spectating a game

In This Section

Please refresh your browser cache to ensure you are looking at the latest version.

Your Next Challenge: Getting Competitive

Contest Balloons

You may deny it, but you wouldn't have got this far if you didn't have a competitive gene somewhere in you. After all, we play to win.

See the coaching section for how to give yourself a boost!

Make sure you're familiar with Club Etiquette - Conventions, Customs, and Good Manners.

Your first introduction to competitive play may well be our Beginners' Competition, and club afternoon games, whilst friendly and supportive, are played to be won as well.

Internal Club Competitions

Your next stage of competition is likely to be the club competitions. These are open only to club members and cover AC, GC, Short Croquet and One-Ball. There are singles and doubles events.

To see the competition details, check the state of play, find out how to enter, and how to report results, see the club competitions page.

For details of how to book a court for your big match, see the booking section.

The Roll of Honour, listing all competition results (and trophies) for the most recent season, is framed and hung in the clubhouse each year.

Inter-Club Competitions

Bristol Croquet Club fields teams in the South West Federation [SWF] leagues and competitions as well as in the national inter-club competitions organised by Croquet England, croquet's governing body.

The Club is keen to develop its players, and to encourage members of all handicap levels and abilities to take part in team matches - don't be shy - that means you too!

We have an inclusive policy for selecting team members that provides consistent guidance for all our team managers and players and is designed to improve the club's performance over time. The Club offsets some of the cost of playing matches.

Please don't wait to be asked - put yourself forward to the appropriate team managers, who will include you in their plans for team development and matches.

Further Afield

Croquet England compiles a Fixtures List of events all around the country that are open to any club member who has registered as a Croquet England Associate (which is automatic and free). These include several open tournaments at our club that attract players from all over.

Rules, Laws and Regulations

Club croquet comes in two distinct forms: Golf Croquet (GC), and Association Croquet (AC), which includes Short Croquet and One-Ball. At Bristol, beginners' coaching focuses on AC, but both forms are popular in the Club.

Croquet is played in accordance with Rules, Laws, and Regulations approved by croquet's governing body, Croquet England (CqE); printed copies are in the clubhouse and may be viewed on the Croquet England website:

The Laws and Rules are extensive and labyrinthine. Players are expected to grasp the essentials and to become familiar with the details as they progress.

AC variations 14-point, 18-point, 22-point, collectively known as shortened games, are described in Law 51. They are played exactly as the full (26-point) game except with fewer hoops to be run by starting at a later hoop, finishing at an earlier hoop, or advancing the partner clip immediately the first hoop is run. Handicaps are adjusted and in doubles the number of allowed partner-ball peels adjusted - see the Handicapping section.

GC can be best of 7, 13 or 19 points, though generally only 13-point is played. See Rule 1.4. Handicaps are adjusted for other than 13-point - see the Handicapping section.

Short Croquet is a variation of AC played on a half-size lawn as a 14-point game with an extra wiring law and low-handicap players being obliged to make peels before they may peg out. See the Short Croquet Laws.

Alternate Stroke Doubles is a way of playing AC doubles where the pair take each stroke in turn, see Law 48 onwards for details.

Croquet has evolved many customs and points of etiquette, some of which are quaint but all of which should be duly noted.

Keep your handicap up to date by maintaining a card for each code.

Variations on a Theme

Types of Play and Variations and Jargon Buster

Handicap (play) allows the higher handicap player to take extra turns (AC bisques) or extra strokes (GC) to make the contest an even chance of a win for either side. GC has an alternative handicapping system called Advantage, where the number of points to be scored by each side is in proportion to their handicap. See the Handicapping section.

Level (or Ordinary Play) means playing without taking handicaps into account - there are no bisques, extra strokes, or scoring Advantage. The Laws and Rules describe level-play and then add handicapping as a variation. Level is often mistakenly used to mean AC Advanced play.

