Intermediate Coaching Notes
Section 6. Leaves and Ball Positions
6.1. It is a general aim at the end of a turn to have the opponents away from the edges of the lawn and each other. You join up remote or wired from them near the boundary. The rationale is that should they aim at you and miss, they come back on the lawn where you can easily pick them up. This is called 'guarding the boundary'. If you shoot at a ball in the middle of the lawn there is no great penalty as if you miss it you will make the boundary. You also discourage the opponent joining-up, as to do so in the middle of the lawn gives too much away.
6.2. At the end of a turn, where you have joined up with the partner ball, you should not always leave your balls on the boundary, but say at least a further yard out from the yard line. This allows you to turn around and roquet an enemy ball which has missed, and still have enough room to stop it well into the lawn. If you are on the boundary it limits the strength of croquet shot that you can play on the enemy and still get position on your partner ball.
6.3. If your opponent is on the boundary with a perfect rush to their hoop you have a virtually free shot at them. If they mess about with you they are likely to spoil their rush. Also they are unlikely to get your ball far off the boundary.
6.4. If you have the innings and you see two enemy balls together this means that you will have a perfect rush to anywhere on the lawn. You only have to take-off near to either of them and a short take-off then gives you the rush on the other ball.
6.5. Obviously if the opponent's balls are joined up you can arrange to take-off to a position where you can rush one of the balls closer to the other. You then have a shorter take-off and hence a better chance of obtaining a perfect rush. This is the answer when an opponent has adopted a wide join (see below).
6.6. Because of the above you should not generally join up if your opponent is joined up. You should adopt a wide join. The expectation of a wide join is that you place your balls close enough together so that you are likely to hit in. The distance separating your balls prevents your opponent from accurately taking-off from one ball to get a perfect rush on the other. On a fast lawn you can afford to join closer since the take-off will be more difficult, the ball rolling on. On a heavy lawn, where control is easy, you should be thinking of 8-10ft.
6.7. When choosing a position for a wide join you should not place your ball near a corner. If you do so you cannot safely shoot at the corner ball with the other, since if you miss your safe wide join will become two balls together.
6.8. It is a desirable leave to place each of the enemy balls on your next hoops. You can then leave a rush to either hoop.
6.9. If you place an enemy ball as a pioneer on your hoop and are leaving yourself a rush to it, firstly avoid leaving a double. If possible, position the enemy as a three-ball break pioneer (Section 2: The Three-Ball Break). If you place the enemy between the hoop and the boundary and plan to get a rush to the boundary, then you only have to get the direction of the rush correct and not worry about the strength. You can then stop shot your partner ball out and approach the pioneer along its rush line from the boundary.
6.10. At the end of a turn, if an enemy is for the same hoop as you, you should try to leave that enemy ball by its hoop as your pioneer. You should not of course leave it in a position where it can run the hoop. If you leave the other colour enemy ball there then it is a pioneer if the enemy hits in with the first ball. As it is the enemy has to move away from the hoop it wants and there is no easy pioneer.
6.11. Always consider which ball an opponent is likely to play and where they are likely to hit it. If you lay a rush to the boundary where their ball would travel if they took the obvious shot and missed, then you can readily pick them up and build a break. They often overlook this type of trap.
6.12. Suppose during a break you fail to get hoop position off your partner ball, and the enemy is not directly threatening you. As a general rule, do not finish your turn by adopting a perfect hoop running position. This limits your options; firstly you will probably be wired from your partner ball and vice versa, this forces you to play with the hoop ball and your opponent, knowing this, will take appropriate action. Secondly you cannot alter the direction of the rush once you have run the hoop and obviously the opponent will have moved their ball. You should leave a rush on your partner instead of taking hoop position - being careful not to leave a double target. This keeps your options of playing either ball open and of positioning your reception ball for a useful rush.
6.13. An occasion when you may take hoop position is when you are slightly threatened. The opponent stands a plausible chance of hitting in. You can then take hoop position as close to the hoop as possible (or even in the jaws) to deny them of any useful rush on that ball should they hit in and try to build a break. Not recommended against good opponents.
6.14. When placing an opponent ball in a croquet shot check that you could not protect your partner ball by an easy wiring. You aim to place the opponent in the wired position, but with a low priority on the demands of the shot. You may only get one out of ten but that is going to be better than if you ignore the possibility.
6.15. If you fail a hoop approach you must resist the temptation to just knock your ball to an arbitrary point on the boundary or in to a corner out of frustration. Ensure that you do not leave your ball near to your opponent's next hoop or forward of their break. For example if the opponent is for hoops 3 and four then near corners I and II would be much better than III or IV.
6.16. It is dangerous to knock your ball into a corner especially if your are playing an 'A' class player (say of handicap 2 or less). You should shoot to end up about 9" away from the corner spot. This prevents your opponent getting an easy corner cannon (Section 8: Special Shots) and hence moving two balls away from the boundary.
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