By Dr. Ian Plummer
© 1999 by Dr. Ian Plummer, all rights reserved.
Oxford University Croquet Club


1 How to Peel
2 Peeling on the Croquet Stroke 2.1 Lining up the balls
2.2 How you hit the Balls when Peeling
2.3 Peeling with other than a Stop Shot
3 The Rush Peel
4 The Irish Peel
5 Escaping After the Peel
6 The Rover Peel 6.1 The Dream
6.2 The Nightmare
6.3 The Catcher Ball
6.4 The Jump Shot
6.5 The Side Reception Ball
6.6 When the Pioneer on Rover is not the Peelee
6.7 The Rover Peel
7 The Triple Peel 7.1 An Example Triple Peel

1 How to Peel

A peel is where a ball other than the one you are striking is driven through the hoop it is next due to run. This may be done on the roquet - a rush peel, on the croquet stroke, or by being canoned by another ball - a promotion peel. One other piece of jargon, if you play a croquet stroke where both balls pass through the hoop this is an Irish Peel.

2 Peeling on the Croquet Stroke

The easiest peels to do are where you take croquet directly in front of the hoop through which you wish to peel. The easiest croquet stroke to play to be sure of getting the croqueted ball to travel in the intended direction is the stop shot.

2.1 Lining up the balls

Different players have their own ways of doing this; some do it looking back through the hoop, others look over the tops of the balls and some look down the sides of the balls. I advocate the latter. The figure illustrates this:


Aligning Balls for a Peel: seeing if the ball will clear the left upright. (A) you need to move your head to the right, (B) balls exactly aligned, (C) you need to move your head to the left.
You need to look down each side of the balls separately. You get the two edges of the balls exactly coincident and then look on to see what gap exists between the crescent they form and the hoop upright. As an example if you were setting up an angled peel from say the left of a hoop then you would ensure that the left hand edges of the balls fell within the inside of the left hand hoop upright.

 You have to kneel to do this - use the side of your mallet head as something to put your knee on if the ground is wet. Once the balls have been aligned check again that the balls are in contact - or all of your precision will be wasted. Not only will it possibly be a fault in the croquet stroke, it will certainly destroy any aim in the stroke. Given a flat lawn you can strike the striker's ball and the croqueted ball will travel through the hoop.

2.2 How you hit the Balls when Peeling

Again we will consider a simple stop shot being used for the peel. It will have already have been pointed out that top spin is very important for balls to successfully run hoops. Provided the ball has spin, even if it hits the upright of a hoop and is arrested, the spin can pull the ball through the hoop.

 Consider what happens to the croqueted ball in the stop shot. When the balls are struck energy is transferred to the croqueted ball and it skids away from the striker's ball. After a foot or so it starts to pick up top spin from its contact with the grass and carries on its course. Therefore if you play a peel from say two or more feet from the hoop then the peelee will have the distance to pick up spin. If you are playing an angled stop shot from a distance closer than this then you would be advised to play a gentle stop shot to reduce the distance that the ball skids before its starts rolling. If you are straight on to the hoop however then you can peel hard.

2.3 Peeling with other than a Stop Shot

The advantage with a stop shot is that it is accurate, the problem with peeling using a roll shot is that pull causes both balls in the croquet stroke to deviate from their expected trajectories.


Pull. In a roll shot the balls move towards the aiming line during their travel.
Pull is due to spin about a vertical axis being imparted to the balls as they rub past each other in the croquet shot. This spin acts against the grass and causes the balls to arc. The rougher the balls the better they mesh together and acquire spin in the croquet stroke. Therefore deeply milled balls, long or heavy grass and a long path will maximise the effects of pull. It is claimed that pull is most noticeable on roll shots at 45 degrees.

 On a heavy lawn (long or wet grass) you may get 1" or more pull on the forward ball over a yard with a roll shot. Consequently you have to aim off. Unfortunately it is up to experience as to how much to aim off for given conditions.

 The other croquet stroke which is used to peel balls is a thick take off. This is only practicable when the hoop is about a maximum of a foot away. In the take-off the croqueted ball travels without appreciable pull.

3 The Rush Peel

If a ball is in the jaws of a hoop then it is quite feasible to roquet the ball and rush it through the hoop. The prospect of achieving a peel if the ball lies any distance in front of a hoop is small. You have to be really close to the peelee to achieve the accuracy even if the peelee is only 3" away from the hoop.

 It is however a recognised tactic to 'jaws' a ball earlier in the break with the deliberate intention of rush peeling it later. Obviously with a ball in the jaws of a hoop the hittable area of the ball is reduced by the uprights of the hoop.

