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The Rules of Garden Croquet - How To Play

Croquet Set Equipment

Learn the rules and how to play croquet in this guide. There are different variations of croquet as a game, and therefore you may come across different types of croquet rules. The croquet rules are simple but the game is very tactical which will become apparent as you learn how to play. There are different variations of croquet as a game, and therefore you may come across different types of croquet rules. Here we aim to give players a simple, easy to understand explanation of the rules of these different ways to play the game: International Association Croquet, Golf Croquet and American 6 Wicket Croquet. You can choose to play in the way that most suits your level, the time you have available and the age of the players.

International Association Croquet Rules
These rules for croquet have been written to provide a simple guide for the most popular version of croquet for up to 6 players and will show you how to play croquet with any of the sets we have available. They are the most commonly adopted rules of play in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa called the International Association Croquet Rules.

The Aim of the Game

The objective of the game is to race around the circuit of hoops with each player trying to manoeuvre their own balls to the end of the course first and send their opponent's croquet balls off course to stop them from finishing first.

There is a lot of skill and accuracy involved in croquet, as well as tactical scheming in order to win points and also prevent your opponents from hitting their balls through the hoops and scoring points themselves.

How Do You Set Up The Game of Croquet?

Balls must be hit through the hoops in an arranged order, as shown in the croquet court layout diagram below.

Croquet Layout

Croquet Court Layout
A full court should be measure 35 x 28 yards, but the dimensions of a croquet court can be adjusted to fit the available space if necessary. The circuit of hoops has to be completed twice, with each hoop being passed through once in each direction by each ball and the peg hit at the end of the second circuit in order to win.


Croquet is played with up to six balls according to the number of players.
Players can be organised as follows:

2- 6 Players
"One Ball" with each player having one ball

2 Players
"Singles" with each player using 2 balls: Black and Blue vs Red and Yellow

4 Players
"Doubles" with two pairs - each player having one ball: one pair with Black and Blue and the other with Red and Yellow
"Alternate Strokes Doubles" with two pairs - each player playing alternative strokes during the game using either of that pair's balls.

6 Players
"Teams of 3" with one team playing the Blue, Black and Green balls and the other playing the Red, Yellow and Brown balls.
"3 Teams" where the sides consist of Blue and Yellow, Red and Green & Black and Brown.

Starting the Game

The game starts with the toss of a coin. The winner can choose which balls they will play with or to play first.

How to Play International Association Croquet

The sides take alternate turns. Each player starts by playing (one of) their ball(s) into the court from the starting lines (baulk lines). Once the four (or six) balls are on the court, a player can choose which of its two (or three in the case of a 6-player game) balls it shall play in each turn.
The player who is playing the ball at any point in time is called the "Striker"
The Striker takes one shot, after which play passes to their opponent unless extra shots are earned.

Earning Extra Strokes in Croquet

A player can gain a further shot by
1) running a hoop in the correct direction and order,
2) if their ball hits another ball (this is referred to as a roquet).

If this occurs, the player then places their own ball in contact with the affected ball and then strikes their own ball in order to move the other ball. (This is referred to as 'taking croquet'). The player is then entitled to one further continuation stroke.
The Striker may roquet and take croquet once from each of the other balls during each turn and for every ball that runs its next hoop, the player may roquet the other balls again. This allows the croquet player to run a series of hoops within one turn, also known as 'making a break'.

Once a player has taken all of the strokes he is entitled to, the turn is then ended. A turn also ends when a ball is inadvertently knocked off the playing court during the player's croquet turn, or if a player faults (click here to see full list of faults).

After each shot, any ball which has been sent off court is placed a yard inside the boundary (on the yard line), nearest to where it went off. Any ball lying between the boundary and the yard line, except the player's own ball, is also replaced on the yard line.

Croquet Set Equipment

How to Score in Croquet

A player scores a point when their ball passes through a hoop in the correct direction and in the correct order. In order to score a point, your ball needs to pass right through the hoop (run a hoop). The point can be scored if it is hit with the mallet directly or with another ball.

When the ball passes through the hoop, the striker achieves another stroke (also known as a 'continuation stroke').

During the stroke, if the strikers' ball makes a roquet, which causes the other ball to run its next hoop (called peeling), the owner of the ball that has been peeled gains a point and the striker is not allowed a continuation stroke.

How Do You Keep Score in Croquet?

Points are kept track of by attaching a clip to the hoop each time the intended ball passes through. The clip is colour coordinated in relation to the colour of the ball so that your progress is visible and easy to follow. During the first circuit the clip is attached to the top of the hoop, and during the second circuit the clip is attached to the side.

Once each of the players' balls have been manoeuvred around the circuit twice, they must hit the peg to score 1 final peg point. The peg point can be scored in either of two ways; the player hits the ball directly into the peg OR the player hits another rover ball which in turn hits the ball in question, and this ball in question then hits the peg. The ball which has now scored its peg point is removed from the court.

Becoming A Rover

Once a ball has scored its last hoop point it 'becomes a rover'. It may not be beneficial for that ball to 'peg out' straight away because a Rover Ball can be used to help the player's or team's other ball to finish.

