On the Laws of Different Types of Croquet                            Return to index page



Since this article was last revised, there has been discussion between the laws committees of golf croquet and association croquet. The discussion is limited to topics in Laws 2 and 3 of association croquet.
It is too early to say what decisions, if any, will be reached or when they are likely to take effect.

This paper discusses whether the laws of the various types of croquet should be made more alike. There are several reasons:
    1. It would be helpful for people who play or referee more than one type of croquet.               
    2. It is likely to lead to better and simpler laws. If two codes have a different version of the same law, then it would help if both used the better version.
    3. Most people who begin association croquet have already played golf croquet, and will find the new game less confusing. Other new players to golf croquet are established association players and can be confused by pointless differences in the rules.

 A similar idea is already used in American billiards where a number of different games use 42 common rules plus additional different rules for each type of game.
You can view this at http://departments.weber.edu/wildcatlanes/billiards/rules/general_rules.htm

 In the following discussion, I use these abbreviations:
  AC  association croquet
  GC  golf croquet
  AmC  American six wicket croquet

I do not have much to say about American croquet. I can read the rules on the internet, but I know too little of its tactics to be of much use.

 There are quite a few cases where a GC rule has been copied from AC, but the wording has been improved or shortened. It is time for association laws to get the same benefit. (I expect that the association laws will need the most changes, but I believe each code will benefit if we can work together.)

Two recent cases of poor coordination were unfortunate:
  1 In 2007, the laws of AC and GC were both revised, but neither committee consulted the other.
  2 In 2010, regulations for AC referees were drawn up while official rulings concerning GC referees were being made. Again, neither committee consulted the other.

We would expect GC to have shorter rules, because it has a simpler structure. There are no roquets, croquet strokes or peg outs. But in addition, some topics that affect both games do not appear in the GC rules.
This should concern the people who write AC laws. If the GC rule makers have studied an AC law that does not concern a roquet or croquet and have decided not to use it, they may be right. Perhaps it is not really needed.
There are also quite a few cases where AmC has no law corresponding to an AC law, or where it uses "should" instead of "must". (It is hard to produce a full list, because the laws of these two codes are in a different order.) 

Note that AC has laws while GC and AmC have rules. There has been a proposal for AC to switch to rules.

 I realise that cooperation between various rule making committees may not come easily, but the experience of billiards shows it can be done. It may take a long time to organise, and this might be a reason for starting soon.

 Numbering of hoops: GC uses 1 to 12. This is simpler and easier than the AC system. "Penultimate" is an awful mouthful for beginners. "Rover" is misleading because a rover ball is not for the rover hoop.
Even so, many senior AC players will not want to change. Perhaps the two systems could be optional for some years.

 Misplaced equipment: AC has elaborate laws including 2(b)(5), 3(b)(3) and 3(c)(3). They mainly tell of misplacements that must not be corrected. They can also put a heavy burden on the referee.
GC regulations 5(a) and (b) give the referee power to check and correct equipment at any time.

 When is a ball off the court? In GC and AmC, when the middle of the ball is over the boundary. In AC when any part of the ball is over the boundary.The GC test is obviously more accurate when the boundary is marked by a string. If the boundary is painted, the choice is harder, but perhaps it doesn't matter because a painted border is so ill defined.

 The stroke: This is a complicated subject.

 When does a stroke take place? To put it another way, what test can you apply to say whether a stroke has occurred?
Law 5(a) of AC was rewritten in 2008 to meet numerous objections to the previous law. You would not believe how much time and effort went into the re-writing. Some of us think the result was a success in that criticisms are now much fewer, but the logic beneath the wording is shaky.
Law 5(a) says in effect that a stroke is played if the striker swings the mallet with intent to play a stroke. The circular nature of the definition is concealed, but we couldn't get rid of it.
GC Rule 6(a) says "A stroke is played when the striker strikes the striker's ball with a mallet."  Also if the mallet touches the ball while the striker is preparing to play a stroke then that counts as a stroke except when it counts as an error.
In AC, a stroke is played if the striker tries to hit the ball but misses.
In GC, a miss does not count as a stroke.
I think it is agreed that on the whole the GC rule is simpler and easier to apply. The trouble comes when the striker's ball is just through the hoop. If the striker wants to hit through the hoop and wants to hit the ball hard, he needs to take a back swing and there is a risk that the mallet will hit the hoop, not the ball. The GC rule allows him to try again, several times if he needs to. I do not think AC players will accept this.

