The game is a contest between two sides – black and blue against red and yellow. In singles, each player controls two balls; in doubles the four players each control one ball.
The object of the game is to be the first side to win seven points, a point being scored when one of your side’s balls runs the hoop being contested in the correct direction as shown in the diagram. Each turn consists of one shot only and the balls are played in the sequence blue, red, black, yellow.
Play starts with each ball being played from the start area in the corner of the court towards the general area of hoop 1. When all four balls have been played, the sequence starts again with blue.
Once one ball has run through hoop 1, a point is scored by the successful side and the balls are played from where they lie towards hoop 2. It is, of course, possible that the ball running hoop 1 also runs hoop 2 in the same stroke, in which case that side has scored 2 points and play moves on to hoop 3.
The central peg has no significance in golf croquet except to act as an obstruction and to serve as a reminder of the sequence of play, the colours blue, red, black and yellow being painted on the peg in that order.
Once one side has won seven points, the game is finished. So, a one-sided game could end when hoop 7 is run, with the score 7-0. A more likely scenario is that the two sides are much more evenly balanced. It is quite commonplace for the score after 12 hoops to be 6-6. In that case, the next hoop in order is hoop 13 – sometimes informally called the ‘golden hoop’. Tactics used in the contest to win a hoop include: clearing opponent from the area near the hoop, blocking opponent’s shot, knocking your partner ball into a better position, playing a jump shot over an opponent ball to run the hoop, etc. Golf croquet is a game that keeps you thinking after each shot and keeps you on the move.