Other Forms of Croquet

As croquet became popular in the 19th Century, the game's organisational infrastructure failed to keep up with demand. Manufacturers would supply sets to an eager public, and would often make up their own rules. Even for the thousands of enthusiasts playing to official rules, many people would be oblivious when a new amendment was released.

Some of the variations became popular in their own right. In North America, several differing sets of rules continue to coexist alongside the internationally recognised games of Association Croquet and Golf Croquet. And in Japan and the Far East, croquet has evolved to the five-a-side team sport of Gateball.

Many countries have their own version of the recognised rules. A game called "Ancient Croquet" has been popular in Russia, where cosmonauts were encouraged to play the game as rehabilitation after long periods of weightlessness. Leo Tolstoy was a keen player, and described the game in his novel Anna Karenina.

Denmark has, per capita, by far the largest community of competitive croquet players, with around 5,000 registered participants. They play one-handed, with short mallets held golf-style. Apparently, they regard players from overseas with some disdain for the need to use both hands to play.

This seems to be a throwback to the early days of Victorian croquet. The use of two hands was seen as unsporting, as it disadvantaged ladies, who had to play whilst holding a parasol in the other hand.

The Danish game has nine hoops and two pegs. The croquet stroke, as in Gateball, is played with a foot on the striker's ball.

Roque at Chautauqua, Missouri (the roque segment is about 4 minutes in)

Roque emerged early in the 20th Century, and was played at the 1904 Olympics in St Louis, Missouri. The USA provided the only competitors, and it has remained an exclusively American game since. It's played on an octagonal hard court, bordered by a low concrete wall. The balls are rubber, and may be bounced off the sides. The game faded from popularity in the 1960s, and is now thought to be extinct.

Extreme Croquet has grown since the 1970s, and is played by American college students. Rules are variable and, in many ways, irrelevant. The crucial aspect of the game is the placement of hoops, which may be placed a great distance apart, and on severe slopes, under bushes, or in the middle of streams.

Televised Gateball: Amiti Makino vs Tokai Youth

Gateball was invented in Japan in 1946, and is a form of five-a-side speed croquet. It's played on a hard surface with just three hoops. The key feature is the 'spark' shot - a croquet stroke in which a foot is placed on the striker's ball, often used to send the opponent's ball out of bounds. Gateball has become very popular throughout the Far East, with around two million devotees in Japan.

While many top class American players prefer the international rules of Association Croquet, the official USCA game remains dominant in North America. Under Association rules, a ball may hit each of the other balls just once per turn, unless a hoop is scored. Under American rules, that quota isn't reset from turn to turn. Once a player has used up all three hits, his ball becomes "dead" on the other three balls, and will find it hard to make further progress.

The game has several other differences from the International "Association" game.