Advanced is the most commonly played variation of association croquet by players with a handicap in single figures, identified by lifts at 1-back and 4-back (Law 39). It is often mistakenly used interchangeably with level play, but advanced is strictly a variation from ordinary level play. It exists to make the game more interactive for those who can play a break running many hoops. The lifts give the out-player additional opportunities to hit in.

Super-Advanced (or SA) extends AC Advanced play by adding further penalties for running too many hoops. It is intended to resolve a perceived lack of interactivity at the highest levels of the game, particularly when played in relatively easy conditions. Having been pioneered in England, it is now defined in the Laws.

Alternate Strokes is a way of playing AC doubles where the pair take each stroke in turn, see the Laws section. It is rapidly increasing in popularity and is particularly useful when playing handicap with a high-low handicap pair.

Short Croquet is a variation of AC played on a half-size lawn as a 14-point game with an extra wiring law and low-handicap players being obliged to make peels before they may peg out. It's great fun and quick to play - See the Laws section for details.

One-Ball, confusingly, uses two balls, with one for each side, otherwise exactly as AC and can be handicap, level, level-advanced, etc. It's a form of AC in which GC specialists can excel.

14-point, 18-point, 22-point are AC variations, collectively known as shortened games. They are played exactly as the full (26-point) game except with fewer hoops to be run by starting at a later hoop, finishing at an earlier hoop, or advancing the partner clip immediately the first hoop is run. Handicaps are adjusted and in doubles, the number of allowed partner-ball peels adjusted - see the Laws and Handicapping sections for details.

19-point is a GC variation: "GC is a contest for the best of 7, 13 or 19 points", though generally only 13-point is played. See Rule 1.4.

Double Banking refers to more than one game being played concurrently on one court, each game using differently coloured sets of balls, which are ignored by every other game on the court. See the section on Double Banking.

Time limit Often, a time limit is agreed so that a game is guaranteed to finish within the time allowed. See the section on Time Limits.

Full-Bisque handicap play gives bisques to both sides in accordance with their handicaps - a handicap 16 player gets 16 bisques; usually a base is specified that is subtracted from their handicap. See the Handicapping section for details.

American Supper A buffet-style communal meal where everyone brings a dish at least sufficient to feed themselves and a little more, which is placed on a buffet table and shared with all. Usually, the club supplies bread and other essentials and it is semi-organised to achieve a balance between savoury and sweet!

Draw and Process A two-life knockout event comprising two halves: the draw and the process. The process is derived from the draw in a prescribed manner that keeps the same players from meeting until a late stage.

the Croquet England website has a useful jargon dictionary for other croquet terms.

Threesome AC Games

These variations are not authorised games, but can be used on club afternoons when there is an odd number of players (though not with a number of odd players!)

Threesome: Option 1

This may be played as a two-against-one game. If so, the bisque allocation is calculated initially on an individual basis.

The total for the two-player side is added then halved and this is the number of bisques this side has between them.

They may be used by either player in the usual way.

Threesome: Option 2

Bisque entitlement is calculated thus:

Other fun games are described on the Croquet England website.

Booking a Court and Opponent


See the Club Competitions section to find who you should play and to post results or view the draws.

Book a lawn or check for club sessions in our Court Booking System (CBS) - book only in accordance with the Court Booking Guidance. The CBS is simple to use and enables you to check court availability and to book from any computer, including a laptop, phone or tablet. It has good help built in.

If you don't know your password (or have never logged on):

Court Booking Guidance

A court (lawn) may be booked in the Court Booking System (CBS) subject to the following:

Club Sessions

Croquet Set

We run several open sessions a week called 'Club Afternoons' (or evenings) that occupy all the lawns. Members may turn up and an organiser pairs people up for singles or doubles games.

There's no need to book but you should arrive at the club at least 10 minutes before the scheduled start time to be allocated a game by the organiser.

