How To Play Croquet: Complete Rules and Tactics Guide


Croquet has been a fun backyard game for our family for a long time now. We’ve played many of the different croquet variants, each with their own rules including the official Association Croquet rule set.

To play croquet, you’ll need to set the court up in either a 9-wicket or 6-wicket croquet layout, depending on the variant of croquet you want to play. You will hit the croquet ball with the mallet through the wickets, making your way through the court, and to the stake.

There are a variety of ways to play croquet. Let’s go over the official, tournament style, professional croquet game rules, as well as the more common backyard croquet game most people play.

Croquet Variants

There are 9 variants of croquet recognized by the World Croquet Federation (WCFOpens in a new tab.) but only Association Croquet and Golf Croquet are played in the World Championships. We won’t cover every version here, just the most popular croquet variants.

Croquet Variants:

  • Association Croquet
  • Golf Croquet
  • Short Croquet
  • Two-ball Croquet
  • U.S. Six-wicket Croquet
  • U.S. Nine-wicket Croquet
  • Garden Croquet
  • Extreme Croquet
  • Ancient Croquet

9-Wicket croquet is by far the most popular version of croquet played in North America as a backyard recreational activity.

Professional league games sanctioned by the United States Croquet Association (USCA) will include 6-Wicket croquet. But, the majority of people playing for fun in their backyard will play 9-Wicket croquet.

Lets start with the rules and game-play of 9-Wicket croquet, and then cover the more professional forms of croquet after. To begin setting up the court and playing the game, you will need a decent croquet set.

I recommend this Baden Deluxe Series Croquet SetOpens in a new tab. (link to Amazon) that we use, or check out the comparisons we did against the most popular croquet sets here, Croquet Set Costs and Compare to find one that will fit your needs.

Croquet 9-Wicket Court Layout

The official 9-Wicket croquet court size is 100′ by 50′ but you can adjust the measurements to fit in the area you have available. To see the full-court official court layout and steps to set up a croquet court, check out our How To Set Up A Croquet Court page. But all you really need is this diagram below.

Here’s the court layout we use in our backyard, it’s basically the official court, except all the measurements are cut in half to fit in most backyards.

Backyard Croquet Court Diagram

Here’s a free printable version of this diagram with no background color (save ink) to help with your court set up.

Don’t worry if you have obstacles on your croquet court. That’s actually a type of croquet game. Any obstacles will affect each player the same, no one player will have any advantage because of obstacles on the court such as a rock, bush, or tree. We’ll talk about extreme croquet below to give more info.

Here’s a quick video walk through of setting up the court in action, but the print- out should be all you really need to set the court up.

Once you have the court all laid out, you can start playing a game. First lets go over the official rules of 9-Wicket croquet, and then I’ll explain backyard play, and how you can set house-rules to make the game the most fun for your group.

How To Play 9-Wicket Croquet

The object of 9-Wicket croquet is to make your way through the course in the correct order before your opponent, getting your ball through 14 wickets and hitting both stakes. In a timed game, Getting your ball through a wicket will earn a point, and the player with the most points at the end of time wins.

Here’s a quick summary video of the rules, but the info below is more in-depth.

Starting A Game

To start a game, you’ll need to decide how many teams there are, how many players are on each team, and which team goes first. In 9-Wicket croquet, there can be a variety of team set ups. Some allow the use of one player to play 2 balls. That’s what makes the game so fun when you have multiple people to play with though.

Here are the possible team set ups:

TeamsPlayersBall Color (1 Ball)
None2-6Any
22Any
24 (2 per team)
or 2 players
w/ 2 balls each
Blue, Black
Red, Yellow
26 (3 per team)Blue, Black, Green
Red, Yellow, Orange
36 (2 per team)Blue, Yellow
Red, Green
Black Orange

The order of play is always blue, red, black, yellow, green, orange. Most stakes will have the colors formatted in that order as a reminder. That’s why the color of ball that each player uses when playing on teams matters. It’s so that the teams have a relatively fair start of the game, with players of the team starting interspersed with players of other teams.

Order of Play:

  • Blue
  • Red
  • Black
  • Yellow
  • Green
  • Orange

Every player will start with their ball directly between the first stake and the first wicket. Players will take their turn based off the color of their ball.

If there’s any disagreement about who gets to be what color (who goes first) most people will settle it by seeing who can hit a ball closest to the middle wicket, or a coin toss.

I want to point out, going first isn’t always the best option. Going last gives you a better chance to hit your opponents ball, gaining a couple bonus hits. We’ll talk more about that in the rules below, but first, you need to know the direction of play.

Play Direction

Play direction is important because you can only count a wicket completed if you hit the ball through the wicket in the right direction. Hitting the ball through a wicket in the wrong direction doesn’t do anything bad, it just doesn’t count.

After you make your way across the court and hit the stake, you will need to make your way back across the court in the other direction.

Here’s a diagram of the play direction and the order wickets need to be played in.

