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Dr Ian Plummer

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Silver Gilt Coaching - Principles

Course notes accompanying the Silver Gilt Coaching Course

Advanced Play - a Review of Law 36

  1. Remember that the entitlement to a lift or contact is an option and, therefore, not mandatory.
  2. A player cannot avoid conceding a contact by peeling partner ball through 1-back in the same turn as he scores 1-back and 4-back with his own ball.
  3. A player who pegs out any ball during the game is not entitled to any further lift or contact under Law 36, but does not lose the entitlement to any lift under Law 13. (Some players wrongly assume that wiring lifts are also forfeited).
  4. Where on the third or fourth turn if a contact has been conceded under Law 36, remember that the contact releases you from the obligation to play your second ball from a baulk-line.
  5. Remember that unlike in handicap play, where a player may not peg out one of his balls before the other has become a rover, either ball may be pegged out (provided that it is a rover) at any time, and that can happen unintentionally.


The opening is a fight to get the innings with the first chance of a break. A common mistake is for players to ignore the tice and join up a yard apart on the east boundary, oblivious to the fact that the opponent will have an easy opportunity, if he hits his own tice.

Have it clear in your own mind how to deal with the common openings. If you are presented with an opening you have not seen before, think carefully before you play the next ball. If you have not come across the opening before the chances are that it is unsound and your opponent is using it simply to panic you into an ill considered response.

Picking Up Breaks

  1. Precision Croquet. With precision croquet the emphasis is on playing relatively easy shots with a great deal of control. On the hoop approach the player should aim to get as close as possible to the hoop before running it. This should be followed by a controlled hoop leaving a good rush to a useful place, either to the next hoop or another ball.
    If the rush is to another ball, usually on a yard-line, a little croquet stroke will bring the rushed ball out from the boundary and leave a rush on the yard-line ball to the next hoop. With sequences of hoops, rushes and croquet strokes the balls will be brought out into the lawn into positions where it will be possible to play a croquet stroke which actually sends out a pioneer. The break will then be established.
  2. Aggressive Croquet. In aggressive croquet the object of getting as close as possible to a hoop is temporarily abandoned in favour of getting out a pioneer to the next hoop but one. Then, if the next hoop is made, the break is quickly established. This type of play will often involve playing a hoop approach from a corner.

Break Management

  1. The break must be managed in such a way as to reduce the risk of breaking down as much as possible, and this is even more important when the conditions are difficulty.
  2. The essence of good break management lies in good control of all the strokes, particularly hoop running, and in thinking ahead to make the next stroke as easy as possible. For example, good control at a hoop can leave a rush towards the pivot, thus reducing the distance from which the pioneer is sent out, as well as enabling the croquet stroke to be played with a drive or stop shot instead of a half-roll. With this croquet stroke an attempt can be made to get a rush on the pivot towards the next hoop, in order to reduce the distance between the pivot and the pioneer.
  3. The pivot need not 'hug' the peg but can move around with the break. A position half way between the hoop and peg can be used to advantage, if the player is not certain to get a rush after running he hoop. Once control of the break has been gained, a position roughly half way between the next two hoops is useful. If it is impossible to get the intended ball as a good pioneer at the next hoop but one, or if the attempt has been unsuccessful, the pivot and pioneer can be interchanged.
  4. Early pioneers become more appropriate in advanced play than in handicap play. In this respect, the early pioneer to 2-back is customary with expert players, as is the early pioneer to hoop 6 provided that control of the break has been achieved. However, players should not slavishly follow what they may regard as expert play. It is almost a prerequisite that the pioneer at the next hoop should be in the right position before considering an early pioneer.
  5. As a general rule every shot should be played to make the next shot as easy as possible. This is the basis of precision croquet and its application to break play will considerably reduce the risk of breaking down.


  1. The Wafer Cannon. The gap between the striker's ball and the ball to be roqueted is 'wafer-thin', hence the name of the cannon. The line of swing is usually, but not necessarily, through the centres of these balls. To a good approximation, the roqueted ball is rushed along this line. Note, however, that it is not exact, and some care has to be taken if the intention is to rush the roqueted ball along a yard-line; the rushed ball will usually go off the boundary. Invariably, the croqueted ball will move several yards in a hard stroke, so that this cannon is not advisable where there is a danger of sending the croqueted ball off the lawn.
    Instead of the wafer cannon it is possible to play to get a 'dolly' rush by playing the croqueted ball into the yard-line area without disturbing the third ball. The croqueted ball should, of course, be replaced on the yard-line before taking the rush.
  2. The Promotion Cannon. This is most useful when the fourth ball may still be roqueted and is nearby. It is then possible to promote the third ball to the next hoop as a pioneer, whilst remaining in position to roquet the fourth ball. The four-ball cannon is a special case of the promotion cannon, where the fourth ball is actually roqueted in the same stroke.
  3. The Open Cannon. Strictly speaking, the open cannon is not a true cannon (it is sometimes called a pseudo-cannon), as it does not arise from a three-ball group. However, the third ball is sufficiently close so that it may confidently be roqueted in the croquet stroke. The position sometimes occurs at the first corner, when a return shot at the tice finishes on the south boundary a short distance from the corner spot. The tice is then rushed into first corner. The cannon is easier than it looks, but it requires a good feel for the croquet stroke to get a good rush of the third ball to hoop 1.

