Rethinking Competitive 9 Wicket Croquet

by Ford Fay · 11/05/2015

“Got it… Blue dead on Red.” Says Tyrone Power as Norma Shearer(?) contemplates diminishing prospects that her bet will pay out. Picture from Maui Croquet.

(Editor’s Note: The run up to the 2015 9 Wicket National Championship generated a lot of interest and discussion on the rules used for USCA sanctioned 9 wicket events, much from backyard players that had never competed outside their local area. It is the goal of the 9 Wicket Committee to encourage participation in the game of croquet through providing meaningful content to this web site, codifying the Official Rules of 9 Wicket Croquet and supporting national and regional competition.)

This is an open letter to all serious 9-Wicket players who would be interested in participating in sanctioned U.S. Croquet Association tournament games when they come to your area. The U.S.C.A. had codified a set of standard rules we all play by in our backyards. When you participate in a sanctioned U.S.C.A. tournament Challenging Options are added to the rules. One such rule is Carryover Deadness.

Carryover deadness is Challenging Option #1. This rule is played in US 6-Wicket games exclusively. The American 6 wicket game was created by John Osborn out of the 9 wicket game, but since the mid 20 th century, most croquet sets and backyard players have not had the tools or interest in playing that way. It says, deadness occurs after a roquet is made and the striker is unable to score his/her wicket. The consequences are that the striker is not allowed to roquet the balls(s) again until scoring the wicket. Once the wicket is scored, the striker becomes ‘alive’ and is able to roquet the ball(s) again. If a striker roquets a ball he/she is dead on, all balls are replaced to their positions before the shot, and the turn is over. Deadness carries over from turn to turn.

This deadness board shows blue dead on red and green, red dead on blue, black dead on yellow, etc. Poor orange is dead on everyone but blue. These boards are available from

How do you keep track of which balls you are alive on and dead on? Well, that is done with a deadness board. It’s a fancy board you keep checking on each turn to see who you are alive and dead on. Again, almost all croquet sets sold in America do not come with a Deadness Board. They have always been an add on at an expense equal or more than the set itself.

This carryover deadness rule changes the whole strategy of our 9-Wicket game. You are no longer playing aggressively but now must play defensively. It’s a whole different world; two different strategies and two different games. This makes it very difficult for the above average 9 wicket player to ever compete successfully in a USCA local or national event. Unless you have played with carryover deadness in your local games you are at a definite disadvantage, going into a tournament, and most likely will get beat unless you are a fast track learner. In the current Basic Rules we play that on each turn your ball is alive on all other balls and once you hit a ball you are dead on you cannot hit it again until you clear a wicket in that turn. On your next turn you are alive and can hit that ball again without first having to clear a wicket, so the game is more aggressive and daring.

So here is the purpose of this open letter. In the U.S.C.A. sanctioned games, I am advocating that Carryover Deadness, Challenging Option #1 not be part of U.S.C.A. Regional or National sanctioned 9 Wicket games. Instead we play that our ball is alive on all other balls on each turn. There are other challenging options for tournament games that can be chosen that do not change the aggressive strategy we play day to day. Another consideration is to reserve the Carryover Deadness Option for Championship Flight competition and conduct the First Flight Level of play with alive on all balls with each turn. This would give backyard players a fair opportunity to compete in sanctioned events while maintaining the USCA‘s position for Championship level players.

I am interested in participating in sanctioned 9-Wicket games to measure my skill against other like players, but not with Carryover Deadness because it is a different game. In an effort to make the National Tournament more broadly available to the average player, the USCA has moved the venue each year to a different region of the country. This year a record number to players signed up, almost half from outside the USCA membership, knowing there was an Open Competition. How about you? Would you be more willing to participate in a National tournament? What are your thoughts? Please click on 9 WICKET SURVEY to make your thoughts known.

I believe a positive consensus to take Carryover Deadness out of sanctioned 9-Wicket games, will make participation in regional and national games sponsored by the U.S.C.A. more inviting and more challenging to the broad public.

Ford Fay