Mary grew up playing backyard croquet and recommends this fun lawn game to everyone.
Croquet Is the Perfect Summer Backyard Sport
Backyard croquet is a fun and relaxing lawn game that anyone can play, young and old alike. Growing up, I really enjoyed this game. Each summer, we would set up a croquet court in our backyard using simple U-shaped metal hooks—or wickets—arranged in diamond patterns with multicolored stakes at each end. We would play for hours until we got tired from the summer heat, then reward ourselves with tall glasses of iced tea.
Backyard croquet is not only a great game for the entire family, but it's also a fun way to stay active when you want a sport that is not too physically demanding (and you don't have easy access to a golf course). Many sports can be expensive, and when it comes to cost, backyard croquet is about as economical as you can get.
This game is ideal for family reunions, garden parties, barbecues, picnics, and other outdoor get-togethers. Setting up a 9-wicket croquet court in your backyard is easy, and this article will show you how to do it.
9-Wicket Croquet Court Setup
Setting up a croquet court in your backyard is very straightforward and requires only minimal equipment. A full-size court is 100 x 50 feet, but if you don't have that much space in your backyard, you can easily scale down your croquet court to whatever space you have available. Many people opt for a half-size court of 50 x 25 feet as shown here.
- 9 wickets
- 2 stakes
- Enough balls and mallets for your players
- Optional: chalk, string, flags, or other stakes to mark the court boundaries or corners
The basic steps for setting up a background croquet court are as follows.
- Prepare and set aside enough lawn space (or as much as you can spare). Ideally, the ground should be as level as possible. Also, the best surface for this game is a well-mowed grass lawn that is as free as possible of rocks, lumps, bumps, holes, and anything else that could trip you up.
- Place the stakes along the center line 3 feet from each end of the court. You can use a mallet to hammer the stakes (and wickets) into the ground.
- From each stake, measure 3 feet into the court area along the center line and place a pair of wickets 3 feet apart.
- Place another wicket in the center of the court and arrange the remaining wickets in two adjoining diamonds (like a figure 8) using the measurements shown in the diagram above.
- Optional: If you like, you can mark off the court boundaries and/or corners with chalk, string, flags, or stakes.
Is a Backyard Court the Same as an Association Court?
No, it isn't. Croquet has a fairly long history, and a number of different versions of this game have evolved over the years that vary by country and the skill level of the players. In the U.S., backyard croquet is the most familiar and popular one.
The backyard version of croquet (also called 9-wicket croquet and long grass croquet) differs in many respects from the one that is played competitively, which is known as association or tournament croquet. In association croquet, a 6-wicket court is used instead of a 9-wicket court, and the rules are more rigorous.
Should You Use Wooden Balls or Polymer Balls?
Many long-time croquet players, both amateurs and professionals, prefer traditional wooden balls over the usual polymer ones that come with most modern croquet sets. Over time, however, wooden balls wear out, especially with heavy use, and they eventually need to be replaced.
If you're buying your first croquet set, it will be much easier to find one with polymer balls. Wooden balls are not as widely available, but they can be purchased from specialty croquet retailers and sites like eBay.
Basic Rules of Backyard Croquet
If you have never played croquet or if it's been awhile since you last picked up a mallet, here are some basic rules to get you started and/or refresh your memory.
How to Win
The main objective is to be the first to move your ball through the course to completion—from the first wicket through the rest of the wickets (in order), to the first stake, and finally back to the finishing stake, as shown above.
In a typical game, there are 2–6 players, and each player gets a different colored ball. Each player takes turns, and the order in which each person gets to play is determined by the colored rings on the stakes, with the top color (which is usually blue) always going first. The players may choose the color of the ball they wish to play in a number of ways, e.g., by using a coin toss to see who gets the top color.
Rules of Play
- To begin, place your ball halfway between the finishing stake and first wicket. Strike your ball with the face of your mallet and aim it to go through the wicket(s).
- Each time you pass through a wicket, you get one bonus stroke (and if you can make it through both wickets in one shot, you get two). Proceed in a counterclockwise manner to the next wicket as shown in the diagram above. If you do not pass through a wicket, it is the next player's turn.
- If you hit another player's ball with your ball, you get two bonus strokes. This is called roquet. Many things can happen when balls collide on a croquet court. For example, if you hit another player's ball and cause it to pass through a wicket, you get one bonus stroke. (For more information on roquet and bonus shots, please see the official rules for backyard croquet maintained by the U.S. Croquet Association.)
