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How To Set Up A Croquet Court In Your Backyard

Updated on April 7, 2014

Croquet: The Perfect Summer Backyard Sport

Backyard croquet is a fun and relaxing lawn game that anyone can play, young and old alike. Growing up, I really used to enjoy this game a lot. Each summer, we would set up a croquet court in our backyard using simple U-shaped metal hooks or wickets arranged in diamond patterns with multi-colored stakes at each end. We would play for hours until we got tired from the summer heat, then reward ourselves with tall glasses of iced tea.

Backyard croquet is not only a great game for the entire family, but it is a fun way to stay active when you want a sport that is not too physically demanding and you don't have easy access to a golf course. Many sports can be expensive, and when it comes to cost, backyard croquet is about as economical as you can get.

This genteel sport first made its way to the British Isles around the mid 19th century and became immensely popular in England in the 1860s. Croquet then quickly spread to other English-speaking countries, including South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and America. Although its popularity has waxed and waned over the years, backyard croquet has steadfastly remained a favorite pastime for those who enjoy lawn games and socializing outdoors.

Backyard croquet is ideal for family reunions, garden parties, barbeques, picnics, and other outdoor get-togethers. Setting up a croquet court in your backyard is easy and this page shows you how.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

This image is available as a poster at zazzle.com.

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Background Croquet Court Set Up

Croquet has a fairly long history, and a number of different versions of this game have evolved over the years that vary by country and the skill level of the players. In the US, the most familiar and popular one is the recreational lawn game known as backyard croquet. In this game, nine wickets are used which are arranged in a double diamond pattern. This version of croquet differs in many respects from the one that is played competitively, known as association or tournament croquet. Here, a six-wicket court is used and the rules are more rigorous.

Setting up a croquet court in your backyard is very straightforward and requires only minimal equipment. Besides the nine wickets, you will also need two stakes, enough balls and mallets for everyone, and (optionally) chalk, string, flags, or other stakes to mark the court boundaries or corners. A full-size court is 100 x 50 feet, but if you don't have that much space in your backyard, you can easily scale down your croquet court to whatever space you have available. Many people opt for a half-size court of 50 x 25 feet as shown here.

The basic steps for setting up a background croquet court are as follows:

  1. Prepare and set aside enough lawn space (or as much as you can spare). Ideally, the ground should be as level as possible. Also, the best surface for this game is a well mowed grass lawn that is as free as possible of rocks, lumps, bumps, holes, and anything else that could trip you up.
  2. Place the stakes along the center line 3 feet from each end of the court.
  3. From each stake, measure 3 feet into the court area along the center line and place a pair of wickets 3 feet apart.
  4. Place another wicket in the center of the court and arrange the remaining wickets in two adjoining diamonds (like a figure 8) using the measurements shown in the diagram above.
  5. If you like, you can mark off the court boundaries and/or corners with chalk, string, flags, or stakes.
Tip: Use a mallet to hammer the wickets and stakes into the ground.

The above croquet court image is used with kind permission of the United States Croquet Association.

How To Set Up A Croquet Court (Video)

Halex Classic 4 Player Croquet Set in Carry Bag

For backyard croquet, you need nine wickets, two stakes, and enough balls and mallets for everyone.

Halex Classic 4 Player Croquet Set in Carry Bag
Halex Classic 4 Player Croquet Set in Carry Bag

If you are just starting out, this top-selling croquet set offers the best value for the money. It comes complete with nine steel wickets, two hardwood stakes, four wooden mallets, four polymer croquet balls, and a carrying bag.

 

Wooden Croquet Balls

Many long-time croquet players, both amateurs and professionals, prefer traditional wooden balls over the usual polymer ones that come with most modern croquet sets. Over time, however, wooden balls wear out, especially with heavy use, and they eventually need to be replaced. Whether you are buying wooden balls for the first time or are looking for replacements, you can find them at eBay (see listings below) for a very reasonable cost.

Vintage Croquet Sets

Whether you are a collector or simply prefer the look and feel of the older all-wood croquet sets, you can find a wide selection of handsome vintage and antique croquet sets at eBay.

Backyard Croquet Rules - Some Basics

If you have never played croquet or it has been awhile since you last picked up a mallet, here are some basic rules to get you started and/or refresh your memory.

  1. The main objective is to be the first to move your ball through the course to completion, from the first wicket, through all of the wickets and stake, and finally back to the finishing stake as shown here.
  2. In a typical game, there are 2-6 players, and each player gets a different colored ball. Each player takes turns, and the order in which each person gets to play is determined by the colored rings on the stakes, with the top color (which is usually blue) always going first. The players may choose the color of the ball they wish to play in a number of ways, e.g., by using a coin toss to see who gets the top color.
  3. To begin, place your ball halfway between the finishing stake and first wicket. Strike your ball with the face of your mallet and aim it to go through the wicket(s).
  4. Each time you pass through a wicket, you get one bonus stroke (and if you can make it through both wickets in one shot, you get two). Proceed in a counterclockwise manner to the next wicket as shown in the diagram above. if you do not pass through a wicket, it is the next player's turn.
  5. If you hit another player's ball with your ball, you get two bonus strokes. This is called roquet. Many things can happen when balls collide on a croquet court. For example, if you hit another player's ball and cause it to pass through a wicket, you get one bonus stroke. (For more information on roquet and bonus shots, please see the links below.)
  6. If you hit your ball out of bounds, you end your turn and your ball is placed one mallet head's length back into the court at the point your ball went out of bounds.
  7. The first player to pass through all wickets is the winner (yay!). The remaining players may go ahead and finish out the game to see who comes in 2nd, 3rd, etc.
The United States Croquet Association has the most comprehensive information on the rules of background croquet on their websites at:

9-Wicket Croquet: Backyard Croquet: Basic Rules

United States Croquet Association - Rules

Expert Village also has a series of videos that will walk you through the different croquet strokes and other moves.