The session timings are set out in the Club Programme, which is circulated to all members at the start of the season.

The following formats are suggested:

Double Banking

Ball sets Primary Colours (top row), Striped Primary, Secondary Colours and Tertiary Colours Click for a larger image

This is the term used when two games are being played on the same lawn at the same time.

When this happens, sets of different coloured balls are used by each game

Usually, the first to book the lawn takes the primary colours. However, a player with a Colour Vision Deficiency (CVD) may request their preferred set.

For GC, the sequence of play is as listed; for AC blue and black play against red and yellow; and pink and white vs. green and brown.

It is possible to have a third game in progress on the court too, using yet another set of colours! These colours are not officially defined and at Bristol, we have many balls painted with a white stripe or spots. They used to be seen commonly during our very popular club afternoons.

Our high membership and small number of lawns makes double banking a natural part of how we play the game - see the section Court Booking Guidance

Etiquette When Double Banking

The Club Guide includes a section on etiquette.


Handicap Seesaw

"Croquet has a handicapping system that allows players of different abilities to play competitively with an approximately even chance of winning. To achieve this, the weaker player is given extra turns by the stronger player." This is the opening statement of Croquet England's Handicapping Guide.

At the end of your beginners' course, the Club Handicapping Committees will assess your play and give you a GC handicap and a separate AC handicap. This start value will probably be in the range 28-24 for AC and 16-12 for GC - the lower the number the better you are playing (0, known as scratch, being international player level). They will also give you three handicap cards (one each for GC, AC and Short Croquet) and guidance on how to keep them up to date.

You can download and print a new handicap card when you need one: AC - GC - Short Croquet.

Handicap play allows the players to take extra turns (AC bisques) or extra strokes (GC) to make the contest an even chance of a win for either side.

GC has an alternative handicapping system, called Advantage, where the number of points to be scored by each side is determined from their handicap. In doubles, the Advantage handicap of each side is the average of the players (rounded up).

In doubles AC, either player of a side may use the side's bisques; whereas in GC the extra strokes belong to a player.

Full-Bisque AC handicap play gives bisques to both sides in accordance with their handicaps - a handicap-16 player gets 16 bisques. However, usually, a base is specified that is subtracted from their handicap (typically 6). In full-bisque handicap doubles, a player with a handicap below the base is not allowed to use a full bisque (except in alternate-stroke doubles). See the Full Bisque Laws. Note that in shortened games, Short Croquet and games played on a half-size lawn, the bisque allocation is reduced.

By default, AC Advanced is level play, but it can be played as Advanced Handicap.

The Croquet England Handicapping Guide contains all the information you need, but use the online Handicap Calculator to find the number of bisques, extra strokes, or starting advantage in a particular encounter.

Follow the links (to the Croquet England website) for information on

All games played in club competitions, except in the One-Ball and Beginners' Competition, should be recorded on your handicap card (AC/GC/SC) as input to the Automatic Handicapping System (AHS). Do not record club afternoon or friendly games. If you play only in club events then you are excused from keeping a separate Short Croquet handicap card - use your AC handicap converted.

In 14-point, 18-point, and 22-point shortened AC games, handicaps are adjusted and, in doubles, the number of allowed partner-ball peels is adjusted - see Law 53.

At the end of each season (finals weekend) every member should leave their handicap cards in the handicap in-tray in the clubhouse. They will be checked for accuracy by the Handicap Committees and will be used to help inform the coaching program.


Keep your Handicap Up-To-Date in the Croquet England Directory

There's a button to update your handicap when you view your details in the Croquet England Directory (you'll need to log in). To change your other details, click on the edit button at the top of the page.

If you haven't done so already, you will need to create a password, just follow the on-screen instructions, which will send an email to your registered address.

