Changes to the laws of association croquet in 2008


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This article is designed to help referees adjust to the new laws of 2008, but I hope some players will find it helpful too. It has been written with Australian conditions in mind, but that should not deter overseas readers.

A lot of laws have been reworded, but there are not many changes to the way the game is played. Some of the changes are meant to make the law easier to understand. Some enforce official rulings given over the last seven years. Others correct mistakes or ambiguities in the laws of 2000.

The O.R.L.C. Commentary has been rewritten and discusses all the changes, often in more detail.

Changes to the Laws on Faults

Law 28(a)(1) has been changed, so that it is now illegal to guide the mallet by sliding it along the foot. This practice has been more common overseas, when the striker's ball has run a hoop but has stopped a short distance beyond. If the striker wants to take a large back swing to hit the ball hard, there is a risk that the mallet may hit the hoop and miss the ball.

It is not a fault if the mallet rubs against the shoe when there is no attempt to guide it. It is still legal to slide the mallet against a hoop,

Laws 28(a)(7) and (8) have been rewritten to bring them into line with Paragraph 28.11 of the Commentary of the O.R.L.C. This told referees to ignore double taps or prolonged contacts in croquet strokes if they were hard to see. The intention of Law 28(a)(7)(A) is to stop the striker from guiding his ball with the mallet for a significant distance.

In a scatter shot, the balls are sometimes so close together that there is no double hit, but the striker's ball stays in contact with the mallet until after it hits the dead ball. Law 27(a)(8) now makes it clear that this is a fault.

Law 28(d)(1) provides exemption in some cases from Laws 28(a)(7) and (8). The old laws provided an exemption if the apparent fault was caused by a roquet, a peg out or interference by a pegged out ball. However there was dispute about the meaning of the word "caused". This was partly solved by an Official Ruling, but this was found to be too complicated.

Under the new law, hitting your ball twice is not usually a fault if a roquet was made, but it is still a fault if your ball makes a roquet, then hits another object and then hits your mallet again. It is also not a fault if the second hit occurs after your ball is pegged out or hits a ball that is pegged out in the stroke.

Law 28(a)(15) has been rewritten and has merged with Law 28(c)(2). The words "deliberately" and "likely to", which used to cause dispute, have gone. The law now refers to serious damage to the court if it is caused by the mallet in certain specified strokes. For the time being, at least, only certain types of stroke are involved.

Law 28(d)(2) contains material that was moved from Law 5(h). It does not involve change of meaning.

Law 37(h) involves the remedy for a stroke in a handicap game. If you commit a fault and take a bisque, the old rule said that the fault had to be rectified. In future your opponent can choose to rectify the error or to have the balls left where they were at the end of the fault. Until he does so, you can delay choosing whether you will take a bisque.

Law 48(d)(4): What should a referee do if he suspects that a fault has been committed but is not quite sure? Some people have given the benefit of the doubt to the striker, but this was never part of the laws of croquet, and is unfair to the adversary. This new law tells him to declare a fault if he believes it is more likely than not that a fault occurred.

This does not mean that a referee can take his task easily. If anything, he should be better practiced and more watchful than ever.

There was concern about oblique hoop shots from a short distance. If the striker hits hard and lets the mallet follow through freely, it may be impossible for the referee to be sure. So most experienced strikers use an action that make the referee's task easy. It is hoped that this law will persuade more players to do the same.

Definitions of "stroke" and "ball in play"

Law 5 used to be hard to read and caused a surprising number of disputes. It has been rewritten.

There are two significant changes in meaning of Law 5(a):

 1. A stroke is now played only if you try to hit a ball that is in play. If you try to play a ball from another game, you have not played a stroke; so you replace the balls and play a stroke correctly. (This can happen if a player means to play the green but hits the blue by mistake. It can also happen if a green ball from another game finds its way on to your court and you hit the wrong ball.)

However if you play the green lawfully but aim at the red and hit it, you are out of luck. You have played a stroke and caused interference to the other game, but you have not made a roquet.

 2. Under the old laws, you could deem a stroke either by deliberately missing or by telling your opponent. In future, you must tell your opponent, and this is now treated in the laws as a way of playing a stroke; so the word "deemed" is no longer needed. The striker is advised to say which ball he is playing; otherwise he now becomes responsible for the position of both balls.

Re Law 6(a) and (c): Now that a stroke can only be played with a ball in play, we need to know when a ball is in play. The old definition in Law 6(a) was not the best, and this law has been rewritten. Law 6(c) has been altered to remedy a defect that was reported in the O.R.L.C. Further changes in Law 26(a)(2) and the new Law 26(a)(3) tell us exactly when a ball becomes in play when a wrong ball has been played into the game.

