Even though summer is winding down, it’s not too late to pick up a mallet and learn how to play croquet, a decidedly preppy sport. Besides, its a great excuse to buy some preppy sportswear and throw a cocktail party. Croquet has deep roots, dating back to the 1600s under the name “Pall Mall,” or ball and mallet. Croquet became a hugely popular pastime in England during the 1860s since it can be played by both men and women. It was not until the 1870s when the sport of tennis stole croquet’s thunder. Hence Wimbledon’s All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.
But how do you actually play?
Croquet sets typically come with 6 mallets, 6 croquet balls, 9 wickets (metal hoops), and two stakes to accommodate up to 6 players. Usually played on a recently-mowed lawn, the playing area consists of a large rectangle, 50 by 100 feet. Arrange the nine wickets and two stakes in a diamond pattern. Each player (or team of two) is given two croquet balls and a mallet. If six players are playing use the additional ball. Each player has one shot unless their ball goes through a wicket or hits a stake, than he or she receives a bonus shot. The turn ends when the player runs out of bonus shots or hits a stake. One point is awarded for hitting the ball through each wicket and stake in the designated order. The first side to score 14 wicket points and 2 stake points with each ball is the winner.
As mild mannered as this sport may seem, croquet can be extremely competitive. Blocking the opponents’ balls and ruining their shots is fair game. For more information about backyard croquet or to learn about other variations of the game, check out the U.S. Croquet Association web site. (Source U.S. Croquet Association)