4 The Irish Peel

This is the peel which beginners probably use first. You take croquet from in front of the hoop which both balls require. A roll shot is played causing both balls to pass through the hoop. Unless the balls come to rest in contact they are deemed not to have roqueted even if they collide with each other after running the hoop (Law 16b4).

 An Irish peel is a stroke which should be refereed in a serious game since there is the potential for breaking the rules. Typical faults include a double tap, using the edge of a mallet face (only a fault in a hindered stroke) or a crush stroke. A crush stroke is a fault (Law 32a12) where a ball is played into a hoop upright, whilst it is still in contact with the mallet.

5 Escaping After the Peel

Other than with the Irish peel you need to have another ball to go to after the croquet stroke in which the peel is achieved. This ball is called the escape ball. There is no point in peeling if by doing so the turn fizzles out and comes to an end.

The art of peeling is to get the peelee and an escape ball at the hoop. The peel can then be executed in the croquet stroke and the escape ball roqueted in the continuation stroke maintaining the break.

This normally means that you will be playing a three ball break when doing the peel, since the peelee will be 'left behind' after the peel. One instance when this does not happen is on the Rover peel.

6 The Rover Peel

Being able to complete a rover peel and peg out both balls is an important part of any player's armoury. Normally you would not want to run rover with your forward ball unless your partner ball had also made most of the hoops as a defence against your opponent pegging your rover ball out and leaving you with only one ball on the lawn.

 The rover peel however can be a minefield - many things can, and frequently do, go wrong. It is possible by advance planning to defuse these potential disasters. The rover peel is now considered in some detail.

6.1 The Dream

First of all the dream ... the rover peel which works well. The diagrams below illustrate a rover peel when the ball to be peeled (the peelee) is the pioneer on rover. For the moment the reasons for placing the balls in particular positions will be omitted - to be taken up in the following section.


The Rover Peel. Blue is the peelee and Black is the striker's ball. 
(1A) On penultimate Yellow is placed as the reception ball and Black adopts hoop running position. Black then runs the hoop and roquets Yellow to the side so that Black approaches Red down its rush line towards Blue. 
(1B) Black is placed in contact with Yellow. Black plays a croquet stroke to send Yellow down towards the south boundary 
(1C) Yellow is sent as a 'catcher' ball about 7 foot from the south boundary and the rush on Red towards Blue's rush line into rover is obtained

(2A) Red is roqueted. Black is brought up to Red for the croquet stroke. 
(2B) Red is aimed as a reception ball by the side of rover, and in the croquet stroke Black takes position to rush Blue into peeling position. 
(2C) Blue is roqueted, being ideally placed 2 ft or a little further from the hoop, straight in front of it.

(3A) Blue is peeled with a stop shot as Black takes position to run the hoop itself. Blue should be sent a yard or more through the hoop. 
(3B) Black runs the hoop and roquets the Red reception ball. 
(3C) Black takes off from Red to behind Yellow to get a rush on Yellow towards Blue.

(4A) Black rushes Yellow on to a rush line linking Blue and the side of the peg. 
(4B) Black takes off from Yellow and gains an short rush on Blue to the side of the peg.
(4C) Black rushes Blue to about 2 foot to the side of the peg ready for the subsequent peg out.

6.2 The Nightmare

A catalogue of disasters which can occur during the rover peel is shown below:

 Blue is the ball to be peeled by Black
a). The peel is blocked by another ball
b). Very acute angle for the peel
c). Peel achieved but hoop un-runable
d). Peelee stuck in jaws (with striker's ball close behind)
e). Peelee only just through the hoop
f). Peelee roquet on hoop run
g). Rush back to peg hindered by hoop

Now to take another look at the break illustrated in the last section.

6.3 The Catcher Ball

Yellow is roqueted to the side after penultimate to give a clear drive down to near the south boundary. This 'catcher' ball is to cope with the contingency that you have to jump through the hoop. This arises when the peelee is on the wire in front of the hoop, partially through the hoop or only just through the hoop. If there is any obstruction in the jaws it is likely the striker's ball will bounce back out of the hoop (like balls in a Newton's Cradle). The answer is to jump the striker's ball over the obstruction.

In a jump shot however the striker's ball will hurtle through the hoop and run down to the south boundary - to where you have placed the catcher ball. This catcher reduces what could otherwise be a difficult 14 foot return roquet into one of a couple of yards.

