If your last series of backyard parties featured a bunch of bored guests and some awkward moments of silence, it’s probably time to pep things up. While a little lazy time under the sun never hurt anyone, you need to keep your guests as engaged as possible or your outdoor party will be a total disaster. Luckily, you don’t have to look too far (or dig too deep into your wallet like beer pong) to come up with super fun and affordable ways to keep them happy.
Fitting the bill, croquet is a go-to outdoor game for people worldwide, especially if your guests don’t want to break a sweat under the summer heat. This century-old lawn game is primarily a game of wits, posing as the ideal pick-me-up after a meal of BBQ ribs and buttery corn on the cob. So, ready to “croq” this summer with your friends or family by your side?
What You Need to Play Backyard Croquet
Pronounced “crow-KAY,” croquet is a golf-like game that requires some pretty simple equipment. Although each piece of the croquet equipment seems entirely irrelevant to the rest, somehow they make perfect sense when combined.
The best part about this game’s equipment is that it is quite easy to handle (plus very safe despite the mallets used), allowing even young children to join the action. So, whether you want to keep your children away from the TV on a hot summer day or just want to kick things off with friends at a backyard barbecue, croquet is a safe bet. Here’s what you’ll need:
- 2 teams, each consisting of one to three players. So, you can either play solo, with one or two partners. The maximum amount of players allowed in a match of backyard croquet is six.
- 6 wooden mallets. Each player gets to use one mallet. Featuring specially designed ends (faces) for striking, these mallets are one of a kind. According to the official rules, players are not allowed to strike the ball with the side of the mallets. However, if you and your friends want to spice things up, you can always introduce “side” shots as well as other shot variations to the game.
- 9 wickets (hoops). Mostly known as wickets, crocket hoops are wire hoops with pointed ends, a.k.a. “carrots” which are used to keep the wickets planted into the ground despite the non-stop hits. These hoops are usually made of steel. However, you can also do the trick by using vinyl-coated wickets.
- 2 stakes. Much like wickets, croquet stakes feature a pointy edge which is specially designed to keep the stake in the ground at all times.
- 4-6 croquet balls. From black and blue to orange and red, croquet balls definitely add some color to the mix. These specially designed balls weight about 16 ounces each when they are made of wood. However, you can always opt for those made of plastic which are usually lighter, more durable and bounce higher.
- 6 colored clips or clothespins (optional accessory). Despite its simple equipment and rules, croquet can be quite confusing in action. That usually occurs because players get confused as to which wicket they are supposed to go for next. So, to avoid confusion, use a colored pin or clothespin (preferably in the same color as your ball) and mark the upcoming wicket. Keep moving the clips as you go through the hoops.
The Basic Rules of Croquet
Judging from the funny nicknames (some call it “chess on grass”), it’s obvious that many people often underestimate the simplicity of croquet. However, despite its seemingly easy rules, this outdoor game calls for a variety of top-drawer skills such as quick thinking, strategic choices and well thought out moves. So, as you see, there’s nothing bush-league about croquet.
- Step 1
Prepare the court. The good news is that a backyard croquet court doesn’t have to be perfect. However, the shorter the grass, the better. If your backyard size allows it, you can follow the official guidelines which call for a rectangle court, 100 feet long by 50 feet wide. However, if your backyard is smaller than that, you can adjust the size accordingly. Just make sure you mark definite boundaries by using a string or chalk.
- Step 2
Set up the wickets. Setting up the wickets is probably the trickiest part when playing croquet. According to the 9-wicket version which is backyard-friendly, you need to plant the hoops into the ground in a figure-eight (double-diamond) shape. You start by placing two wickets, one in front of the other, at the bottom of the court right where you’ll make the first hit.
Place two more wickets at the opposite side of the court, again one in front of the other. Make sure they are aligned with the hoops you planted earlier. Then, plant another wicket between the four hoops you’ve placed already. Make sure it’s located somewhere in the middle.
Finally, following a zig-zag motion, place four more wickets at the sides of the court, shaping an eight figure. Make sure to keep some distance between the hoops at the sides and the court boundaries to avoid future penalties.
- Step 3
Set up the stakes. Once you place the wickets in a figure-eight shape, plant the two stakes right after the double hoops both at the top and bottom side of the DIY croquet court. The bottom stake is known as the starting and finishing stake while the top one is called the turning stake.
- Step 4
Assign the balls to the players. The number of balls used in a match of croquet depends entirely upon the number of players participating in the game. So, for a two- or four-player game, you’ll need just four balls. The most common color combos for croquet are black/blue for one team and yellow/red for the other. However, for a six-member croquet match, you need to use all six balls. In this case, one team gets the blue, black and green balls while the other is assigned with the red, yellow and orange balls.
- Step 5
Decide which team goes first. Flip a coin, play a round of rock-paper-scissors, talk it out. Do whatever feels comfortable to determine which team is going to make the first strokes. You can even let the croquet balls decide. Just hit two of then toward the court and the team closest to the middle wicket gets to hit first.
- Step 6
Play the balls into the game. Taking turns, all players place their balls somewhere between the starting/finishing stake and wicket #1. Each one gets to strike the ball with the mallet from that spot and play it into the game.
- Step 7
Know the order of the game. When played by two or four people, the order of the game goes like this: blue, red, black and finally yellow. However, when croquet is played by six people, the order of the game is blue, red, black, yellow, green and orange.
- Step 8
Players try to “run” as many hoops as possible. As soon as the balls are into the court, each player hits his/her ball in an attempt to pass it through the right hoops. Note that running a hoop in the opposite direction doesn’t count as a point.
- Step 9
The team that runs the most hoops and hits the center peg first wins. Strikers from both sides take turns hitting their balls through the hoops and round the turning stake. The team that makes it to the starting/finishing stake and strikes the center peg first wins.
The Not-so-Basic Rules of Croquet
Being the hour-long outdoor game that it is, fans everywhere have come up with a set of out-of-the-box rules to spice up things even more. If you want to take things up a notch, then you should definitely incorporate these not-so-basic rules of croquet and turn your backyard party into a blast.
- When a player hits the ball through the correct wicket, he/she gets an extra shot.
- When a player hits an opponent’s ball (croquet), he/she also gets an extra shot.
- If you want to raise the stakes and earn two additional shots, hit the ball through the first two, upper two or middle wicket in one stroke.
- If an opponent’s and your balls are touching, you can put your foot on it and relocate it toward any direction using your mallet. Remember to keep the two balls attached as you move the ball around.
- If you knock an opponent’s ball outside the DIY croquet course, you need to put it back on the edge of the field where it went off.
- If a ball passes through a wicket but rolls back, the point does not count.
Unlike other outdoor games like disc golf or corn hole, croquet is a game of strategic thinking and smart decisions. So, if you and your friends or family want to exercise your brain instead of the body (which is cool considering the hot summer sun), then croquet is the ideal choice. Plus, it will keep your guests on their toes after that post-meal slump. Let’s “croq” like never before, shall we?
For a video tutorial on the rulesnof the amazing y yard game, check out here. (Youtube video)