My granddaughters, ages 13, 11, and 9 spent a week at my home. I wanted to get them outside and away from technology, so I set up our croquet set. I’d purchased it from a garage sale a few years ago. The game was so different that they immediately took a liking to it. We played it almost every day that week. I played it often as a child. It was a great summer activity and one that my parents enjoyed playing with my sisters and I. Because of my love of the game; I thought it would be fun to share its history today.
Croquet dates back to the middle ages where a variation called pall mall was played among the royalty of Western Europe. It evolved from a game resembling yard hockey to what we have today. During the mid-1800s, it took the UK by storm. Croquet clubs popped up all over Britain. The Wimbledon Croquet club had a number to croquet courts for the wealthy to enjoy. It was played professional by the late 1800s. It was even an event in the 1900 Olympics.
Later it became a game the middle-class enjoyed as well. Croquet was popular for a garden party for young people’s gatherings because women and men could compete together. If a lady had trouble properly hitting the ball, a gentleman might place his hands on hers and show her how. And during Victorian times the older generation disapproved of croquet for that very reason, declaring it scandalous.
Croquet made it to America and Canada in the 1890s and became a very popular sport played by the masses. Garden croquet (one played in family yards) became the most common. Again, it was a great way for courting couples to spend time together chaperoned by the other players. By the mid-20th century, it became the perfect family summer activity. Along with horseshoes, badminton, and family baseball, it was always an option at family reunions. Thanks to easy access to purchasing the game, many households had it in their garage ready to set up. Until a few decades ago, it was one of the most popular summer yard activities.
I recall as a child having a set with plastic balls and mallets for safety sake. My dad taught us the game and we purchased the wooden set with metal balls and wooden mallets once he deemed us responsible enough.
The game is simple to play. And although officially you can score it much like golf. we always played the first one to finish the course wins. There are variation of the game still played by professional croquet clubs. (Yes, I was surprised to find they still exist even in America.) Here is a link to the rules for playing croquet.
The basic game consists of two stakes and nine wickets/ hoops, and six mallets and balls, that are color coded. The stake is striped with the colors of the balls representing which player goes first and so on. Red is always first, then green, blue and yellow, the next two colors may vary based on the producer of the game. Professional only play the first four colors.
The object of the game is to be the first one to complete the course by getting your ball through all the hoops. The course is set up in a diamond pattern. Two hoops spaced in front of each stake and the other five hoops are placed two on each side and one in the middle. The official course size should be a flat grassy area approximately 100ft square. However, based on the size of one’s yard, the course may be shorter. The hoops should be 36 ft apart with the center one about 16ft from the side ones. My dad would pace out the proper distance because, unlike professional courses that were permanent fixtures, ours had to be put away each day in the stand we kept them stored in.
Dad also taught a version of the game that had an additional option, which the older cousins and adults loved to use. And for all those courting men of yesteryear gave them a way to impress their lady loves and add a bit more excitement and competitiveness among the men. If you hit an opponent’s ball during your turn, you could send their ball in another direction, thus giving you the chance to get ahead.
Introducing a game dating back to the middle-ages to children who entertain themselves with technology was so much fun.
Have you ever played croquet?
Cindy Ervin Huff is a multi-published author who loves to bring her imaginary characters to life. When she is not writing or talking with her imaginary friends, she helps with her grandchildren and binge reads. Her passion is to encourage other writers along their journey, and believers as they grow in faith. Visit her at www.cindyervinhuff.com