Law 27  Playing when a ball is misplaced

Law 27(a): This has been rewritten to include material moved from Law 27(i), but there is no change in meaning.

Law 27(b): The reference to Law 28(a)(8) has been removed; so there is no longer any exception to this law.

Laws 27(c)(3), (e), (f), (g), (h) and (j): A lot of people had trouble with the old wording of these laws, especially Law 27(j). So much so that some referees just ignored Law 27(j).

If you understood the old laws, you will find the new ones work the same way. If you were not so sure about the old laws, you should find the new ones easier to read. In either case, you should read the new laws carefully.

The new Law 27(c)(3) is important. It tells us that if you purport to take croquet, you get all the consequences of a croquet stroke. So if the purported croqueted ball leaves the court, your turn ends. Likewise if you leave a still ball in a purported croquet stroke.

Let us see how this works in practice. Suppose the striker is playing red. He starts his turn by shooting at blue and black which are near each other on the yard line. The red ball hits the blue and bounces off on to the black. The striker puts the blue and black balls on the yard line correctly, but he forgets which ball was hit first. He puts the red in contact with the black and plays what he thinks is a croquet stroke. In his next stroke, he rushes blue into the court.

Let us analyse the position at this stage. He has played three strokes. In the first stroke, he roqueted blue. In the second stroke, he purported to take croquet from black. So the black ball became dead. The blue ball did not.

If the error had been discovered at this stage, the remedy of Law 27(e) would have been applied. The error would be rectified; so the black ball would be replaced, the red ball would be put in contact with the blue, and the black would become live again.

However the error was not discovered at this stage. So Law 27(c)(3) tells us that the striker is entitled to a continuation stroke. The blue ball is still live; so he may roquet it again. After he does so, the error is still within the limit of claims; so if it is discovered it is rectified the same way as if it had been discovered a stroke earlier. (If he had missed the roquet, his turn would have ended under Law 4(d)(1), but the error would still be rectified.)

But suppose the error is still not discovered, and the striker takes croquet from blue. Suppose someone at last notices the error two strokes earlier. It is now beyond the limit of claims; so it cannot be rectified and the balls are not replaced. The striker continues his turn, because nothing has happened to cause it to end. The blue ball became dead in the last (fourth) stroke. The black ball was already dead. So if he wants to continue his break, he must either run his next hoop or roquet yellow.

All this may seem strange at first, but you will soon get used to Law 27(c)(3). You would have got the same answer under the old laws. If you didn't, it is likely that you misunderstood the old laws. You can find more examples at


Under the old laws, a cannon could occur only if one of the balls involved was a yard line ball. This is no longer so. A cannon is now played whenever the striker's ball is one of a group of three or four touching balls, no matter where they are on the court.

A special case is where the third or fourth ball is in the jaws of a hoop. If such a ball has started to run the hoop, Law 14(d) says that it must start again, even if it was not moved in the cannon stroke. This is the same rule as applies to a striker's ball that takes croquet while running a hoop.

Interference and Law 33:
Law 33 has been rewritten.

Law 33(a) applies if a player or an outside agency touches a ball during a stroke.

In most cases the balls are placed where they would otherwise have come to rest.
The stroke is replayed if and only if three conditions are met. They are:

 (A) A replay can occur only if no further stroke has been played., and
 (B) A replay can occur only if either
    (1) the interference might have prevented a point being scored, or
    (2) the interference might have prevented a roquet being made, or
    (3) a ball might have ended in a critical position, but for the interference.
 (C) A replay can occur only if the interference was caused by the adversary or a moving outside agent.

Most interferences are caused by a ball from a double banked game. In such cases, there can be no replay if the ball from the other game was stationary. However if a moving ball from the other game causes interference, the stroke is replayed provided that conditions (A) and (B) are also met.

You may be asked why a stroke cannot be replayed if a stationary ball caused the interference. There are several reasons. The main one depends on a basic rule of croquet that beginners learn at their first lesson: If you mishit a ball, you don't get another go. It would be unfair to the adversary if the striker was given a chance to play the stroke properly. Another reason is that the striker has breached Laws 7(c) and 52(c) and deserves to be penalised.

The next question is: What is meant by a "moving ball"? It was hard to find an ideal test. The one chosen is whether the ball was in motion at any time after the striker took his stance.

Another question is what do you do if there is doubt where a ball would have come to rest. Actually there is always some doubt, but some cases are harder than others. One way is to apply Law 48(f) which has been revised to cover such cases. It tells us that the offender should normally defer to the opinion of the other player. Otherwise the opinion of the player better placed to give an opinion is generally to be preferred. Witnesses may be able to help, including the owner of the ball from the other game.

