I invented hoopoids a few years ago as a means to play croquet during our snowy winters in a large carpeted hall where no holes in the floor were allowed. I did not have a replacement of hoops in summer in mind. I never thought for a moment that hoopoids would be accepted by the croquet community in that role, being too much of a radically different concept.
During the recent hoop problems discussions on the Nottingham Board, Rob Edlin-White made the following remark: “I can't help thinking that it might be worth researching radical alternatives to existing hoop designs. Something designed to provide an equivalent but more consistent playing challenge but less dependent on soil type, less vulnerable to rain, and less work to set.” Since hoopoids satisfy all of these desiderata and more, his remark set the wheels in my head spinning. Earlier this week the first ever AC game on a real grass court with hoopoids in the role of hoops took place between Ken Shipley and myself. I wanted to make sure there are no hidden glitches before going public. There weren’t. In fact I found it a very enjoyable game.
Hoopoids allow a quantified level of challenge (the challenge length) which can effortlessly be maintained at constant level, not only throughout the day but even throughout the entire event and throughout the season. A court equipped with hoopoids to a challenge length suitable for beginners can be changed within about 10 minutes to a court suitable for elite players and vice versa. They do not have critical points at any level of challenge over a wide range – nothing corresponding to the point of zero clearance where the hoop suddenly becomes dysfunctional. As such they are a tournament managers dream. Since hoopoids are assembled entirely from existing objects, they require no new engineering or difficult manufacturing process. It is therefore possible for every croquet player to try them out with minimal expense, if any at all. I hope that will happen. One thing I could not determine myself is what an appropriate challenge length for elite players would be. I am curious about that.
Imagine a red striker’s ball S about 4 feet south and slightly west of a hoop (see the left part of the above picture). Running that hoop poses a challenge of accurate hitting. The challenge becomes greater when S is further from the hoop or at a greater angle. Suppose that we have, instead of the hoop, a pair of croquet balls A and D (see the green balls on the right) such that A is placed about 9” south of the hoop position and D is placed 9” north of it. Imagine the hoop removed. Then it is possible for S to rush A into D. This action poses a challenge to the player comparable to that of running the hoop. The hoop challenge becomes greater when the gap between the uprights is made narrower. The hoopoid challenge becomes greater when the distance between the two green balls is increased.
A hoopoid is a pair of croquet balls A and D, called the hoopoid balls, such that D is placed directly north or south of A. When the Hoop 1 position is the midpoint of A and D, with A on the playing side, then the pair (A,D) will be said to form Hoopoid 1. We call A the action ball of the hoopoid and D its decision ball. The center-to-center distance between A and D will be called the challenge length of the hoopoid. Similarly, we can create, corresponding to Hoop 2-back, a Hoopoid 2-back formed by an action ball A to the north of hoop position 2 and a decision ball D to the south thereof by the same distance. We can do the same for every hoop.
Hoopoid balls are required to have a color distinct from the balls in the game. So if the latter are primary colors, then the hoopoid balls could be chosen to have secondary or tertiary colors or to be striped. Ideally they will be the same kind (Dawson, say) as the balls in the game, but this is not critical.
The first step is to decide on a Challenge Length i.e. the distance between A and D, the same distance for each hoopoid. If you normally play with a clearance of 1/16” then a Challenge Length of about 53cm is a good starting point. It will give a comparable challenge level. After a little experimentation you could increase or decrease this length to your liking so as to make the challenge greater or less. For elite players it can be expected to be a good deal longer than 53cm. An appropriate length can only be determined experimentally.
The next step is to install a hoopoid for every hoop position as follows. From the spot where the hoop would have been installed, measure half the Challenge Length north of it and the same distance south of it to arrive at the spots that will be called the normal hoopoid positions. Two ball markers symmetrically placed east and west of each spot should also be installed. Place each hoopoid ball in its position and tap it down so that a little hollow is formed in which it will rest in a stable manner when replaced. (I used little rings cut from a 1” diameter thin-walled aluminum tube tapped in flush with the ground and that gave a very stable nest. With such rings the ball markers east and west are not necessary.) The hoopoid balls repeatedly become dislodged from their positions when points are scored or attempted (see below) and need to be accurately replaced every time. Hence the need for being sure they can quickly be replaced to an exact spot.
