Reg Bamford Proposes Changes to Croquet Laws
Disclaimer: Reg Bamford is a leading player of both Golf Croquet and Association Croquet. This article expresses his personal opinion and is not CA policy.
AC has had the benefit of many years of an effective feedback loop - a long playing history, learning, feedback and improvement - and seems to have reached the point where few rule changes are being considered. GC rules, on the other hand, are in relative infancy, particularly after the Big Bang rule changes allowing jump shots and hoop points scored in multiple turns. It is now so widely played that several pressing rule issues are becoming more noticeable and need resolving.
In addition, there are several glaring differences between the rules of both games - for example, where a fault in one game is considered acceptable in the other. Given that there is already a degree of antagonism amongst the more passionate proponents of each game, anything that accentuates the differences between the two games should be avoided unless there is a compelling reason to do so.
As a player who plays and enjoys both versions of the game, and having done so at a high standard, I feel that I write from a position of experience, and with a simple objective - to make the rules simpler and more effective. I have set out several recommendations to change some of these GC rules (and their equivalent in AC), and I ask the CA to consider these for adoption. Whilst getting international agreement for all these changes might take more time, it would seem possible for the CA to lead the way by adopting some (or all) of these suggestions for use in their domain from the start of next season.
I believe the following suggestions are not only beneficial to GC, but that they can also benefit AC. Accordingly, these have been identified and separately listed below. In identifying the potential synergies, I do so for completeness of my argument. However, I would not want any consideration of AC matters to slow the progress towards the adoption of the ideas covering GC.
I am confident that all the areas mentioned need attention and I believe there to be some good and workable solutions in each case. Of course, it might be that you can refine the wording, or the ideas, or even come up with entirely different solutions to the matters raised. The important objective is that improvements are made in the areas mentioned and that this is done as effectively - and expeditiously - as possible.
Applying to Golf Croquet
1. Running a Hoop with a Jump Shot, Where a Scoring Clip Falls Off the Hoop
If a jump shot succeeds, but a scoring clip has not been removed and falls off in the shot, the hoop point is not scored.
There appears to be almost no advantage to be gained by the striker in having clips on the hoop (in fact, I'd probably argue it has the opposite effect). In addition, a genuine sense of injustice can be felt having played a challenging, all-or-nothing shot which is widely regarded as the game's signature shot, only for it judged as not counting.
I recommend that the point should be counted. However, it should be considered best practice that any scoring clips be removed from the hoop before the jump shot is attempted, just as it is in AC.
Re-arranging the clips on a hoop before a jump shot is attempted, and then leaving them on the hoop, should be considered as unsportsmanlike conduct.
2. Stopping a Ball Played Off the Lawn
The stopping of a ball that is about to cross a boundary line is a fault if it occurs before the ball has crossed the line. This often occurs as a gesture of goodwill by an opponent to both speed up play and save the striker the time and hassle of fetching the ball.
I recommend that this is not a fault, as the punishment does not fit the crime and appears overly pedantic in a situation where there is no consequence. Given that the ball-boys in Cairo do this often without consequence, it seems incongruous that a player should be penalised for it.
However, if the final position of the ball is considered critical because of the proximity of another ball (and the resultant ability and probable intention of the opponent to stymie or block from close range) or the possibility of getting a wire or block as a result of its final position, then the striker (and not their opponent) should have the decision to place the ball as close to where the striker it would have crossed the line.
3. Deeming a Ball's Position
Deeming is not permitted and a shot has to be played.
It seems unnecessary to have to play a shot when a player doesn't want to. I recommend that a player can deem a shot to have been played, as they can in AC.
4. Playing Whilst a Ball is in Motion
It is a fault to play a shot while another ball is still in motion.
I recommend that it should only be a fault if the stroke played is, or could have been, materially affected by the moving ball, or if a player persistently commits this offence. However, it should be considered best practice that a player does not play a shot while another ball is in motion.
I feel that the offside laws can be improved and simplified. I recommend that:
- Either player can, at any time, request clarification of whether a ball's position is legal or not;
- Either player can elect, at any time, that an opponent's offside ball is moved to a penalty spot of their choice before that offside ball has played its shot in the correct sequence; AND
- A replay of a shot can be requested by the opponent (and subject to the normal sequence of play rules) if;
- the ball just played was in an offside position before the shot was played; AND
- the opponent has not taken their next shot (i.e. after the shot of the offside ball), whether this is with the correct ball in sequence or not.
This avoids the situation where the opponent plays the next ball in sequence after the winning of a hoop, and is asked to replay the shot because their other ball is in an offside position. It also (potentially) penalises a shot played by the opponent where they play a ball that is offside (knowingly or unknowingly), except where the opponent subsequently plays their next shot.
6. Penalty Spot
There seems - in practice - to be no such thing as a "penalty spot". Players are positioning the ball "somewhere near" the penalty spot. Just like we have the concept of the starting area in and around Corner 4, I suggest that the a shot that must be played from the "Penalty Spot" is played from the "Penalty Area", which is defined as being within 1 yard of the "Penalty Spot".
I don't not think that a player should be penalised twice by being sent to the penalty spot, if it results in them being wired from a critical ball.
