[New members receive a copy of the 'Rules of Croquet' and a Handicap card]
The opposing sides each have two balls: Black and Blue against Red and Yellow. A side may be one or two people (i.e. singles or doubles). Each side plays alternately in rotation: blue, red, black, yellow. To help you remember the colour sequence they are painted, in correct order, on the centre peg.
Each turn consists of one stroke only: To start the game, toss a coin. The winner of the toss plays black and blue, and blue always starts.
The opening shots are played from within one yard of the corner nearest hoop 4, and the players aim to run the hoops in order from 1 to 12. A deciding hoop is run [Hoop 3] if the scores are equal at this point, making thirteen in all. The winner is the side that first reaches a total of seven hoops.
To score a point, a ball must run completely through the hoop. A ball has run a hoop if you can slide a straight edge down the front of the hoop without touching the ball. You may run a hoop in more than one go. If a ball should go through two hoops in order in the same stroke, both points are scored [and you may be asked to buy a drink for your opponent!].
The side that first gets a ball through Hoop 1 scores that point and then all balls go for the next hoop in order (i.e. Hoop 2). All players must contest the same hoop. [A player may proceed towards the next hoop before the previous hoop is run, however the opposing team may request that any ball which is more than halfway towards the next hoop, when the hoop is actually run, is removed to the half-way boundary as specified in the off-side rules].
Much of the skill of Golf Croquet lies in obstructing an opponent by positioning your own ball or using your ball to knock away an opponent's ball. The player aims to achieve his/her own balls in good positions to 'run' the hoop while ensuring that the opponents are unable to get into such favourable positions.
A ball that goes off the lawn is replaced on the boundary where it went off and awaits its next turn.
A player's turn must be made by a clean hit with the mallet and there are a number of faults that a player may make as he/she strikes the ball. Such faults are best taught during friendly play or coaching sessions.
To allow evenly contested games between players of different abilities all players have a 'handicap'. Handicaps are used to calculate 'extra turns' for the weaker player [which can be taken at any stage of the game]. However you may not score a hoop with an extra turn shot.
There are detailed rules that govern the procedure when a player strikes a wrong ball by mistake; these are currently under review by the Croquet Association but, at the time of writing, may be summarised as follows:-
If a player plays out of sequence and it is noticed before the opponent plays, the opponent may either have the balls left where they are or replaced were they were before the erroneous stoke, and the opponent then continues play with either of his balls. If more than one ball is played out of sequence before it is noticed, play continues in the sequence set by the last ball played, no balls are replaced. If a player plays the wrong ball, either an opponent's or his partner's ball in doubles, the balls are replaced in their original position or left where they lie, at the opponent's discretion, and the opponent continues play with either of his own balls.