There are other ways. If Law 48(f) leaves you in doubt, the O.R.L.C. Commentary recommends that you consider the range of places where the ball might reasonably have come to rest, and choose a neutral position. This is the only method that will work if the ball would have bounced off a hoop or peg if there had been no interference.

In some cases you might prefer to roll the ball by hand to see where it goes. There are also several mathematical formulae that give good results if the ball from the other game was hit fairly near full on, but are less helpful with a glancing hit. (They do not work if the interfering ball was in motion.)

Law 33(a) also deals with interference by a player, but only if the interference is accidental or well meant. (for example picking up a ball from your game to stop it hitting a ball from the other game). A player who interferes with a ball for an improper reason may be dealt with under Law 55.

Note the special rules where the striker touches a ball during the striking period. Law 33 does not apply, but Law 28 or one of the other error laws may do so.

Note also that the striker has no choice about whether to replay. He must replay if conditions (A), (B) and (C) are all met; otherwise he must not replay.

Laws 33(b) and (c) cover the same ground as the old Law 33(c), but a mistake in the old law has been corrected.

Law 33(d) fills in some more details.

Several other laws relating to interference have been modified. Law 48(f) was mentioned above. Law 34(a)(2) has been changed so that it no longer deals with interference to a ball.

Two changes are made to Law 31. You can now claim if you were misled by a ball misplaced by someone else. Adopting another line of play under Law 31(d) now includes moving a ball to a different place on the court.

Handicap games

The old laws did not give details of when a turn ended in a handicap game. Changes have now been made in Laws 37(c4), (d) and (e) to deal with this. There are no surprises.

Law 39(a)(3) changes the conditions under which a bisque may be restored in a handicap game if a hoop has been run out of order. The new law follows the official ruling in the O.R.L.C.

A change in Law 37(h) to permit a fault to be rectified was discussed above.

A few changes have been made in the Schedule of bisques to correct wrong figures.

It was found that Law 22(e) did not work well if the next turn was a bisque turn. It has been changed so that if a turn ends before the limit of claims is reached, the limit becomes the first stroke of the next turn.

Deemed roquets:
A mistake in Law 16(c)(1) has been corrected. The opportunity was taken to shorten the law by stating only the basic principles and moving the details to the O.R.L.C.

An ambiguity was corrected in Laws 13(a)(2) and 36(a)(2).

In each case, you are not likely to find any change in the way the game is played.

If a hoop is too narrow
: Under the old laws, the only remedy was in Law 35(b), and this applied only if a ball ended up stuck in a hoop.

A new Law 53(b)(3) gives a wider remedy in some cases. It applies only in tournaments and matches where it is advertised in the conditions for the event. Its use is not recommended unless the hoop uprights will be less than 3¾ inches (95 mm) apart. It allows a player to have the equipment checked if he suspects that a stroke he has just played was affected by a ball touching both uprights at the same time. In certain cases he is allowed to replay the stroke.

Miscellaneous changes:

Re Law 40(b): What do you do if three players arrive on time for a doubles match and the fourth player sends a message that he will be late? If the schedule is tight, it may not be possible to wait, but a forfeit would please no one. A common practice overseas is to start the game on time. When it is the turn of the absent player to play his ball into the game, his partner puts it on a baulk line and declares he will leave it where it lies. There used to be doubt if that was legal. Law 40(b) has been altered to make sure it is.

Re Law 3(c):  Some material has been transferred from Law 19(h). The striker may now hold a ball in position with his mallet as well as with his foot. He may use grass clippings to hold a ball in position.

Law 34(c): The list of types of special damage has been made more extensive.

Hoop and Roquet: Law 17(a) is often misunderstood. It has been reworded with no change of meaning in the hope of making it clearer. The law has a cross reference to Law 14(c) which has been reworded for the same reason.

Law 13(b) has been simplified. The only change in practice is that a player no longer becomes responsible for the position of a ball that was moved in an interference.

Law 22(g) used to apply when an interference under Laws 30 or 31 was discovered within the limit of claims of an error. This rule has been extended to all interferences.

Playing when not entitled: Law 25 has been rewritten. The limits of claim have been changed. The main change occurs when two players play at the same time. If the unentitled player causes a ball to move, it is normally replaced, but not if the correct striker moves it in a later stroke.

Appendix 1: Some of the tolerances for hoops have been changed.

Impasses: The I.L.C. considered adopting rules for dealing with impasses, but deferred a decision until there has been more experience with the proposed rules. In the meantime, it has proposed a set of rules that organisers of competitions are encouraged to use.

Max Hooper