Lawn Croquet in America and the Old South

croquet

THE SPORT OF LAWN CROQUET was born in the British isles in the mid 19th century, but soon migrated to most other English-speaking countries. It was played with large heavy mallets and wood balls, on short grass lawns, on large estates of the socially élite. In the United States it began to be publicly played on level lawns in Commons or Parks, and Country Clubs. Member clubs and Associations were organized in the United States to play 9 and 6 wicket tournaments in Lawn Croquet. American Rules were established and sanctioned by the US Croquet Association.

playing lawn croquetCroquet as a public sport suffered a setback in 1890’s when the Boston Clergy spoke out against the game because of the drinking, gambling, and licentious behavior associated with it on the public Common. With the uprising of the clergy, public lawns couldn’t be used to play so only private clubs or estates continued to play.

Lawn Croquet and the Garden Party

In the South, the game of Backyard Lawn Croquet has maintained it’s popularity for more than over a hundred years as the complement of garden parties, family gatherings, outdoor fund-raisers, and social events both raucous and elegant. Backyard Croquet is the casual, social form of croquet played by millions in North America on the traditional nine-wicket, two-stake, double-diamond court. Using up to six balls and as many players, the many varieties of this game are usually played with a lightweight, inexpensive 6 ball set popularly available in most discount stores. It is usually played on long grass or slow or irregular surfaces in backyards. The order of the play is by the color of the ball you are playing. All mallets have color circles on the head to show the order of colors to follow. One stroke per turn, 1 point per wicket pasted trough, no bonus strokes are earned when your ball hits other balls or scores wickets. All stay in order, the one with the most points wins when the final wicket is cleared, by a player. You may knock another player’s ball out of scoring range; that was your shot. No other shot given on that turn.

The USCA American Rules version of croquet, though no more difficult to master than any other sport, is probably the most misunderstood of them all. Playing it well calls for the kind of physical skills developed in billiards and golf and the tactical thinking of games like chess and Parcheesi. Although the rules are simple enough—as are the rules of chess—mastering the tactics and strategy must, for most people, years of diligent PRACTICE and STUDY! For those who are truly captured by the sport, it is well worth the commitment required to master the shot-making skills and to gain an understanding of the winning strategy. For those élite few, finding an existing croquet lawn or building one is the key to embarking on the sporting adventure of a lifetime—-USCA Croquet!!

BULL CR_P— as you can see this game under the stiff upper lip of British Rules, it has a lot to be desired; as for Harris County it would be near impossible { for us rednecks} to comply with the dress code, lawn requirements, beverage choices, let alone the slow drudgery of play. Let me explain— HARRIS COUNTY CUT-THROAT CROQUET

First the dress code: white shirt, shoes and pants or skirt if a lady. What true woman of the south would ever let her sons and daughters play in the yard in white. Georgia red clay and grass stains on white, Mama ain’t going for this! Tide can’t beat this stain! Harris County dress code— Cut off camo or khaki shorts. Shoes and T-shirts optional! For the women shorts, tube tops or T- shirts; thong bathing suits do tend to draw more spectator interest in the game.

Second: Lawn requirements: a level playing field with short cut manicured grass with no obstructions that could deflect ball path. Well, this is Harris County; so to find a level area to play can be a chore in itself and they want grass on it and no rocks. Who are we kidding! I have hit rocks on some of the best golf courses around. (I was asked one time on the golf course how I hit my woods? I told him most of the time, but I have learned how to play back out of them too!) Short manicured grass—if I sprayed weed killer in most of the yards in Harris County they would not be green anymore. That’s why the yard Prof. people spray that green colored feed and seed stuff in your yard so not to spook your friends while the new grass grows in and the weeds die. Harris County playing field requirements: green grass or weeds cut short enough to see the balls while standing. Rocks can be used as a beer holder or bumpers; also the sloped rugged terrain of Harris County tends to improve your shooting skills.

Third Beverage Choices: This is not a requirement or rule of Croquet but was mentioned in the British and USCA rules. The beverage of choice is wine or Mint Julep in the old South. In Harris County, we don’t discriminate; anything you brought in the cooler is okay! From Coke to Jack Daniel’s or a combination of both! Also, we learned a long time ago in RED NECK SCHOOL, pickup trucks are more than a mode of transportation; they double as gun rack, bar and bed, also as bleachers at all outdoor sporting events. They even serve as field lights at night games.

RULES OF PLAY of HARRIS COUNTY CUT THROAT CROQUET: The USCA rules are stated earlier in this article, these following are HCCTC rules. Players shoot in order of color after drawing straws. A shot is when the mallet strikes the ball. A Bonus shot is given when your ball strikes another player’s ball or goes trough a wicket or stake. One point is given after clearing a wicket or stake in order of play. (If you hit a ball you shoot again, you can hit that ball again and again moving both your ball and the ball you are hitting trough the playing field.) You miss you lose your turn and the next player will now shoot. If a player hits their ball and it melts (remains touching) to the other ball, you can place your foot on your ball hit it hard and drive the other ball way off it’s course, then shoot again. Watch out, cause if you miss the player whose ball you have been traveling with will get a turn before you will again. They or one of the other players can reek a hardship on you ball and tactics you have, knocking you way off your course with a hard shot to get back in play. As you can see the rules are simple but bonus shots can help and hurt you in your conquest! Don’t miss; your enemies are still on the course and it will be their turn now–cut throat! All games are best two out of three and the time of matches are open and will depend on the number of cooler trips made during the process.

I can honestly tell you this is a fun-filled game made for highly competitive group of people; who want to spend a fun afternoon in friendly competition and conversation. This can be played as a partner game against two other players but again tactics will change as you now have two ball to get trough the wickets before you can win. The game has been introduced in five other states at family reunions. All have enjoyed the Harris County Version of Lawn Croquet more than the original version; and found it a better spectator sport at a lawn party with beverages!

If you need any more information on this version of Croquet please e-male me at:

Chiefnw1@peoplepc.com The Whitesville, Harris County group likes a good party!

Thanks Ron Rollins

About Ron Rollins 22 Articles
Ron Rollins is the retired Fire Chief of the Whitesville, Ga Volunteer Fire Dept. Ron loves a good story and he can remember them too. The history of Harris County and surrounding areas is tucked away in the memories of our fathers and mothers and their fathers and mothers. You can find our history in old newspaper articles and some in books. Ron thinks we need to keep passing these stories down so he's doing his part. But for Ron and people like him our root folk history would be lost.

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