You may be familiar with croquet from backyard barbecues or long weekends at the lake. Or perhaps you’re reminded of that famous scene from “Alice in Wonderland,” where Alice and the Queen of Hearts compete in an absurdist version of the game, using flamingos to knock hedgehogs through arches of playing cards. It’s a game that most of us are familiar with, but one that we likely don’t play too often. However, for enthusiasts, croquet is a serious and complex game, and worth learning if you enjoy friendly competition.
Croquet sees two players facing off, competing to be first to hit both of their balls through a series of hoops in a specific order, and ending by knocking their balls against a central peg. It gets more complex when you consider the position of the hoops, and the ability to knock other players’ balls out of the way. But at its most basic, think of croquet as an elaborate putting challenge, with over-size golf balls and wooden mallets instead of clubs.
We tend to associate croquet with England, and so it should come as no surprise that the oldest known mention of the modern name “croquet” comes from England in 1856, when an English gentleman, Isaac Spratt, registered an official croquet rule set. But the basic idea of the game—hitting small balls through hoops—has existed in cultures all over Europe since ancient times.
The popularity of croquet in England during the Victorian Era led to its acclaim throughout all English-speaking societies. And while croquet is played around the world, to this day, it’s most popular in former British colonies such as Canada, United States, South Africa, and Australia, and each can have different rule sets. For example, American and Australian croquet have some key rule differences that could cause confusion during cross-cultural games. So, to remedy this, international tournaments follow a common rule set known as “Association Croquet.” World championships have been held every year since 1989. t8n
Canada has a national croquet league, Croquet Canada, that hosts 11 tournaments every year across the country (mostly in Ontario, Quebec, and BC).
Croquet was one of the first sports to embrace gender equality, allowing men and women to compete alongside each other in the same categories.