to a need to strike down steeply on a ball. Accordingly, they are less contentious strokes than hammer strokes.
These apply when a player is trying to cause their ball to jump over another ball which is anywhere from 2 feet to over 7 yards away. The best players normally gain sufficient height to achieve this by striking down at no more than 20 degrees to the horizontal. Accordingly, normal jump strokes do not need watching by a referee.
It is possible for a normal jump stroke to be misplayed, especially when the player is striking their ball with great force. The most likely fault to occur is under Rule 11.2.10 - causing damage to the court surface with the mallet.
The need for a short-range angled jump stroke arises when (a) a ball is near to a hoop but at an angle that makes running the hoop along the ground unlikely to succeed, and (b) jawsing is vulnerable to the opponent being able to jump the jawsed ball with a ball that the player cannot clear. Such strokes are not usually played with a very steeply-descending mallet head and so are unlikely to give rise to prolonged contact between mallet and ball.
The typical faults that can arise when a short-range angled jump stroke is played are:
A short range angled jump stroke should be preceded by asking the opponent if they would like the stroke to be watched by a referee or other observer. Depending on the distance of the stroke and the skill of the player, the opponent may be happy to allow the stroke to be played without being watched.
If a player wishes to make their ball jump over another ball less than 2 feet away, they may adopt a stance in which the ball is much further back than normal, perhaps level with their heels or even further back. This will restrict their swing and encourage a very steeply-descending mallet head. In such a case, the considerations set out in the guidance on hammer strokes will apply.
The typical faults that can arise when a short-range ball jump stroke is played are:
Normally, a failed ball jump will create its own penalty, but there are two situations where a faulty stroke might give the player an unfair advantage if the stroke is not penalised. The first is when a faulty stroke peels a ball that is in the jaws of a hoop by a short distance into a hampered position. The second is when the other ball is not in the jaws of a hoop and a faulty stroke sends it into a disadvantageous position (e.g. clears it by a considerable distance or causes it to stop in contact with a hoop upright). In each case, it is important that the opponent should be able to have the balls replaced.
Accordingly, a short-range ball-jump stroke should also be preceded by asking the opponent if they would like the stroke to be watched by a referee or other observer. Depending on the distance of the stroke and the skill of the player, the opponent may be happy to allow the stroke to be played without being watched.
If a stroke causes damage to the court surface and it is suspected that it was caused by the mallet rather than the ball, reference should be made to the separate guidance on the interpretation of such damage.