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The Story Behind Croquet

April 5th, 2013 Games

Those looking for a classic, relaxing game to enjoy in the outdoors often push some wickets into the dirt, break out mallets and enjoy a few friendly rounds of croquet.

Croquet: The Basics
Virtually anyone - young or old - should be able to understand the basic mechanics of commonly played backyard croquet. According to the United States Croquet Association, two striped posts are placed 100 feet away from each other, as close to directly across as possible. A pair of wickets are placed in front of each post, with two others planted six feet to the side and approximately 30 feet ahead of the post.

Taking turns, each player attempts to knock his or her colored ball through the wickets - in a correct order - to score points. The first player to 14 takes home the victory. Croquet is an especially good game for those with a devious personality. Not unlike pool, it's legal to knock your opponents' balls off course by whacking your ball into their paths, or just outright blasting the multi-colored spheres off the course with your ball.

The different forms of croquet
More than one way to play croquet has developed over the years. The Connecticut eXtreme Croquet Society innovated extreme croquet - a more aggressive version of the a game. But most people tend to play more traditional versions of the game. Americans, in general, play by a different set of rules than many other countries. Hence, American Croquet is considered a slightly different animal from International Croquet, which is played in more than eight nations, according to the United States Croquet Association (USCA). The style known as Golf Croquet features the most easily learned set of rules, and is probably what you're watching if you see a croquet game happening at a corporate function, family reunion or similar outdoor group recreational occasion.

However, experts offer conflicting accounts as to how croquet first came to be.

A few stories that could explain croquet
The Houston Croquet Association points to two possible origin stories for croquet. Its research demonstrates that the game may have come into fruition as an Irish offshoot of the French game Pall Mall, often noted as an early version of golf. Meanwhile, the United States Croquet Association states that the British invented croquet in the 1800s.

Oxford Croquet seems to lend some credence to both theories. Its website states that the very first set of the rules for the game was established at Charlestown House by Walter Jones Whitmore in 1866. However, the historical online resource does agree that a possible less organized version of croquet first appeared in Ireland during the 1830s.

Lighter, cheaper mallets, balls and wickets were needed to play croquet on the harsher terrains often seen in America. To this day, European and American croquet equipment are somewhat different for this reason.

Having undergone a resurgence in popularity throughout the 1900s, Oxford Croquet notes that the two World Wars substantially diminished the frequency with which Americans and Brits picked up their mallets.

In fact, it was a 1960 game between a pair of famed croquet teams, one from New York and one from England, that truly rejuvenated the prevalence of croquet in the U.S. The game's visibility continued to snowball, and The United States Croquet Association came into being in 1977.