6.4 The Jump Shot

To be able to jump, the striker's ball must be a reasonable distance back from rover, otherwise it cannot get enough height to clear the obstruction. Consequently when peeling you want to peel from a reasonable length, say 2 foot from the hoop. This has three benefits.

 a) If the peelee sticks in the hoop you need the space to do the jump shot. Also the further away from the hoop the striker's ball is the less chance of encountering disaster b.
b) You would like to use a stop shot to peel since there is no pull involved. The front ball in a stop shot skids for the first part of its travel, then picks up roll. Roll is needed to draw a mis-aimed ball through the hoop. Hence a gentle stop shot from a reasonable distance will maximise the roll.
c) You want to be able to drive the peelee a good distance through rover, say a yard or more. If you are too close to the hoop you cannot play a reasonable length shot without the striker's ball landing just in front or at the hoop.

 This tactic should prevent or give options for disasters c-f.

 The jump shot can be used to peel a jawsed ball. The striker's ball is intended to clip the top of the jawsed ball pulling both balls through (a half jump shot). This has the advantage that a roquet is deemed to be made on the peelee only if the balls come to rest in contact (providing that the peelee had been roqueted before the jump shot - otherwise you would either rush-peel the ball or play an Irish peel where both balls are croqueted through the hoop). A secondary benefit is that the striker's ball ends up behind the peelee with a rush in the direction of the peg.

6.5 The Side Reception Ball

A reception ball (Red) is placed by the side of rover for three contingencies:

 a) If the peelee only goes a short distance through the hoop, you will have to run the hoop gently stopping behind it (disaster e). If you do not stop and roquet the peelee then you have real problems (disaster f). There are peculiar 'combination peg-outs' requiring multiple promotions on the peelee but they are low percentage manoeuvres.
By having a reception ball to the side you have a ball which you can roquet if you only just run the hoop.
b) The reception ball is useful near to the peelee because you can play a croquet stroke with it to promote the peelee off the centre line of the lawn. This gets you out of disaster g - the hoop blocking the peg out.
c) Finally, you may not start a position where the pioneer on rover is the peelee; the peelee could be the pivot or the reception ball from penultimate. This gives you the option of peeling as you go to the reception ball, provided that the peelee gets into a reasonable position.

 The side reception ball acts as an escape ball for the peel. It can be roqueted after the peel and used to canon the peelee out of the way in the croquet stroke when you adopt hoop running position yourself for rover. It can also be used to canon the peelee through the hoop if it failed to run it completely


Promoting a peelee through a hoop whilst adopting hoop running position Yellow is canoned into Blue whilst Black adopts hoop running position.

6.6 When the Pioneer on Rover is not the Peelee

There can be three situations if you are playing a four-ball break:

 1). The peelee is the pioneer on rover
2). The peelee is pivot, or
3). The peelee is the pioneer on penultimate.

 Situation 3 can be avoided by 'swapping pivot' earlier in the break. This is explained in detail in Intermediate Coaching Notes: Changing Pivot in a Four Ball Break .

If however the peelee is your pioneer on penultimate then you want a second ball by penultimate when you run it so that you do not have to roquet the peelee directly after running penultimate. You will be unlikely to have a good rush on the peelee to rover otherwise, straight after running penultimate. Consequently rather than taking off from the pivot to approach the pioneer on penult you roll both balls to penultimate (or get a rush on the pivot to penultimate), then roquet the pioneer/peelee and when approaching the hoop cast it well forward and some way towards the (side) of the peg at the same time as getting hoop running position. This now creates situation 2 above - the peelee can now be considered as the pivot.

 For situation 2, where the peelee is the pivot it is essential to get a good rush on it towards rover, alternatively you can arrange to place the pivot closer to rover than the peg.

If when making four back the peelee is the pivot, then you can try to get a rush on it to leave it closer to rover before you make penultimate. There is a good and not-so- good way of doing this. The not-so-good, but adequate method is, after four back, to send the four back reception ball to the side of rover (so as to avoid disaster a. in the diagram!) as a pioneer, whilst getting a rush on the pivot/peelee towards rover. After rushing it close to rover you take off back to the pioneer at penultimate. This has the desired result except you have had to do a 14 yard take off to the penultimate pioneer.

 Better, send the four back reception ball to the side of rover and get a rush on the pivot/peelee north of the pioneer on penultimate. The peelee can then be stopped to rover as you approach the pioneer on penultimate. Stop shots are accurate especially in the positioning of the back ball and direction of the front ball.

 If your peelee/pivot is not near rover after running penultimate then you have to get a good rush on the peelee which dictates that you must get a prior good rush on the penultimate reception ball to the peelee.

In situation 2 with the peelee as the pivot rushed down to rover you have the choice of whether you peel then run rover, or peel then roquet the pioneer on rover and then run the rover. It is beneficial to do the latter as it gives the opportunity to escape from 'disasters d and g' above.