Having done that, you are ready to play with hoopoids instead of hoops! To run a hoopoid you approach it to get good shooting position and from there you try to rush its action ball into its decision ball, that’s all. You can rush it far or near and where it comes to rest, that is where your striker ball goes for the customary continuation shot.
The picture to follow, kindly taken by Ken Shipley on his cell phone, shows the red ball ready to run Hoopoid 1-back. It is formed by two red striped balls. Other hoopoids are visible at a distance.
For the purpose of playing a game with hoopoids in the role of hoops the Laws of Association Croquet are deemed to be modified by the systematic replacement of “hoopoid” for “hoop” wherever that replacement makes sense. In particular, the term “hoopoid in order” has the meaning it derives from the original term “hoop in order” It will fail to make sense whenever reference is made to the physical components of a hoop e.g. its crown or upright. Accordingly, the description of how a hoop point is scored is not relevant for hoopoids and becomes replaced by corresponding laws for hoopoid points, dealt with in item 5. First we have to deal with another recurrent issue.
(4a) If the playing of any stroke causes a hoopoid ball to become dislodged from its normal hoopoid position (see item 2), then it becomes replaced in its normal position before a further stroke is played.
(4b) If another ball is partly in the way of the replacement required in (4a) then that occupying ball is moved away in the direction that requires the shortest movement so as to make room for the hoopoid ball. Thus the hoopoid ball will be left in contact with the occupying ball upon replacement.
(4c) If the occupying ball of (4b) is exactly on the spot of the hoopoid ball then the hoopoid ball is replaced in its normal position and the occupying ball is left in contact with it in a direction chosen by the striker.
(5a) A striker ball S in the game runs a hoopoid in order, and scores a point for itself, if it is struck so as to cause the action ball A of that hoopoid to collide with the decision ball D (see item 1). The collision will cause D to move. The movement of D is then deemed to be the movement of S and this is dealt with as follows.
(5b) If D collides with another ball B in the game in the movement described in (5a), that collision is deemed to be a roquet of S on B, the hoopoid balls are placed in the normal hoopoid positions subject to item 4 and the striker continues to take croquet with S on B as if S itself made the roquet.
(5c) If D does not collide with another ball in the movement mentioned in (5a), the striker ball S becomes placed in the position where D comes to rest (possibly after installment as a boundary ball in the usual manner). Then D and A are replaced in their normal positions as hoopoid balls and the striker continues playing a continuation stroke, subject to item 4 if applicable, as is done after a hoop point is scored.
If as a consequence of any stroke a ball B other than the striker's ball is caused to collide with the action ball A of the hoopoid in order for B in such a manner that A collides with D, then B is deemed to have run that hoopoid and B is said to be peeled.
In that case, any movement of D after the collision is deemed to be the movement of B. So B is placed wherever D comes to rest (possibly as boundary ball). Then A and D are replaced in their normal hoopoid positions. Provided that the turn did not end for some reason, the following applies. If the stroke was a roquet stroke, the striker should take croquet from B. If the stroke was a croquet stroke the striker plays the continuation stroke from where the striker's ball comes to rest.
If a point scoring attempt fails, any dislodged hoopoid ball is returned to its normal hoopoid ball position, in accordance with item 4 where applicable, and the striker ball stays where it comes to rest (possibly installed as boundary ball).
Clearly, ordinary clips cannot be attached to hoopoids. So they become replaced by broad colored ribbons which are pinned to the lawn with ball markers so that the wind won’t blow them away. They are conventionally place to the left of the hoopoid, a few inches back. So the clips for Hoopoid 1 will be on the ground slightly south west of the hoopoid while the clips for Hoopoid 2-back will be slightly north-east. A striker may temporarily remove them, as is done with ordinary clips.
It is fun to play Golf Croquet with hoopoids. The space between the two hoopoid balls is of particular strategic interest.
If you want to try out hoopoids without having 12 balls available of a color distinct from the balls in the game, you can temporarily get by with only two hoopoid balls. Mark all the hoop positions with a visible marker e.g. a corner peg. Since only one scoring attempt is possible at any given moment you place your two hoopoid balls where they are needed, remove the marker and recycle them similarly elsewhere where and when needed. This is a bit cumbersome of course, but it could still give you an idea of how hoopoids work.
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