The Backyard Socialite: 10 Winning Tips for the Occasional Backyard Croquet Player
by Michael Rumbin · 02/24/2014
Did you get roped into playing a croquet game with your new girlfriend’s family last summer? Maybe you had to attend a backyard croquet party that your boss was throwing. Did you make a fool of yourself? Loose the girl, the promotion?
Well not this year. Here are 10 tips to make sure you come off as a relaxed, confident socialite enjoying that casual backyard game of double-diamond cutthroat croquet (six players, one ball each).
1. Choose the mallet with a shaft length in proportion to your height. Tall, medium, short. Conversely, pick a heavier mallet if you are not too strong. Let the mallet do the work.
2. Swing between the legs. It’s simple physics like a pendulum. If your kilt or gown gets in the way, well, sit it out. And this isn’t the game Tiger Woods plays. When you are ready to shoot, bend at the waist. The mallet shaft should be just under your eye (or under your nose). Feet should be parallel with your target line and just a little over one foot apart .You’re not in Paris so no need to look like the Eiffel tower.
3. Use a grip that feels natural to you. A lot of people think of golf and use a golf grip. A better grip for swinging between your legs is a baseball grip with your left hand on top. Or a combination of the two: fist on top, palm on the bottom. Hit a few balls around before the game starts just to see what feels right. You can see the standard grips here. If you do end up with a kid’s mallet (30” shaft or smaller), just stick with the golf grip. Your arm will make up the difference. But swing between your legs!.
4. Aim, which means pick a target: a ball, a wicket. Then step back at least six feet behind your ball to get a proper line of site. Line yourself up behind your ball. Practice a couple of swings standing upright. Make sure the mallet passes over the center of your ball and through the target, i.e. another ball or wicket. Your mallet head should be pointing exactly where you were aiming after the shot.
5. Making Wickets. When setting up to score a wicket, not score it but set up to score, aim for a target area the size of a dinner plate two or more feet in front of the wicket (shooting side). Novices frequently aim about three inches in front of the wicket. The target zone is much bigger at two to three feet. Remember, you can score a wicket from 3 feet, 5 feet, and beyond, but you cannot score it from 1 inch on the wrong side.
6. Get bonus shots. The game is won by running several wickets in one turn; therefore, the game is about bonus shots. You get one for scoring a wicket and two for hitting a live ball. You decide which is more valuable. It breaks down like this — set up an opponent ball to be picked up after your target wicket. Score the wicket, hit the opponent ball, repeat.
7. In case you nodded off during step six, every time you take the field, you are scanning for opponent balls to play off. Two bonus shots is better than one. Take the sure wicket if you can, but the idea is to take several wickets.
8. (Key Tip) I know you are dying to send your buddy into the bushes with the famous croquet foot shot. There is a time and place for that, but you don’t know that time. Better to send your opponent where you can use them again for bonus shots. Try to split your shot so the opponent ball goes near your target wicket and your ball lands in position to score the wicket. Score it, hit your opponent and get those two bonus shots, score the next wicket.
9. Never end your turn by leaving your ball near an opponent’s ball. Never give them anything. If you shoot at a ball to get bonus strokes, shoot hard so you do not leave your ball nearby in case of a miss. In fact, shoot hard enough to send your ball to boundary. Carefully think about ending your turn set up in front of your target wicket. Is another player going on a run? If so, you’re just helping them score your wicket and they will leave you on the wrong side of your wicket. Remember, five more players will shoot before you have your next turn so think very carefully about setting up.
10. Nobody likes a croquet bully. Be a gracious winner. Five people now want to strangle you. And if you didn’t win, try to figure out why. That might mean talking to the winner.
If you happen to be planning the event,keep in mind good starter sets will cost between $175 and $350. Here are few good choices – Pierce Point Laser North Meadow Sets , L.L. Bean sets, and Oakley Woods sets. Avoid croquet sets designed for children if you can. Walmart and Target move a ton of those $30-$50 sets but they are sized for someone between 4 and 5 feet tall.