6.7 The Rover Peel

When rushing the pivot/peelee towards rover you obviously must not rush it beyond rover - 30" directly in front of the hoop is an ideal, or even further away. If you are able to play the peel as a gentle stop shot the peelee will have time to start rolling against the grass giving it that all important top spin to drag it through the hoop if need be. If the stop shot is played close to the hoop, say 1 foot away then you may not be able to hit the stroke hard, to get the peelee well through, and yet leave the striker's ball in hoop running position. This results in 'disaster e' above. Consequently plan to be a good two feet or so in front of rover to allow you to play the peel.

 If you are planning to run rover directly after peeling it is essential that you do not run the hoop and then directly roquet the peelee ('disaster f') Note the Laws though: if both balls run the hoop, as long as they do not end up in contact they are deemed not to have roqueted no matter what happened during the running of the hoop, hence the benefit of an Irish peel. If the peelee is roqueted on the hoop run it will be virtually impossible to peg the peelee out that turn. Consequently the peelee must be sent say 1 yard through the hoop so that you are not left trying to 'just' run the hoop - and then what?

 If you have the opportunity to do the peel and then roquet the pioneer then there are some advantages. Firstly a caution: remember pull if you use a roll shot to do a peel then pull will occur and both balls in the stroke will arc towards the aiming line. This is worse for rolls where the balls leave at around 45°.

 Situation 1 was discussed above.

7 The Triple Peel

This is a manoeuvre in which you peel a ball through 4- back, penultimate and rover as you take another ball around. The key thing to realise with a triple peel is that there is no set agenda as to when the peels are to be done. There is a fixation that 4-back must be peeled at hoop 3 which if the break is not stable means that you gain one peel and throw the break away. 4-back can be peeled going to hoops 6, 1-back or 4-back with similar ease, and other opportunities can be manufactured.

The main message is do not peel if it will jeopardise your break.

 As an aside the mark of a championship player is when they achieve a triple effortlessly with no difficult or risky shots. People who achieve a triple with huge split rolls to pioneers can make the triple much safer with planning.

7.1 An Example Triple Peel

Bearing in mind that you do not have to do the peels to a strict recipe, it is useful for people learning triples to see an outline of one to get a feel for the mechanism. One is detailed below - it is not held up to be the best way of doing a triple and there are many variations. For exquisite discussion and detail on playing triples and other refinements of expert play, readers are referred to "Expert Croquet Tactics" by Keith Wylie, available from the Croquet Association for around £13.

 Assume that you are starting with a setup four ball break with the peelee as the pioneer on hoop one.

(1). Approach hoop 1 leaving the reception ball to give a rush to pivot.
(2). Run hoop 1 and rush the reception ball short of pivot.

(3), Stop the peelee to hoop 3 whilst getting a rush on the pivot to the left (west) of hoop 2.
(4). Rush pivot to west boundary

(5). Stop the pivot also to hoop 3 and approach the pioneer on hoop 2.
(6). Approach hoop 2 leaving reception ball to give rush north of hoop 3.

(7). Run hoop 2 and rush north of hoop 3
(8). Stop old reception ball as pioneer on hoop 4 whilst getting amongst peelee and pioneer on 3. The detail of ball juggling is left to the player ... The pioneer becomes the escape ball after the peel.

(9). Roquet either peelee or pioneer and croquet in to position.
(10). Roquet remaining ball and whilst placing it in position obtain hoop running position.

(11). Run the hoop and roquet the peelee.
(12). Peel the ball in the croquet stroke and obtain a rush on the escape ball down to the left of hoop 4.

(13). Rush down to hoop four and stop the old escape ball as a pioneer on hoop 5, whilst approaching the pioneer on hoop 4.
(14). Roquet the hoop 4 pioneer and place it to the right of the hoop to give a rush to north boundary after the hoop run.

(15). Run hoop 4 and rush the reception ball to the north boundary between hoops 6 and 3.
(16). Stop the reception ball to the side of hoop 6 whilst getting a rush on the peelee into the middle of the lawn.

(17). Rush the peelee into the lawn then take off to the pioneer on hoop 5.
(18). Roquet the pioneer and place a reception ball to be rushed to the right of the peelee after running the hoop.

(19). Rush the reception ball to the right of the peelee and stop it up to 1-back whilst getting a rush on the peelee to hoop six and its pioneer.
(20). Position the peelee in peeling position behind hoop 6 and roquet the pioneer.

(21). Set the reception ball level with or south of hoop 6 whilst adopting hoop running position. This is the escape ball.
(22). Run hoop 6 and roquet the peelee. Peel the ball hard if possible and come south of the escape ball to give a rush to the north boundary.

(23). Rush to the north boundary behind the 1-back pioneer, stop the old reception ball as a pioneer on 2-back and approach the pioneer on 1-back.
(24). Run 1-back and you now have a four ball break around to the peg during which you can achieve the rover peel as described in the last section (situation 2).