I think the difference in opinion is due to differences in tactics. In GC, such a stroke will only be played to send the ball towards the next hoop in order, and a top player will seldom fail to do so. In AC, the situation in the attached diagram is more common. The striker wants to hit obliquely, and the risk of hitting the hoop and not the ball is much greater.

I think the difference in opinion is due to differences in tactics. In GC, such a stroke will only be played to send the ball towards the next hoop in order, and a top player will seldom fail to do so. In AC, the situation in the attached diagram is more common. The striker wants to hit obliquely, and the risk of hitting the hoop and not the ball is much greater.

I suggest a compromise: "A stroke is played when the end face of the player's mallet comes in contact with a ball in play or a hoop."
Even this may be considered too harsh if the mallet touches the ball accidentally or while casting.
I do not advise adding non-striking faults to AC laws, because they are not needed. (Perhaps that says something about GC rules too.) So if a player hits a ball when he doesn't mean to, the existing law will apply, and that will sometimes be Law 25. He will never have to miss his next turn, and his current turn will end less often than in GC. It would still end if he accidentally touched the ball with the end face of the mallet before he intended to hit the ball, and some AC players may not like this.

  Should the striker's intention be taken into account? The people who have drafted AC and GC rules have tried  not to. Neither group has succeeded, but the GC rule makers have come closer.
But does it matter?
A referee can ask the player what he intended, and nearly all players will give an honest answer, but law makers worry about the few who do not.  But our law courts are willing to judge a person's intention by his behaviour.
Also a striker who played incorrectly because he was thinking of something else might be unable to say what exactly he intended. 

  Deeming a stroke: This is permitted in AC but not GC. It is hard to see why it is needed in AC, because the striker can gently tap the ball with his mallet, and this avoids any question about which ball is deemed to be played. (Special provision has to be made for a doubles game which starts before one player arrives, but this case may need special rules anyway.)

  When does a stroke start? In GC, this is when the mallet contacts the ball, because until then it is not certain whether there will be a stroke. In AC, the rule is more complicated. In AmC, it depends on whether casting occurs. A compromise may be possible, but some matters are difficult. For example what happens if the mallet hits a ball in the back swing or during casting?

  When does a stroke end? The rules of each game are too complicated. We are told that a stroke ends when all affected balls have come to rest or have left the court, but we need to know when the next stroke may be played, and the AC law does not do that. Another test says "when the striker quits his stance under control", but this applies only if you want to know when a fault can occur, and in AC there are exceptions to this rule. The AmC rule is "at the conclusion of the follow through".
This is too confusing. In each code, it would be better to say that a stroke ends when all affected balls have come to rest or have left the court and the striker has quit his stance under control. All reference to a striking period can then be deleted.
There is also a case for dropping the exemption in AC law 28(d)(2).

  Ball in hand: The definition in Law 6(c) of AC is so long and detailed that no referee is likely to remember it. There are fifteen other places in the laws where the term is used with no obvious benefit.
In effect, a ball in hand is a ball that may be legally moved by hand, whether it is so moved or not. The term is not used in GC, but several cases of such a ball occur in GC, for example a ball moved to a penalty spot.
The GC rules get by quite well without this term, and I suggest that AC laws should follow their example.

 The start and the toss: AC Law 8(a) is so elaborate that many clubs have a simpler local rule. Surely the law could say that the winner of the toss must play blue (or green). If a match consists of several games, it is better for the players to keep the same balls, but the right to choose who plays first can alternate. (There are other possible simplifications, and this is just a suggestion. Note that in GC the winner of the toss will want to play first, while in AC he will sometimes want to play second.)
I am told that the choice of colours used to be important when some balls in a set were defective, but this should not occur now in a serious game.

 Hoop point:  The rules for when a ball scores a hoop point are almost the same in AC and GC, except where a roquet or croquet is mentioned, but the wording in GC is shorter and clearer. I suggest that AC should adopt most of the GC rules (but not all). 

Hoop and roquet: In AC, Law 17 is notorious for confusing players and referees. AmC does not permit a hoop and a roquet in the same stroke. If the striker's ball runs a hoop and contacts a ball that is on the non-playing side of the hoop, only the hoop is scored. This might be considered for AC.

 Forestalling: Law 23 of AC gives detailed rules about exactly when a player must forestall and when he must not. (GC prefers the term "stop play", but this is not quite correct. An adversary can try to stop play, but the laws have to consider a striker who plays on.) Several GC rules tell when a player should or should not forestall, but he is not told when he must or must not.
I suggest that AC Law 23 should be reconsidered. Would it do any harm if the adversary was allowed to choose whether to forestall?
(I should add that I am not convinced by Prichard's account of why the adversary came to be forbidden to warn a striker who was about to play a wrong ball. However I realise that this can be a sensitive matter.)

