“Croquet is believed to have been first played by thirteenth century French peasants who used crudely fashioned mallets to whack wooden balls through hoops made of willow branches.
The origins of the modern game have been traced back to 1852 when a game called “crooky” was introduced to England from Ireland where it had been played since the 1830’s. Widespread popularity came when a London sporting goods manufacturer by the name of John Jaques began selling complete croquet sets (John Jaques & Sons remains the foremost manufacturer of croquet equipment today). With the availability of equipment, croquet flourished and soon became one of the primary social and recreational activities of the British leisure class.
By 1870 croquet had reached virtually all of the British colonies where it continued to gain recognition through the turn of the century. Given the nature of Victorian courting codes, it is not surprising that young people-particularly women-relished the game, which gave them the opportunity to socialize out of earshot of chaperons!
With the introduction of lawn tennis and the onset of World War I, the growth of croquet began to wane. But during the 1930’s and 1940’s croquet enjoyed a resurgence, particularly with the “literati” on the East Coast and the “glitterati” on the West Coast of North America. After World War II, toy makers miniaturized the standard croquet set, simplified the rules and marketed croquet as a backyard “children’s game.”
Croquet began its revitalization as a competitive sport in the late 1970’s and has continued to grow in popularity throughout the United States and Canada since that time.”
The sport of croquet is now played competitively in over twenty countries. The growth of the sport can be largely attributed to the efforts of international and national croquet organizations such as Croquet Canada and the United States Croquet Association. Since the early 1980’s the number of competitive players in North America has risen from 50 to over 8,000.
Many people are familiar with the informal backyard version of croquet. That version, usually played with nine wickets and two stakes, is often played between friends and family under “house rules” on bumpy back lawns. The nine-wicket game continues to be hugely popular. One retailer estimates that well over 100,000 backyard croquet sets are sold each year.
But it is the competitive version of croquet which is now experiencing a dramatic revival. This game is played with six wickets and one stake in the center of the court. The “six-wicket” game offers the player the opportunity to learn more advanced shot-making techniques and strategies than the backyard game. Six-wicket croquet is a fascinating, competitive and social game. The equipment is very different from the “backyard’ variety. Flimsy wire hoops are replaced by iron or steel precision wickets. The balls weigh one pound apiece and have only an eighth of an inch clearance through the uprights. Mallets are often made of fine wood and are weighted depending on the needs of the player.
Golf Croquet is yet another version of croquet. The equipment is the same, the order of wickets is the same, but only one ball goes through any one wicket, earning its shooter one point. The players advance to the next wicket, with a winning score usually being the first player or team to achieve seven points. Many clubs teach this form of the game first. Players can play immediately, and think more about shot making than the more complex game of Six Wickets.
Who plays croquet?
Croquet can be played by everyone. It attracts players of all ages who compete together. It is a sport where players can continually improve their game as they become more experienced. Men and women compete on an equal playing level without separate divisions.
Because croquet can be played by everyone, it is a very social game. Divisions exist only among skill levels and most United States Croquet Association tournaments offer competition for beginners and seasoned players alike.