CROQUET:  Getting Boundary Balls Into Play

Coaching Notes
University of Oxford Croquet Club

The aim once you have hit in is to gradually get control of all the balls.  The first task is usually to move balls off boundaries when you are scrabbling around trying to get any sort of a break going.  Subsequently you can bring any remaining balls on boundaries into play.  There are three main methods involved in getting boundary balls into the break.

Levering balls off boundaries. This is generally done at the start of a turn when trying to establish a break. Whenever possible attempt to lever a ball which is on a boundary a little further off the boundary, e.g. if you take-off from a boundary ball make it a thickish take-off so that the ball ends up say 1ft. in from the yard line; if you roquet one of two adjacent balls on the boundary, play a little stop-shot or roll (rather than a take-off) to get a rush on the second ball thus moving the croqueted ball a little more into the lawn. The result of this is that when you next get the opportunity to rush a ball off the boundary close to such a ball, you then have more space to play a stronger stop-shot to get a ball well into the lawn whilst getting a rush on the 'levered' ball.

Substituting a ball in the break with one on the boundary. The second method is to leave a ball near the centre of the lawn and take-off to a boundary ball. The aim, as always, is to keep all of the strokes simple. If the critical stroke in your method relies on a 9:1 pass-roll at an 87½° split angle it may fail!

Cannons and Promotions. These are dealt with elsewhere.

Levering Balls off Boundaries

Any time you have an interaction with a ball on a boundary you want to move it slightly more into the lawn. Hence if you come out of a hoop and have a rush to a boundary ball, you rush your reception ball to within a few feet of the boundary ball, then play a stop-shot to get a rush on the boundary ball to your next hoop whilst pushing the croqueted ball out into court. Do not be too ambitious - nothing is gained if you fail to get your rush on the boundary ball. Choose narrow croquet strokes, they are easiest. If necessary move the ball into the lawn in two bites. In the example below the striker hits one of a pair of balls on the boundary.
Yellow, for hoop #1, decides to shoot at Blue and Black at the start of a turn, and hits Blue.
Given that Black is close to Blue it is straightforward to get a rush on Black towards hoop #1. Rather than do a take-off however a small roll or, better, a stop-shot is used to put Blue out into the lawn. A stop-shot is preferable as you can place the striker's ball accurately with this stroke. 

 (Had Black been hit first, a small stop-shot would be played feeding Black out from the boundary whilst getting the rush on Blue. It would not matter if Black were played South down the lawn. What is required is space between the boundary and the ball).

Yellow can now rush Black to hoop #1...

(picking up Red is an exercise described later)

... and croquet Black so that it can be rushed near to Blue after running hoop #1.
After running the hoop, Black is rushed near to Blue - not so close that there is no room to play a shot which will allow Black to be sent towards hoop three. Ideally it will be to a position close to the rush line on Blue towards hoop #2. This means that subsequentlyYellow will be approaching Blue along its rush line.
In the subsequent croquet stroke, Black is aimed in the direction of hoop #3, but the priority in the stroke is to get a good rush on Blue. If Black only goes halfway but you get your rush on Blue you will get your hoop and the opportunity to rush Blue close to Black after the hoop to keep things going. If however Black is wonderfully placed as a three-ball break pioneer on hoop #3, but you fail to get the rush towards hoop two and so break down... 

As always the basic priorities, in order, are: 

  • Make your next hoop 
  • Keep the break going 
  • Do fancy stuff (peeling etc.) 
We now have the start of a three-ball break; Blue is rushed to hoop #2, and a rush is set after the hoop to a position where Blue can be sent to hoop #3 and Black approached down its rush line to the hoop in the subsequent croquet stroke.

Swapping a Boundary Ball with one in the Lawn

This is generally used once you have a 3-ball break in progress, whereas the levering technique is used when you are scrabbling around trying to get any sort of a break going.

Normally if you have a 3-ball break you would choose to pick up a boundary ball as you made hoops near it.
[Continuing the above example.]

Yellow is the striker's ball and it has just made hoop #3 off Black, and roqueted it after the hoop. Blue is a good pioneer at hoop #4, but Red is on South boundary. How should Red be brought into play? 

Conceivably, it could be mooted that Yellow could take-off down to Red and then croquet Red to #5 whilst getting the rush on Blue. This however is a pass-roll and getting to rushing position on Blue is hindered by hoop #4 and Blue itself. Also we would not be playing down rush lines towards our pioneers.

More straightforward is to just continue playing a three-ball break.  Hence Black is croqueted to hoop #5, and Yellow attempts to get the rush on Blue into hoop #4. 

 For reasons to become apparent later, Black is placed between Red and hoop #5.

Yellow rushes Blue to hoop #4.
Blue is placed beside the hoop so that once Yellow has run the hoop ...
.. it can be rushed somewhat towards the centre of the lawn.

It is not necessary to move it far, indeed it does not want to be moved too far, otherwise ...

... the subsequent take-off to the boundary ball, Red, becomes more difficult. Red is roqueted, possibly moving it to a more advantageous position.

Note it is not essential to get Yellow on the yard line - just within hitting distance of Red.

We are once again are in a three-ball break position; Red is sent to hoop #6 as a pioneer, and Yellow approaches Black along its rush line in the croquet stroke.

The placing of Black between the boundary ball (Red) and the hoop means that we can approach it up the rush line.  This is the most difficult stroke in the process.

At this stage all of the work is done. Black is rushed to hoop #5, and is then positioned such that, after running the hoop, Yellow can rush either Blue or Black South down the lawn.

The subsequent stop-shot loads #1-back, and hopefully gets a rush on the new pivot towards the pioneer on hoop #6. It depends on the exact positions of balls as to which order they are struck. 

For example, Yellow has run the hoop and rushed Blue to the side and slightly South. From here #1-back is loaded with Blue, and Yellow gets a position to rush the new pivot (Black) closer to Red.  

Result: a four-ball break with no particularly difficult shots.