Association croquet is the name of an advanced game of croquet, played at international level. It involves four balls teamed in pairs, with both balls going through every hoop for one pair to win. The game’s distinguishing feature is the “croquet” shot: when certain balls hit other balls, extra shots are allowed. The six hoops are arranged three at each end of the court, with a centre peg.
In association croquet one side takes the black and blue balls, the other takes red and yellow. At each turn, players can choose to play with either of their balls for that turn. At the start of a turn, the player plays a stroke. If the player either hits the ball through the correct hoop (“runs” the hoop), or hits another ball (a “roquet”), the turn continues.
Following a roquet, the player picks up his or her own ball and puts it down next to the ball that it hit. The next shot is played with the two balls touching: this is the “croquet stroke” from which the game takes its name. By varying the speed and angle at which the mallet hits the striker’s ball, a good player can control the final position of both balls: the horizontal angle determines how much the balls diverge in direction, while the vertical angle and the amount of follow-through determine the relative distance that the two balls travel.
After the croquet stroke, the player plays a “continuation” stroke, during which the player may again attempt to make a roquet or run a hoop. Each of the other three balls may be roqueted once in a turn before a hoop is run, after which they become available to be roqueted again.
The winner of the game is the team who completes the set circuit of six hoops (and then back again the other way), with both balls, and then strikes the centre peg (making a total of 13 points per ball = 26).
Good players may make “breaks” of several hoops in a single turn. The best players may take a ball round a full circuit in one turn. “Advanced play” (a variant of association play for expert players) gives penalties to a player who runs certain hoops in a turn, to allow the opponent a chance of getting back into the game; feats of skill such as triple peels or better, in which the partner ball (or occasionally an opponent ball) is caused to run a number of hoops in a turn by the striker’s ball help avoid these penalties.
A handicap system (‘bisques’) provides less experienced players a chance of winning against more formidable opponents. Players of all ages and both sexes compete on level terms.
The World Championships are organised by the World Croquet Federation (WCF) and usually take place every 2 or 3 years. The 2018 championships took place in Wellington, New Zealand, the winner being Paddy Chapman of New Zealand. The current Women’s Association Croquet World Champion (2015) is Miranda Chapman of England.