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Croquet

Croquet is one of the most widely played games in the world, for many reasons. For one, croquet is a great family game, and the “croquet habit” is often passed down in families for generations. Also, croquet sets are relatively simple, don’t involve that much equipment, and the game can be played in any backyard with a decent lawn. This makes it easy to set up, to enjoy a game with friends or family at any time, or to use as an excuse for an enjoyable gathering. Croquet is relatively easy to learn, too, so it’s a great game to include beginners.
Because the game of croquet was the first to allow women and men to compete together on equal footing, it is still appreciated worldwide for that aspect. While competition-level croquet can be quite riveting and the game has a bit of a reputation for toughness among players (as demonstrated in a wild game played in Lewis Carroll’s famous book, “Alice’s Adventures Under Ground”), it is usually played as a very friendly game, with laughs for all. Children, in particular, love the game for its simplicity and ease of accomplishment, but might get more serious about it as they grow older.

Since croquet started as a pastime for peasants, then became the sport for royalty, it still bears some distinction, so you demonstrate a bit of knowledge and style when you play. But, croquet is all about having fun in small groups, pretty much anywhere, so anyone can play. More intent players often join a club, and play in regular competitions that can even lead to international level playoffs. However, most people in America and globally play croquet as fun entertainment, rather than for outright competition.

Simply put, croquet is a game that involves hitting a ball through wickets (called “hoops” in England and much of the world) with a mallet. Croquet mallets vary in size, weight and mallet head dimensions, with shorter shafts and slightly lighter heads for children and smaller players. The wickets are tapped into the ground with a good “smashing mallet,” to secure them against being knocked over by hard-hit balls or by mallets. The playing area can be set up in minutes, using colored flags to denote corners, lines to mark out the edges if there are no physical boundaries, so the enjoyment of playing can start quickly.

The person (or team) whose ball hits the winning peg (or “stake”) first or upon the agreed number of hits is declared the winner. Croquet is usually played on a grass surface or “lawn,” but there are indoor, tabletop versions as well. Wickets are usually made of cast iron and are designed to make it a bit challenging for ball passage - with only 1/8 of an inch to spare - and, therefor, more exciting. Several versions of the game are played in different countries, with rules varying a bit country to country, and even between some croquet clubs in individual countries.

Croquet balls come in several colors, with the winning peg having colored stripes ordered top to bottom to indicate the order of play. The balls and mallets are usually made of hardwood, known for its sturdiness and flexibility, although other materials such as plastic or composite materials are sometimes used. Team play involves from four to eight players, with chosen colors remaining the same for players or teams, shot in rotation. Played in almost every nation in the world, croquet is always attracting new players, as they discover that it’s an amusing, yet challenging, game.

Early historical descriptions of croquet indicate it was played in various forms in different European countries as early as the 1600s. However, the game became firmly established and subsequently popularized worldwide after it was introduced at The Great Exhibition in England in 1851 by John Jaques II. Having won a Gold medal for this feat, then having written and published the definitive book on the game, “Croquet; the Laws and Regulations of the Game,” Jaques was ensconced as the ultimate authority on croquet.

Jaques’s book is still widely used, and the company his grandfather, Thomas, created in 1795, Jaques of London, is still run by the Jaques family over two hundred years after its establishment. The same business today produces the finest croquet sets and accessories made for the game, offering croquet sets on stands, croquet sets in bags, myriad superb collector’s versions marking many of croquet’s golden moments, all handmade with care in England by artisans of the craft and experts in the game.

Take advantage of using seasoned professionals when deciding which croquet set to buy, as there are many options. You can tailor specifically for your skill level, the ages and sizes of players, and the setting you’ll be playing in. Don’t wait to start playing, do it now! Start the kids at a healthy and interesting alternative to merely sitting on the couch watching the tube, or getting finger cramps playing video games.

Have an outdoor croquet set ready when friends drop by, and keep an indoor croquet set available for inclement weather. Always use the wise advice of a skilled manufacturer to decide which croquet sets, accessories and reference guides suit your needs. You’ll be glad you did, and your children will thank you for getting them involved in a fun family game that they can play wherever they go in the years ahead.

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