Here’s a free print of this diagram without the background (less ink) although it’s pretty easy to remember.

Once you’ve got your court laid out, your direction of play figured out, and your teams set up, it’s time to play a game of croquet.

Rules

There’s a handful of rules to playing croquet, and while it may seem like a lot to remember at first, it’s what makes the game so fun, the bonus shots in particular. Without these rules, croquet wouldn’t have any strategy or planning, and would be kind of dull to be honest.

Here’s the official United States Croquet Association (USCAOpens in a new tab.) 9-Wicket Croquet Rule Book, but to be honest, that 16 page document is a bit over-board. I wanted to include it here for you, but I’ve simplified these rules below for the average person wanting to play croquet.

I’ve put a summary of the following rules below, with a free print out that can help settle disputes about the rules on the court.

Each player starts with their ball between the stake and the first wicket, one at a time. Each player is allowed one hit per turn, unless bonus shots are awarded. Here’s how to earn a bonus shot.

Bonus Shots:

ActionShots Earned
Score A Wicket1
Score A Stake1
Hitting Another
Players Ball
2

The wicket must be scored in the right direction. Hitting your ball through the wicket in the wrong direction comes with no penalty, but will award no bonus shots. Also, hitting a stake in the right order is the only way to gain bonus shots for scoring a stake.

For example, hitting the stake between wicket score 7 and 8 will award a bonus shot, but not when accidentally hitting the stake after missing wicket 7.

If you hit another players ball, and then score a wicket in the same shot, the wicket will not count, but you do get the 2 bonus shots from hitting another ball. The same goes for scoring a wicket and then hitting another ball in the same shot. The wicket will count, you will get 1 bonus shot, but hitting the other ball doesn’t award any shots.

You must hit the ball completely through the wicket to score the wicket and earn a bonus shot. A ball that comes to rest under a wicket does not score the wicket or earn a bonus shot

You can only get up to two bonus shots per turn. Scoring two wickets in the same shot, or scoring a wicket and a stake in the same shot will award you 2 bonus shots. But, scoring two wickets and a stake in one shot will not get you three bonus shots, only two.

Boundaries

The official 9-Wicket croquet rules state that boundaries of the court are to be marked with flags or chalk. If a players ball goes out of the boundary, they will place their ball 1 mallet and handle length back onto the court from where the ball went out.

We don’t mark our boundaries, but if someone gets their ball knocked way out of the way, we let them guesstimate a boundary line and play from there.

Another rule is that if a player swings, and misses their ball, that swing counts as a shot and they miss their turn. We don’t enforce that rule either. It’s more fun when everyone makes their way around the court together, and missing a shot like that can put you way behind everyone else.

Hitting Another Ball (Roquet)

Hitting another ball is sometimes refereed to as a roquet. You have a few options to choose from if you hit another ball, this is what makes the game more competitive and why croquet involves a bit of strategy.

Roquet Options:

  • Take your ball one mallet head length away from the ball you hit, and take your 2 bonus shots.
  • Take your ball and place it touching the ball you hit. Then using your foot, hold your ball in place, and hit it, sending your opponents ball off course. Then take your second bonus shot.
  • Take your ball and place it touching the ball you hit. Then, take your 2 bonus shots.
  • Take your 2 bonus shots from where your ball came to rest after hitting the other ball. (no intervention)

Take note, you can only hit another ball to gain bonus shots once per turn, unless you go through a wicket. Going through a wicket allows you to hit another players ball and gain bonus shots again.

Time Limit Games

We rarely ever play time limit games, unless there’s people waiting to play in the next round or something. Most time limit games are about 10 or 15 minutes, that way everyone can have a turn at least every half hour.

When playing with a time limit, each wicket and stake count as a point. The points have nothing to do with bonus shots, and bonus shots are carried out the same way. Points are just to keep track of how far around the court you’ve made it. When the time is up, the player with the most points wins the game.

9-Wicket Rules Summary

I’ve created a summary of these rules to help you remember them while on the court playing. Also, the free print out below can help settle disputes and allows for additional house rules to make the game more interesting.

9-Wicket Croquet Rules

9-Wicket Croquet Backyard Play

I’ve been just calling this backyard play, but you may see this referred to as family play or extreme croquet. This is what most people end up playing when their yard has obstacles they’d rather not move. For example, trees, bushes, and large rocks.

Every player will have to face the same obstacles in the same order, so no one player gets an advantage from obstacles being on the court.

The game rules are the same, but your court may be shaped differently or some of the wickets are out of place. That’s perfectly fine, all the same rules still apply, and the game is just as fun. Just make sure the players know the direction of play and which wickets need to be scored in what order before starting.

Some groups actually prefer obstacles to add some excitement and something different to the game. People will often add lawn chairs or other obstacles on purpose. This is a form of extreme croquet, and can help make the game more interesting once you’ve played enough regularly.