 Law 23(d) does not seem to deal well with conflicting cases:
If the adversary forestalls after the striker has started his swing, he may cause the striker to mishit. On the other hand, it could be in the striker's interest to be forestalled if he is about to hit a misplaced ball. Were things any better when the referee had to decide by using Law 55(a)?

 When a mallet causes damage to a court: In GC this is always a fault or a non-striking fault. In AC, it is a fault only during the striking period and then only in specified cases. I cannot find this topic mentioned in AmC rules. I prefer the GC rule as being more consistent.

 Playing when forestalled: AC Law 32 sometimes gives an unfair result. Suppose the striker takes croquet from a wrong ball, is then forestalled but plays on and sticks in a hoop. Law 32 says that his turn has not ended and he may replay the hoop stroke.
GC has no equivalent to Law 32 of AC. Instead normal rules apply. So if an error or other irregularity is found to have occurred, either before or after forestalling, the proper remedy is applied.

 Handicap play: The GC rules are simpler than the AC laws, because GC does not distinguish between bisques and half bisques. (There are other differences that meet the different needs of AC and GC.)

 Rectifying an error: In AC, when an error has occurred, the balls usually have to be replaced where they were before the stroke in error. An exception is made in faults, where the opponent may choose to leave the balls where lay after the stroke in error.
GC allows that choice after all types of error.

 Advice from spectators: GC has nothing corresponding to AC Laws 50 and 51. This may be partly a cultural matter, in that GC is partly influenced by Egyptian customs.
The basic problem is that a player may play a long break in AC with a wrong ball, and it can make a big difference to the result if someone warns him. This is the cause of many awkward rules in AC, and I am not sure about the best remedy.
The AmC rule is "It must be a matter of conscience how a player acts after receiving unsolicited information or advice".

 Incidents not dealt with in the laws: It is not possible for the laws to deal with every possible event. An obvious example is that no law can cover every type of cheating.
AC has Law 55, but some of us feel that Law 55(a) is unhelpful. AmC seems to have no specific rule, but has a number of rules tha discuss ethics.
GC has Regulation 5(f), which has the merit of brevity. However some people argue that referees should not be given too much discretion in case some of them make wild decisions.

 Running a wrong hoop: In AC, an inactive referee must keep silent unless appealed to.
In GC, such a referee must intervene if both players try to run another wrong hoop. (Rule 15(4)(iii) may have been overlooked by people who apply the new AC regulations to GC.)
In AmC, the referee intervenes if the striker tries to play a continuation stroke after running a wrong hoop.
In GC and AmC there are special reasons for intervening that do not apply in AC. Even so, this shows that intervention by an inactive referee causes is not always a bad idea.

 Interference by an outside agency: The relevant AC laws and GC rules look quite different but have the same effect in practice. There has been so much trouble in AC with this issue that I would be reluctant to make any change in the current wording of eithe game.

 Some other differences:
  GC rule 1(a) allows a game between one player and two. AC has no counterpart.
  GC permits striped balls. They are not mentioned in AC.
  GC may seem to omit the fault that AC lists as Law 28(a)(4). In fact it is covered elsewhere in the fault list. (The GC rule makers must have read the AC laws with great care.)
  If a bisque will be taken after a fault, GC rules require the balls to be replaced where they were before the fault. In AC, the adversary has discretion.
  The rules for dealing with bad behaviour are different. Of especial concern, in GC, even serious misbehaviour can only be dealt with by a warning, the first time it occurs. In AC
  In GC, the opponent has the option of leaving the balls where they lie after many types of misplay. AC permits this only after a fault.
  If a player is misled by the opponent into adopting an unwise line of play, he has a remedy in AC (Law 31) but not in GC. 

 Stylistic differences:
  GC rules are written in gender neutral style. AC laws are not.
  In GC, commentaries are sometimes used where AC would use a more detailed law. (The AC commentaries are not part of the laws and serve a different purpose.)

To sum up: In past years, several people have told me that AC should copy some "simpler" items from the GC rules. After closer study, it is hard to find any case where I would advise a GC rule to be adopted unchanged. However there are many cases where the croquet community would benefit if the two laws committees could work together. But this could take a long time.

 This paper gives my personal thoughts. It does not give the official position of the A.C.A. or the I.L.C.
I thank all the people who have given me advice, some of which is included in this revised article.

 Max Hooper,