CROQUET COACHING:  Some Points on Hoop Making

John Riches wrote:

South Australian Coaching Committee has concluded that it is best to teach  players to run hoops with the mallet sloping slightly FORWARD at impact,  although this does not mean they should deliberately hit down on the ball.  The  forward slope is achieved by standing slightly closer to the ball than for a  roquet.

When you are making a hoop from more than two feet out, it will make little difference; but from closer  in the best way to avoid the unwanted skidding effect (mentioned in the same article) is to use a  flat swing with the mallet tilted slightly forward.  This  presses the ball lightly onto the lawn surface, thus checking the bottom of the ball while the top starts  to roll forward.  This results in more topspin (or "forward roll" to kick the ball through the hoop when it touches the sides) than can be achieved by hitting up through the ball.

Of course, if you can guarantee to hit straight enough, it will not matter much what sort of action you use.  It is quite possible to lift the mallet up through the  ball even though the handle is sloping slightly forward, and this is probably the action that the writer of the article was intending to describe.  However, this  involves a sudden lifting of the arms and/or shoulders which has to be accurately controlled and correctly timed.  This method may be useful for advanced players, but in our opinion should not be copied by the average club  player.

 In the AUSTRALIAN CROQUET MANUAL, Ron Sloane comments: "Some players impart forward spin by tilting the mallet forward ...  others impart forward spin by hitting up to the ball." I suggest that it is possible, though for most players inadvisable, to do both things at once; but players should definitely not be taught to run hoops with the mallet tilted backward at the point of impact, which is often associated with a stop-shot action that is also counter-productive.  A perfectly flat mallet at impact is okay, but can cause skidding without forward spin, as the article correctly notes.

It is possible that different lawn conditions could make the method we  recommend less justifiable in other areas.  Our ground in South Australia is  usually fairly hard, so the hoops are more rigidly set.  The type of grass in South  Australia is quite different from that in most other regions, and this may make a  difference.  The change to Dawson balls also made a difference, requiring  more forward spin; and our low rainfall could also be a factor, as wet balls slide  through hoops more easily than dry balls, without the need for much spin.  I  would be interested to hear from readers with further or differing ideas.