Club Handicapping Committees

There are separate committees for AC and GC as the handicappers must have good knowledge of players in the club. The handicap committees:
  1. Carry out the role of Club Handicapper, as defined by Croquet England
  2. Ensure that handicapping is taken seriously in the club, including suggesting any necessary changes to the club's competitions so that there is sufficient opportunity for every member to have a properly maintained handicap
  3. Decide the most improved player in the club each year
The chair of each committee (who is the club's primary contact for Croquet England & SWF on handicap matters) reports to the main Committee twice a year on handicapping in the club.

Time Limits

A time limit ensures that a game is guaranteed to finish within the time allowed. Within a competition or tournament, the manager or entry conditions will specify what the time limit is, otherwise, players are free to set their own time limits.

The time limit does not have to be set before play starts, but players might agree "I have to go out this evening so let's call time at 6pm". A timer should be set that is visible and available to both players. There is some ceremony associated with starting the timer as many players like to click the start button at the instant the first ball is struck (and then spend several minutes putting it down and getting ready to play the second stroke of the game!)

As the time limit approaches, the players ideally should arrange for an independent person to be responsible for announcing that the time limit has been reached, by calling out "time!"

For the sole purpose of determining whether the turn ends before or after time is called, the turn ends and the opponent's turn begins as soon as the striker hits the ball in the last stroke of their turn. This is a key reason an independent person is useful - they can watch play and announce if time was called before or after the last stroke, if needed. Note that, if the ball is in a legal position, the striker can announce their turn played without playing a stroke.

The national Tournament Regulations explain all about time limits.

If your game exceeds its timeslot without time being called (or has no time limit), it must be pegged down and resumed at another occasion.

When time is called, special rules apply so that a winner is determined...

Association Croquet: When Time is Called

The player on the lawn continues to play until their turn is finished. If the game has not been won by pegging out, the opponent then has a turn. During these two turns immediately after time is called, no bisques may be used, even if the intention to take one has been announced before time was called, though the turn continues if a stroke of the bisque turn was taken before time was called.

After these two turns, if the game is still not won, the points scored are totalled and the player with the most points is declared the winner.

If the scores are level, play continues, during which, any remaining bisques may be used, until one of the players scores a point, which makes them the winner. Only that one winning point counts, no other points may be scored.

The result of a game that finished on time without pegging out both balls for a win is indicated by putting a 'T' after the score, for example, +5t.

See the Laws for full details.

Golf Croquet: When Time is Called

Play continues for an extension period of a further eight turns.

At the end of the extension period, the side that has scored the greater number of points is the winner.

If the scores are equal, play continues and the side for which the next point is scored is the winner (any points scored subsequently in the stroke are ignored).

No extra strokes may be played either during the eight-stroke extension period or immediately after it. If play continues after the end of the extension period, extra stroke may then be played.

The score is recorded showing how many points were scored by each side, for example, 5-4.

See the Tournament Regulations for full details.

Suspending a Game and Pegging-Down

Games do not have to be completed in one playing session, though they almost always are. Time Limits are often used to ensure that a conclusion is reached in the time available and special rules apply if that time limit is reached.

When a game cannot be finished in the time the players have agreed is available to play it (or in a tournament, a manager might decide (unusually) to suspend a game), the state of the game is recorded and it is agreed to resume it at another occasion.

Generally, play would be stopped at the end of a turn, or when the balls reach a convenient-to-record position (such as just left the court). Sometimes it can be better to wait to peg down for a few more strokes so the exact positions are not so important. Observe carefully if there are any obstructions between any of the balls or if they have a clear 'view' of each other.

Make a dated record of:

There's a convenient pegging-down sheet that can be downloaded, with paper copies available in the clubhouse - it's much better to use one than to try to remember the above list!

If a game is to be resumed the same day (e.g. you are breaking to go away for lunch), there are large coloured markers (rather like golf ball markers but a couple of inches across) that can be used directly to mark the position of the balls instead of measuring them, but you are advised to make a note of where they are just in case.

For more information, please email Chris Frew, who will be happy to help.