How Croquet Works

Don't be suckered by that friendly smile. He's about to straight-up crush you on the court. See more sports pictures.
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The World Croquet Federation's ponderously detailed "Full Rules for Golf Croquet" could be an excerpt from a U.N. treaty as complex as "Ending War Forever and Ever and Ever. Oh, and World Hunger Too, While We're at It." Example: The rules spell out 14 different striking faults – those are just the things you can do wrong between hitting the ball and getting out of the way so the next person can go. Four of those faults are so open to debate that there's even extra commentary explaining them. The rules also explain 14 points of etiquette to keep things civil and include a lengthy appendix with additional details on grading, handicaps and adjustments.

On top of all that, the WCF, which coordinates international play, recognizes a number of different variations of croquet. Apart from golf croquet, there's association croquet, garden croquet, six-wicket croquet, nine-wicket croquet and extreme croquet.

With all that in mind, croquet might come across as a complicated and boring game. Plus, thanks to everything from "Heathers" to French impressionist paintings of croquet players in suits and elaborate gowns, a lot of people associate it with backstabbing and snobbery.

But its heart, croquet isn't inaccessible – or vicious. All you need to play is a reasonably flat patch of grass and simple croquet set – and you can pick up a new, basic starter set for as little as $30. So whether you're sipping mint juleps and nibbling tea sandwiches out in the garden or just whacking some balls around over beers with friends in the backyard, there is a croquet game for you.