- If you hit your ball out of bounds, you end your turn, and your ball is placed one mallet head's length back into the court at the point your ball went out of bounds.
- The first player to pass through all wickets is the winner (yay!). The remaining players may go ahead and finish out the game to see who comes in second, third, etc.
If you would like to watch videos to help you learn the game, Expert Village has a series of videos on YouTube that will walk you through the different croquet strokes and other moves.
Brief History of Croquet
This genteel sport first made its way to the British Isles around the mid 19th century and became immensely popular in England in the 1860s. Croquet then quickly spread to other English-speaking countries, including South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and America.
Although its popularity has waxed and waned over the years, backyard croquet has steadfastly remained a favorite pastime for those who enjoy lawn games and socializing outdoors. I hope this article may inspire you to play it yourself!
Tell us about your experiences with croquet.
Sue on June 13, 2020:
Got a croquet set for my 10th birthday 60yrs ago. Don't have that set, but do have a wooden one about 20 yrs old. We will be playing this weekend with children and grandkids. Can't wait to share the fun.
Carolan Ross from St. Louis, MO on July 03, 2013:
Hey I got an old croquet set at a garage sale and am setting it up in my backyard right now, have a 4th of July party here tomorrow. Googled it and was thrilled to find a fellow Squidoo-er. I'd already watched a couple of videos at You Tube but your page is the best, finally found what I needed. Have not played croquet since a child.
ComfortsOfHome on September 03, 2012:
Croquet is a fantastic outdoor game - all ages of kids and adults can play together without getting frustrated or bored, and you can't say that of very many activities!
dahlia369 on June 30, 2012:
Nice game and very well presented, thank you!! :)
ArthurF LM on June 29, 2012:
Great lense. I wish I had an opportunity to play this game more. Its hard to find an easy sport like this where almost anyone can pick it up and play.
flycatcherrr on June 29, 2012:
Croquet is a summertime staple at our family gatherings, and the competition can get quite fierce! But we have a rule that the youngest one gets to go first, and anyone who's not yet school age can take a "do over" at any time. Great fun!
yogyogi on June 29, 2012:
@Gypzeerose: in even 60' s it was popular
Rose Jones on June 28, 2012:
We used to play in our family. It was really popular in the 50's.
Pete Schultz on June 28, 2012:
We used to play all the time, it's a fun game!
anonymous on June 28, 2012:
I loved to play this game when I was little!
miaponzo on June 27, 2012:
I used to love to play croquet!!! Now I don't have a grass yard... I wonder if there is any other way to play? Blessed!
anonymous on June 27, 2012:
We had a croquet set and would play as a family growing up and you sure did just bring back some memories. I had forgotten the rules but am now ready for a game. Congratulations on front page honors!
YogaAngel on June 26, 2012:
I played it one time, at a park by the beach. It was fun!
AdamCarrasquillo on June 25, 2012:
I haven't played yet. This is a great instructional lens :)
zafeyry on June 25, 2012:
When I was on vacation in Maine, I hit the croquet ball as far down the lawn as I could! I called it Extreme Croquet, in my opinion it's more fun than the real kind.
Leah J. Hileman from East Berlin, PA, USA on June 25, 2012:
My grandparents had the croquet set but no instructions, so my brother and I would just stick them randomly through the yard and compete to see whose ball would go through more. HOURS and HOURS of my life spent playing croquet incorrectly. LOL!
Graeme on June 24, 2012:
This is an excellent article! We had croquet at our wedding. I'm not sure if it was set up properly... we were off having photos done and I missed all the fun. Thanks for the detailed lens.
Debra Lobel from Oakland, CA on June 24, 2012:
We had a croquet set when I was growing up. We played with it in our backyard. I have lots of fond memories. When I was cleaning out my parent's garage, I gave it to a neighbor and told them to have lots of fun and make many memories.
Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on June 24, 2012:
Used to play it but when I moved and lost our set, I just stopped. You have revived my interest.
biminibahamas on June 24, 2012:
Gosh, this brought back tons of memories from when I grew up! Fun lens.
CoeGurl on June 24, 2012:
Croquet is our favorite family outdoor game. Congratulations on making the front page!
bjesparza on June 24, 2012:
Croquet is awesome!