Croquet 6-Wicket Court Layout

A 6-Wicket croquet court is most often used to play American Croquet, Association Croquet, or Golf Croquet. These types of croquet are played mostly in tournaments, resorts, country clubs, and championships, as well as internationally.

  • American Croquet – 6-Wicket croquet played in North American tournaments
  • Association Croquet – 6-Wicket croquet played in international tournaments
  • Golf Croquet – Simplest form of 6-Wicket croquet played in tournaments and socially

The official 6-Wicket croquet court size is 105′ by 84′ but you can adjust the measurements to fit in the area you have available. To see the official court layout and steps to set up a croquet court, check out our How To Set Up A Croquet Court page. But all you really need is this diagram below.

Here’s the diagram we use to layout our 6-Wicket croquet court. The nice thing about this court, is that the layout is by units. You can set the length of a unit to whatever will fit in your space.

Here’s a free print out of the 6-Wicket croquet court layout to help you when setting it up yourself.

We set the length of unit to 10 feet, giving us a 50′ by 40′ court. That fits into our space better and brings the wickets closer together.

The official size court is bigger than 9-Wicket croquet court, but has less wickets. I think there’s more fun and action when the wickets are closer together. However, more experienced players take pride in accurate longer distance shots.

Let’s go over the rules of these popular 6-Wicket croquet variants, Association Croquet, American Croquet, and Golf Croquet. All will use the same 6-Wicket croquet court shown above.

How To Play 6-Wicket Croquet

Association Croquet, sometimes referred to as International Croquet, is always played by two teams only. Blue and black balls vs red and yellow balls. In a singles match, each player plays both balls for their side, for example, blue and black. In doubles play, each player plays one ball throughout the game.

The first team to maneuver both their balls through the course and into the stake, win the game.

Here are the official game rules from The Croquet Association (CAOpens in a new tab.) in England. The official rules are insanely complex and unnecessary for the average person, so I’ve simplified them below.

Starting A Game

Since there are only ever two teams that play at a time, a coin toss is usually used to decide which team goes first. The winner of the coin toss can either choose who goes first, or the color of balls they play with. If they choose colors, their opponent may choose to go first.

Side note: All 4 balls must be played in the first 4 turns. After that, your team may decide to play either ball, but not both, per turn.

Play Direction

You play through the 6 wickets twice. Scoring 12 wickets total and hitting the stake at the end to win the game. The order of wickets and direction of play can be confusing at first, but after a while you’ll have it memorized. I’ve made this diagram to show the direction of play, and I’ve numbered the wickets in the order they need to be scored.

6-Wicket Croquet Direction of Play

This is the same direction of play used in Golf Croquet and American Croquet as well.

Rules

The rules for Association Croquet, American Croquet, and Golf Croquet all differ slightly. Golf Croquet is the easiest to play and has the least amount of rules you need to remember, so let’s start with that one.

Golf Croquet

In golf croquet, the wickets scored are counted as points and added to the teams total. When a team scores a point, they are supposed to announce the newly updated score to the other players on the court. There are some notes to keep in mind when scoring wickets.

  • Wickets must be scored in order
  • If the strikers ball causes another ball to score a wicket, the point is awarded to that team
  • If two balls pass through the hoop on the same stroke, the point is scored by the ball that was closest to the hoop before the stroke

It’s usually best to try hitting your opponents ball away from a scoring angle, or aligning your ball in between your opponents ball, and the wicket they need to score. Because if they hit your ball through, you get the point, but they don’t.

If a ball goes out of bounds, it is placed just inside the boundary where it left the court.

Here’s an informative video showing Golf Croquet rules and game-play.

Association Croquet

Association croquet will follow the same rules above for golf croquet, but has some additional rules for hitting another players ball. Hitting another players ball is called a roquet, and these additional rules add more competition to the game.

Hitting another ball or scoring a wicket, also gives the player a continuation stroke. This is similar to the bonus shots earned in 9-Wicket croquet.

Roquet Rules:

  • The player who gets a roquet may take their ball, place it next to the ball they hit, and hit their ball (moving their opponents ball off course)
  • A roquet ball can’t be hit twice in the same turn
  • If you hit another players ball, you may not also score a wicket in the same stroke
  • Hitting another players ball, gives you a continuation stroke
  • If you score a wicket and then hit another ball in the same stroke, the roquet doesn’t count
  • You may not score a stake and make a roquet on the same turn, whichever happens first will take precedence

Here’s a quick video showing the draw of Association Croquet.

Once you move your ball through every wicket in the correct order, your ball becomes a rover ball. The last thing needed is to hit the stake. If any rover ball hits the stake, all rover balls on the court get the stake point and are removed from play. The team that hits the stake with both their balls first, wins the game.

Helpful Links:

Robert Sampson

I'm Robert Sampson and I live in Colorado where I spend a lot of time in the backyard with my family either grilling, playing games and sports, or working on a project to make our backyard a better place to be.

Recent Content