The Basic Rules of Golf Croquet
The following is a simplified set of the rules of Golf Croquet. Also available is a brief synopsis, ideal for beginners. The basic rules are abbreviated from the detailed rules, and cover the more commonly encountered aspects of the game, while at the same time being easy to understand. The full rules are definitive and are also available on this website or as a booklet from the Shop.
There are two forms of croquet, both played socially and competitively up to international level. The older and more complex is Association Croquet ("AC"), while Golf Croquet ("GC") can be picked up and played by beginners very rapidly. In GC, there is still a great deal of skill and tactics involved, but it is a quicker game, often taking something like 50 minutes.
Outline of the Game
1. The sides are Blue and Black versus Red and Yellow (or Green and Brown versus Pink and White). Doubles or Singles can be played: in Singles the player plays both balls of that side in alternate turns; in Doubles each player plays one ball only.
2. Play progresses in strict colour order: Blue, Red, Black, Yellow (the order of colours on the peg), then back to Blue again. If second colour balls are used the sequence is Green, Pink, Brown, White.
3. Each turn consists of one stroke only. Unlike AC, there are never any extra strokes for running hoops or hitting other balls.
4. The court settings and equipment are similar for GC and AC. The specifications can be found in the full rules. Sometimes in GC each side carries six clips of their own colour, which are placed on the hoops to mark who scored each one as the game progresses.
5. The game starts after tossing a coin. The winner of the toss decides whether to play first or second. The side playing first plays the Blue and Black balls, with Blue being played in the first stroke. The first four strokes are played in order from a position within one yard of corner 4 (see Diagram 1). Note that for friendly or club games this rule is often relaxed to be anywhere within one yard of the East boundary, and between corner 4 and level with the 4th hoop - this is so as to reduce wear on the corner area.
6. All players try in successive turns to run hoop 1. As soon as any player completes the running of hoop 1, then the hoop point is scored for that side. All players then move on from where their balls currently are to contest hoop 2, and so on around the court. Each hoop is scored only once, for one side or the other. The side scoring the hoop may place one of their scoring clips on the hoop.
7. The hoops are run in the order and direction shown in Diagram 1. The game is usually played as a "best of 13 point" game, and stops as soon as one player has scored 7. If the points are level after running the 12th hoop, the game is decided by contesting hoop 3 again as the 13th hoop. The peg plays no part in GC, other than as an obstacle and a reminder of colour order.
8. A turn consists of a single stroke. A stroke is played when the striker (the owner of the ball due to be played next) hits the correct ball with their mallet and causes it to move, or commits a fault (see para. 24). Alternatively, a player may declare that the stroke has been played without playing the ball, known as 'deeming' the stroke.
9. A ball leaves the court when any part of it would touch a straight edge raised from the inside edge of the boundary line. When a ball leaves the court, it is replaced touching the inside edge of the boundary where it went off. If, when a ball touching the boundary comes to be played, there is insufficient space outside the boundary to allow the striker to play the stroke freely, then the ball may be moved into the court, along the line to be played, by the minimum amount required to allow an unhampered stroke.
10. If a ball touching the boundary obstructs the playing of another ball, it may be temporarily removed.
11. A ball may be jumped over another ball, provided that the court surface is not damaged by the mallet (see Faults para 24).
12. A ball scores a hoop point by passing through the next hoop in the order and direction shown in Diagram 1. This is also known as running a hoop.
13. A ball begins to run a hoop when any part of it first emerges from the back (non-playing side) of the hoop and finishes doing so when the whole of it finally enters the front of the hoop (playing side), provided that it does not come back past this point later in the turn (see Diagram 2).
14. A ball may take more than one turn to complete the running of a hoop.
15. If a ball other than the striker's ball is knocked through the next hoop in order, then that hoop is scored for the side owning that ball.
16. If more than one ball runs a hoop in the same stroke, the ball which was closest to the hoop at the start of the stroke is deemed to have scored the point.
17. If a ball runs two hoops in the same stroke, then both hoop points are scored.
Balls Played Out of Sequence or by the Wrong Player
18. Players should stop play (known as 'forestalling') if they think a wrong ball is about to be played or has been played in the last stroke.
