I first came across croquet in Alice in Wonderland, where a game was being played using flamingoes as mallets, playing cards as hoops and the balls are live hedgehogs… I suppose the book was so fanciful that I thought croquet was just another imaginary fantasy! I guess it was soon explained to me that croquet is an actual game, played with wooden mallets and wooden balls and metal hoops… not as much fun, but no doubt easier to play, and less cruel to either hedgehogs or flamingoes!
I suppose most people who buy a croquet set to play on the lawn or on the beach just plays it by taking it in turns to knock the balls through the hoops, possibly adding up the ‘hits’ as they go; at the same time, trying to disadvantage the other players. Obviously it is much more complex than that if it is played to the rules of the game. It is game of tactics as players try to gain points for their team (of two) by using their own balls, either black or red or blue and yellow, to gain points for themselves and disadvantage their opponents. It is more than just getting a point through the hoop; there is a set course and hoops must be encountered in a particular order and direction. There is a little post, a peg, at the end and hitting that finishes the course when both members of the team have done it.
That is just the basic idea, I’m sure it is much more tactical than that, and must be quite competitive. The idea of knocking an object to or through a target must go back into prehistory, I can imagine early people using sticks or bones and knocking pebbles or lumps of stuff about. There was a game called pall -mall, after which the London street is named which was very popular in the 15th and 16th centuries, but probably has only a coincidental connection to croquet. Actual croquet probably started in the 1830’s -1860’s but became an archetypal ‘British’ game.
My featured photo is of two teams gathering to play on the lawns of the Bishops Palace in Wells.