There are two main forms of croquet, both played socially and competitively up to international level. The older and more complex is Association Croquet. The winner is the side which scores all 12 hoops for each of its 2 balls and hits them against the centre peg. Every time a ball scores a hoop, it earns another shot, and if it hits one of the other three balls it earns another two shots. As a result, each player’s turn can consist of many shots and games can take a long while to complete.
The other is Golf Croquet, which was first played in the 1890s but only started becoming popular in the UK in the 1980s. Compared with Association Croquet it has simpler rules and is more interactive (each turn is just a single stroke). It requires a similar level of accuracy and tactical awareness, but it can be picked up and played by beginners very rapidly. Players contest each hoop in turn, with the first side to go through the hoop gaining a point. As soon as one hoop is scored all players move on to contest the next, and the game is won by the first side to score 7 points. It is a quicker game than Association Croquet.
Golf croquet may be played as singles or doubles and is an enjoyable, sociable game that relies more on touch, accuracy and tactics than on speed and strength, so can be played by people of any age and of either sex. As with any game, the best players probably start young, but many take it up after retiring from more energetic pursuits. It can be as serious as you want it to be – advanced players can take it very seriously indeed, but most club members probably see it as a relaxing and friendly way of passing a morning or an afternoon.
Please read Golf Croquet for more details of the game and links to the detailed rules. The history of the game section includes an article about the history of association croquet and a link to a more recent booklet on the history of golf croquet.