7. Tie Breaks in Blocks
I recommend that the order in which the positions are determined in blocks - irrespective of the format of the matches in the block - is, in order of primacy, matches won, net games, play-offs (if time permits, at the discretion of the manager), net hoops, and who beat whom.
8. Producing a Draw after Block Play
Currently, there are numerous methods - Grade Based Seeding (GBS), Block Based Seeding, (BBS), Block Seniority Method (BSM), amongst others - by which to produce a GC Draw.
I recommend that:
- If possible, the results of block games are used to determine qualifying players' grades. In the absence of up-to-date grades, then the latest grades of those qualifying players be used, even if they exclude the block games; AND
- A "Best Practice" method of determining positions in the Draw is adopted, and that this is stated in the CA Tournament regulations in order that all managers use the same approach.
I would strongly recommend that seeding the knockouts is not done based solely on the positions from the blocks, as it can:
- reward "tanking" or deliberately throwing a block game,
- result in an unbalanced draw.
Applying to both Association and Golf Croquet
I feel that there is an opportunity to consolidate both AC and GC rules that apply in the following circumstances:
9. Over the Line
In AC, a ball is judged to have gone out when any part of the ball hangs over the inside edge of the boundary line. In GC, a ball is judged to have gone out when the centre of the ball hangs over the inside edge of the boundary line.
Make this consistent across both games, by selecting one method. My personal recommendation would be to use the AC method, on the basis that:
- Hoop points are judged by looking at the edge of a ball, not the middle; AND
- My instinct tells me that judging a ball's position is more accurately done by looking at the edge of a ball, rather than its middle.
10. Fresh-Air Shots, Touching or Feathering a Ball or Accidentally Clipping a Ball while Casting
In GC, any contact with the ball is considered to be shot, irrespective of whether it occurs during the striking period or whether the ball is in a critical position or not. In addition, a fresh-air shot is not considered to be a shot. In AC, any accidental contact with the ball, irrespective of the circumstances, is not a fault, the ball is replaced, and the striker continues in play. In addition, a fresh-air shot is considered to be a shot, and the turn ends.
I recommend that both AC and GC adopt the following:
- Where a fresh-air shot is played with the intention of striking the ball, then this constitutes a shot and the player's turn is deemed to have been played and their turn comes to an end.
- Where a ball is deemed critical (its position is critical because of wiring or blocking, or where the proximity of another ball or hoop makes the direction and nature of the shot a hampered shot, or the ball has been marked by a referee for any reason), then any feathering or touching of that ball is considered to be end of turn.
- Where a ball is not deemed critical (its position is not critical with respect to wiring or blocking, or the lack of proximity of another ball or hoop makes it an unhampered shot, and the ball has not been marked by a referee), then any feathering or touching of that ball is not considered to be end of turn and can be replayed without penalty from its original position.
11. Making Contact with a Ball
Any contact with a ball (other than the striker's ball in the striking period) is a fault in GC, while it is not a fault in AC. Examples in GC include a) the accidental stepping on a ball or b) picking up a ball in the belief that it is an offside ball when it is in fact not.
I recommend that, in both GC and AC, this is not a fault, unless the position of the ball is in a critical position (involved in a wire or block, or close to a hoop or another ball), in which case, it becomes a fault and results in a loss of turn.
12. Lawn Damage
Lawn damage can be considered a fault in GC and AC in certain circumstances. From my experience, lawn damage is quite rare and when it does happen, the turf can be quickly and easily fixed. Here is an opportunity to converge the ruling in both games (GC and AC).
I recommend that, in both GC and AC, lawn damage should only be a fault if it is:
a) significant damage (to be defined and applied in both codes);
b) caused by the mallet head striking the ground; AND
c) intentional or was inevitable given how the shot was played.
13. Winning the Toss
In GC, the winner of the toss at the beginning of a match defaults to Black and Blue and takes first play with Blue. This gives Black and Blue an immediate advantage, as they have first play to Hoop 1. This advantage is even more significant in a best of 1 game.
In AC, the winner of the toss can elect colours or whether to take play (or second play). The opponent can then make their own election. Neither player gets a material advantage.
I recommend that in both GC and AC, the winner of the toss can elect colours or whether to take play (or second play). The opponent can then make their own election.
14a. First 2 Shots of a Match
I recommend that in both GC and AC (including all forms of AC, like Super-Advanced and 14 Point):
- After the first shot of a match, the opponent (i.e. the player playing second) can then make an election:
- Play their own shot with one of their own balls (and their correct ball in sequence in GC); OR
- Elect to take over the ball played first by the opponent (i.e. the first shot played into the match) as their own, the players effectively swap colours, and the opponent then plays the second shot of the match with the correct ball.
14b. First Shot of a Subsequent Game
The players keep the same balls that they played in the previous game. The loser of the previous game elects to play first or second, and play continues accordingly
- removes any material advantage given to the player winning the toss;
- converges (to a large extent) the starting protocol of both games; AND
- adds an interesting tactical element to the start of the match.
If this suggestion is adopted, then the ruling in Super Advanced requiring the first ball to be played off the lawn (or to make contact with a hoop or peg) can be scrapped.