How Do You Win Croquet?

Once and the peg has been hit at the end of the second circuit by each of the balls, 26 points will have been scored. This consists of 12 points from running the hoops and 1 peg point for each ball. The team or player scoring 26 points first is the winner.

Faults in Croquet

Striking Faults

- The striker touches the head of the mallet with a hand

- The striker rests the handle of the mallet or a hand or arm on the ground, some other object or their legs or feet.

- Striking the ball by throwing, kicking, hitting or dropping the mallet

- Striking the ball with any part of the mallet head other than the end face

- If the ball being struck is hit more than once, or not in a clean single stroke.

- Striking the ball against the hoop whilst it is still in contact with the mallet.

- Striking their ball against another ball whilst it is still in contact with the mallet, unless they were already in contact

- Striking a ball which is in contact with a hoop or the peg towards the hoop or peg

- Hitting a hoop or peg with the mallet to move a ball

- Pushing or pulling the ball with the mallet

- Playing before the previous player's turn ends

- The opponent then chooses whether the balls remain where they are after the fault has occurred or to return them to their previous positions. No point is scored for any ball.

Non-striking faults

- A moving ball touches any part of a player, his mallet, clothes, or shoes

- A player touches, moves or shakes a stationary ball with any part of their body, mallet, clothes or shoes

- A player cases damage to the lawn

- Opponents can choose to have the balls replaced or leave them where they are. Opponents then restart playing using the next ball in sequence. If the player who commits the fault is not the striker, then the defaulter (or his team) loses his (or its) next turn. No points can be scored.

Golf Croquet Rules
Golf Croquet is a simpler version of the game which is ideal for beginners or where time is limited. Golf Croquet is still played competitively up to an international level and is preferred by some croquet clubs to Association Croquet.


Golf Croquet can be played by 2 or 4 players

2 Players
"Singles" with each player using 2 balls: Blue and Black vs Red and Yellow

4 Players
"Doubles" with two pairs - each player having one ball: one pair with Blue and Black and the other with Red and Yellow

Starting the Game

The court layout is the same as in Association Croquet. Balls are played in turn from a position one yard from the south east corner of the court. Play is in the following order: Blue, Red, Black, Yellow for 1st colour balls or Green Pink, Brown, White for 2nd colour balls.

Playing the Game

Players take alternate turns, playing each ball in strict order. They cannot choose which of their balls to play on each turn. Each turn consists of one single stroke with the striker hitting their coloured ball with their mallet. There are no extra strokes earned for running hoops or hitting other balls.

If a ball is hit out of the court, it is placed back on the boundary at the point it went off and it is played from that point on the player's next turn.

How to Score in Golf Croquet

Players aim to be the first to run each of the hoops in order. The first player to run each hoop scores a point. Once the first hoop has been run by one ball, all players move on to run the second hoop from the position their balls lay after the first hoop has been scored and so on around the court. If more than one ball runs a hoop in the same stroke, then the ball that was closest to the hoop at the start of the stroke scores the point. If a ball runs 2 hoops in the same stroke, then both hoop points are scored. A clip of the relevant colour can be placed on the hoop to indicate which ball scored each hoop. Only the first player to run each hoop scores a point. All of the balls do not need to pass through each hoop on the court. Only the first ball through each hoop needs to run that hoop. Play progresses in the same pattern as Association Croquet.

Players may choose not to contest a hoop if they feel they have a limited chance of winning that hoop point. They can play on towards the next hoop instead.


Balls being played on towards the next hoop can only go halfway towards that hoop otherwise they are "offside". As soon as the correct hoop is scored, the opponent of any ball that is beyond half way towards the next hoop can have the offside ball placed on a penalty spot either halfway along the East or West boundary

Balls are not offside if they reached their position:

- on the stroke just played or

- as a result of their opponent's stroke, play of the wrong ball or fault or

- through contact with their opponent's ball or

- being directed to a penalty spot

Playing a Wrong Ball

If the striker plays the wrong one of their or their team's balls, then the balls are placed back in the positions they were before the stroke and play continues with the correct player playing the correct ball without any penalty. If the striker plays their opponent's ball, or the wrong player plays out of turn, then play stops without any points being scored and the opponent can choose whether the balls should be left where they are or placed back in the positions they were before the error. The opponent can then re-start play with either of their balls.

How to Win Golf Croquet

The first player or team to score 7 points is the winner. If the score is a draw after 12 hoops, hoop 3 is played again as a decider. The peg is not used as a part of Golf Croquet.

Faults in Golf Croquet

A shot must be taken by holding the mallet by the shaft and swinging it to hit the ball cleanly with the narrow end of the mallet head.

A striking fault is committed if the striker:

- touches a ball themselves or

- their mallet touches another ball or

- hits their ball more than once or

- squeezes their ball against a hoop or

- causes damage to the court with their mallet.

If a fault is committed no points are scored and the turn ends. The opponent then chooses either to return the balls to their previous positions or leave them where they are.

American Six Wicket Croquet Rules
This version of the game is played in the United States and Canada using the same court layout as International Association Croquet. The rules are governed by the USCA.