CROQUET COACHING:  Peels without Hoops

Australian Correspondent
September 11, 1997
by John Riches

Someone once commented to me that the game of croquet would be so much easier if there were no hoops.  There is more truth in this  statement than one may suspect, since in addition to the problems of  making hoops, balls hitting them at the wrong time, and having them  hamper our strokes, there are situations in which the presence of a  hoop can have a strong psychological effect.  This is especially  noticeable when peeling, and is one of the factors which a player must  learn to cope with in order to triple peel consistently.

The diagram shows red about  to peel yellow through its hoop (say, penultimate) and at the same time get  a rush on blue (to 2-back).  In order to  find the correct line of swing for this  shot, it is necessary to imagine that  the hoop is not there, and to choose  an aiming point halfway between  where you estimate the two balls  would then finish.

However, there is a strong  psychological tendency to want to  ensure that the red ball misses the  hoop by swinging the mallet in the direction in which you want the red  ball to travel.  This will in fact cause the red ball to go well out to the right,  with no chance of obtaining the desired rush.  The correct way to play  the shot is best learnt by practising it with the hoop removed, then  replacing the hoop and simply ignoring its presence, as should be done with all peels once the shot has been lined up.

The left hand diagram shows red peeling yellow through the  rover hoop, using a stop-shot in which the red ball remains in front of  rover and can make the hoop on the following shot.  Here, also, the  presence of the hoop seems to create an illusion that the shot can be  played with less "stop" than is actually needed.  Players tend to  underestimate the stop ratio required, which is often about 6:1, near  enough to the maximum possible.

There is also the knowledge that the peeled ball must go far enough  through the hoop to allow red to make the hoop without roqueting it (if  the player wishes to complete his turn by pegging out both balls); and  the fact that the yellow ball has to pass through the hoop seems to cause most players to hit the shot harder than necessary, and harder  than they would if the hoop were not there.  They then find it difficult to understand why the red ball is over-running the hoop.

Again, the shot should be practised with  the hoop removed in order to establish the correct way to play it.  This psychological  difficulty is also a reason why many players  prefer to peel rover with an "Irish Peel",  sending both balls through the hoop in the one stroke.

If the peel has to be made at a slight angle,  as illustrated in the right-hand diagram,  then an "Irish Peel would be more difficult,  and if the stop-shot peel is used, the  psychological effect of the hoop is even greater because angled hoop shots generally need to be hit harder than straight ones.  The fact that  the yellow ball is now less directly in front of the red ball is just another complicating factor, and once again the shot should be first practised  without the hoop.