19. If the striker plays the wrong ball of their side in singles, or, in doubles, the striker's partner plays their own ball instead of the striker playing the correct ball, the opponent decides whether:
(a) the balls are replaced in their positions before the stroke in error and play continues by the right person playing the correct ball without penalty ("Replace and Replay") or
(b) the balls are left where they are, except that the ball just played is swapped with its partner ball. Any points scored are counted for the owner of that ball. The opponent then plays the ball that follows in sequence after the ball which should have been played in the last stroke ("Ball Swap").
20. Replace and Replay is the only remedy if a player plays an opponent ball or the striker's partner plays the striker's ball.
Playing for the Next Hoop
21. Players may play towards the hoop after the one being contested if desired, but should not go more than halfway otherwise the ball may become an 'offside ball'. Immediately after the hoop in order is run, any ball beyond the halfway line between the hoop just run and the next hoop in order is an offside ball, unless one of the exceptions in paragraph 22 applies.
22. Balls are not offside if they reached their position as a result of:
(a) the stroke just played, or
(b) a stroke played or interference committed by an opponent, or
(c) contact with an opponent's ball, or
(d) being directed to a penalty area.
23. If a ball is an offside ball, the opponent(s) can decide to have it placed in one of the two penalty areas, from which it is played in its next turn. The penalty areas are semi-circles with a radius of 1 yard centred on the half-way points on the East and West boundaries.
24. The striker must hold the mallet by its shaft and swing it so as to attempt to hit the ball cleanly with an end face of its head. A fault is committed if, when playing a stroke, the striker:
(a) touches any ball with their body or clothing, or
(b) causes their mallet to touch any other ball, or
(c) hits their own ball more than once (known as a 'double tap'), or
(d) squeezes their ball against a hoop or the peg (known as a 'crush'), or
(e) plays a stroke in which their mallet causes actual damage to the court sufficient to deflect a ball played over the area.
25. If a fault is committed the striker's turn ends and the opponent decides whether the balls are left as they lie or replaced to their positions before the stroke was played. No points can be scored for the striker's side by a stroke in which a fault is committed but the non-striking side can score a point provided the balls are left where they lie.
26. If the striker attempts to play a stroke but misses the ball they intended to hit (known as an 'air shot') and does not commit a fault, the attempt can be made again.
Other Forms of Play
27. In order to allow players of different standards to play competitive games against each other, each player is awarded a handicap, usually by their club, which is then adjusted over time to reflect their results in organised competitions. There are two alternative methods to produce more competitive games - Handicap Play and Advantage Play.
28. In handicap singles play, the lower-handicapped player gives the higher-handicapped player the number of extra strokes equal to the difference in their handicaps.
29. In handicap doubles play, extra strokes are given to the two highest handicapped players who may be on the same side or on opposing sides. The player with the lowest handicap and the player with the highest handicap on the opposing side are identified. The number of extra strokes received by the higher-handicapped player from the lower-handicapped player is half the difference in their handicaps. The same calculation is performed for the two remaining players. If half the handicap difference is not a whole number, it is rounded upwards (e.g. 3.5 becomes 4). If both players on a side receive extra strokes and both would benefit from rounding up, they choose which one will receive the benefit.
30. At the end of a turn, a player who has extra strokes available can choose to play an extra stroke in a new turn with the same ball. No hoop point may be scored for the striker's side using an extra stroke, but can be for the opposing side. If a player has several extra strokes available, they can play them in a further extra turn(s).
31. In Advantage Play the starting scores of the players are adjusted according to their handicaps. In doubles, the handicaps of the partners are added together and divided by two (halves are rounded up). The stronger player may have to run more than seven hoops to win a first to 7 point game and the weaker player may have to run fewer. In a closely contested game it may be necessary to play a 14th hoop (hoop 4 again) or even a 15th hoop (hoop 1 again) to get a result. Apart from these variations the game is played normally. It is important in Advantage Play to announce the score after each hoop point is won. For example, if the starting scores are -1 and 3 and the stronger player scores the first hoop, that player should announce the score as 0 - 3.
Longer or Shorter Games
32. Games may also be played as 7 or 19 point games. In these, the winner is the side which first scores 4 or 10 points respectively. In a 7 point game the first 6 hoops are scored, followed by hoop 1 again if a 7th hoop is required. In a 19 point game, after the first 12 hoops are scored, hoops 3, 4, 1, 2, 11 and 12 are played, followed by hoop 3 again as the 19th hoop if required.
[last updated March 2022]