The above croquet court image is used with kind permission of the United States Croquet Association.

How To Play Croquet (Videos)

Croquet (Backyard Games)

Croquet (Backyard Games)
Croquet (Backyard Games)

This book is a handy reference and is also especially useful for the beginner who wants to take his/her skills to the next level. Tips are provided on how the player can improve his/her grip, stance, and swing, and the official rules of the US Croquet Association are also included.

 

Complete Croquet: A Guide to Skills, Tactics and Strategy

Complete Croquet: A Guide to Skills, Tactics and Strategy
Complete Croquet: A Guide to Skills, Tactics and Strategy

Written by the editor of croquetworld.com, this highly useful book provides tips on how the amateur and aspiring professional alike can improve his/her game.

 

In case you were wondering ...

The phrase, "sticky wicket," which is a metaphor for a difficult situation, has nothing to do with croquet. This expression comes from cricket, in which the playing surface is referred to as a "wicket," and alludes to the difficulty of playing this game on a wet and sticky playing surface (e.g., after a heavy rain), which can cause the ball to bounce erratically.

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    • CrossCreations profile image

      Carolan Ross 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Hey I got an old croquet set at a garage sale and am setting it up in my backyard right now, have a 4th of July party here tomorrow. Googled it and was thrilled to find a fellow Squidoo-er. I'd already watched a couple of videos at You Tube but your page is the best, finally found what I needed. Have not played croquet since a child.

    • ComfortsOfHome profile image

      ComfortsOfHome 5 years ago

      Croquet is a fantastic outdoor game - all ages of kids and adults can play together without getting frustrated or bored, and you can't say that of very many activities!

    • dahlia369 profile image

      dahlia369 5 years ago

      Nice game and very well presented, thank you!! :)

    • ArthurF LM profile image

      ArthurF LM 5 years ago

      Great lense. I wish I had an opportunity to play this game more. Its hard to find an easy sport like this where almost anyone can pick it up and play.

    • flycatcherrr profile image

      flycatcherrr 5 years ago

      Croquet is a summertime staple at our family gatherings, and the competition can get quite fierce! But we have a rule that the youngest one gets to go first, and anyone who's not yet school age can take a "do over" at any time. Great fun!

    • profile image

      yogyogi 5 years ago

      @Gypzeerose: in even 60' s it was popular

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 5 years ago

      We used to play in our family. It was really popular in the 50's.

    • profile image

      Pete Schultz 5 years ago

      We used to play all the time, it's a fun game!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I loved to play this game when I was little!

    • profile image

      miaponzo 5 years ago

      I used to love to play croquet!!! Now I don't have a grass yard... I wonder if there is any other way to play? Blessed!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      We had a croquet set and would play as a family growing up and you sure did just bring back some memories. I had forgotten the rules but am now ready for a game. Congratulations on front page honors!

    • YogaAngel profile image

      YogaAngel 5 years ago

      I played it one time, at a park by the beach. It was fun!

    • AdamCarrasquillo profile image

      AdamCarrasquillo 5 years ago

      I haven't played yet. This is a great instructional lens :)

    • profile image

      zafeyry 5 years ago

      When I was on vacation in Maine, I hit the croquet ball as far down the lawn as I could! I called it Extreme Croquet, in my opinion it's more fun than the real kind.

    • captainj88 profile image

      Leah J. Hileman 5 years ago from East Berlin, PA, USA

      My grandparents had the croquet set but no instructions, so my brother and I would just stick them randomly through the yard and compete to see whose ball would go through more. HOURS and HOURS of my life spent playing croquet incorrectly. LOL!

    • BikePro profile image

      Graeme 5 years ago

      This is an excellent article! We had croquet at our wedding. I'm not sure if it was set up properly... we were off having photos done and I missed all the fun. Thanks for the detailed lens.

    • dlobel profile image

      Debra Lobel 5 years ago from Oakland, CA

      We had a croquet set when I was growing up. We played with it in our backyard. I have lots of fond memories. When I was cleaning out my parent's garage, I gave it to a neighbor and told them to have lots of fun and make many memories.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Used to play it but when I moved and lost our set, I just stopped. You have revived my interest.

    • biminibahamas profile image

      biminibahamas 5 years ago

      Gosh, this brought back tons of memories from when I grew up! Fun lens.

    • CoeGurl profile image

      CoeGurl 5 years ago from USA

      Croquet is our favorite family outdoor game. Congratulations on making the front page!

    • bjesparza profile image

      bjesparza 5 years ago

      Croquet is awesome!