Principles of Leaves

  1. In this section we are concerned only with 'lift' leaves which ensue after the first nine hoops have been negotiated successfully. The leave should be planned as early as possible during the break and certainly not left to be sorted out after 3-back.
  2. Bearing in mind that the lift may be taken from either baulk, the player should be thinking about the following points when planning a leave:
    1. Lengthening the opponent's shot,
    2. The chance to pick up a break, should the opponent not hit in,
    3. The chance for the opponent to pick up a break, if he does hit,
    4. 'Forcing' the opponent to lift a particular ball;
old standard leave
The Old Standard Leave (OSL)
new standard leave
The New Standard Leave (NSL)
diagonal spread
The Diagonal Spread

The Old Standard Leave (OSL)

Black/blue has available a shot of some 13/14 yards at Red or Yellow (the so-called 'short' lift shot), or can shoot with Black at Blue. If any shot is missed then Red (for hoop 1) has a good chance to pick up a break. Equally, if Black/blue hits the short lift shot, their chances are good. There is no element of forcing.

The New Standard Leave (NSL)

Black/blue has no shot less than 17 yards. If black shoots from third comer at Red/yellow, Red has a good chance of the break. If Blue shoots at Red/Yellow from third corner, there is still a good chance of picking up a three- ball break.

The Diagonal Spread

Once again Black/blue has no shot less than 17 yards. If the shot misses, Red has a good chance of a three-ball break, whichever ball has been lifted and whichever shot has been taken.

Pick-Up of the Break from the Missed Lift

  1. This is one of the rare occasions when the disposition of the balls will be fixed at the start of the turn, and it occurs often enough to demand practice. There is little point in making a particular leave if the player can not make the pick-up.
  2. The OSL after the 'short' lift shot
    The opponent's ball is croqueted towards hoop 4, leaving a rush on partner ball to either the ball by the peg or the ball near hoop 2, depending on which has been lifted. Partner ball is croqueted to hoop 2, leaving a rush on the opponent ball to hoop 1.
  3. The NSL
    Partner ball is roqueted gently and the take-off is played to the ball in the fourth corner. This ball is then roqueted and croqueted to hoop 2, leaving a rush on the ball at hoop 4 to hoop 1. The key shot is the croquet stroke from corner IV to hoop 2, leaving a rush on the ball by hoop 4. It is worth concentrating on this one particular shot if the NSL is a favoured option.
  4. The Diagonal Spread
    Partner ball is rushed to whichever opponent ball has not been lifted and then stopped to hoop 2, leaving a rush on the opponent ball to hoop 1.

Peeling Principles

  1. Remember that the break should not be sacrificed for the sake of the peels.
  2. Peeling requires good control of rushing, hoop approaches and hoop running. Practice these skills and once you acquire them, single and double peels will follow naturally.
  3. Remember to make an allowance for pull where a peel is attempted in a split stroke.

The Straight Rover Peel

  1. Use the peelee as pioneer at 3-back or 4-back. Plan ahead for this.
  2. Try to approach penult with the peelee in front of rover and the pivot between the peg and rover.
  3. After penult send the original penult pioneer close to the south boundary with your ball going to the pivot.
  4. Send the pivot about 3 feet to the side of and just past rover with your ball going to the peelee
  5. Peel with a firm grip. A drive is best if you have room. If you must peel with a stop shot, take care not to let the mallet twist.
  6. It is a good idea to have a ball near the south boundary, to guard against a jump or half-jump over the peelee, should the peel crawl through or stick.

The Penult Peel

  1. Arrange to have the peelee as pioneer at hoop 6. This may be achieved by putting it there as an early pioneer after making hoop 3 or as part of a normal 4-ball break after making hoop 4.
  2. When making hoop 5 arrange to have the pivot ball between the peg and hoop 6.
  3. After 5 sent the croqueted ball to 1-back finishing near the pivot.
  4. Send the pivot about 2 feet to the West of hoop 6. This will be the escape ball.
  5. Roquet the ball to be peeled in front of hoop 6 and slightly to the side. Croquet it directly behind the hoop into a peeling position.
  6. After running hoop 6 roquet the ball to be peeled and peel it in the croquet stroke with a stop shot getting a rush on the escape ball to the North boundary from where it is croqueted to 2-back.

Tactics in the Advanced Game

The In-Player

  1. The objective is to set up a break as soon as possible. Weigh up the options and choose between going for the immediate break, which risks losing the innings if unsuccessful, and making a leave, which gives the opponent the chance to hit in.
  2. When going for the immediate break, decide on the precision or aggressive approach and plan accordingly.
  3. Try to make a leave which yields a break from a missed shot. This could be an aggressive' leave, which will encourage the opponent to shoot but should result in a break if the shot is missed.
  4. Where possible move opponents balls away from the boundaries.
  5. Take into account the lawn conditions. If conditions are difficult and time is a consideration, consider giving opponent contact.

The Out-Player

  1. The thoughts of the out-player should concentrate on how best to get back the innings. The choice is usually between shooting at every available opportunity or playing a defensive, waiting game, hoping that the opponent will make a mistake. Which way will suit a player best will depend upon his prowess as a shot and the strength of the opposition. The player must gauge whether he can shoot safely, i.e. the missed shot will not be punished, or whether he 'must' shoot because, whatever he does, the opponent will make a pick-up.
  2. Although the out-player is usually advised to think about what he will give away with a missed shot, he should not always be discouraged by these thoughts. There are positions where it is right to shoot even though a miss could make matters easy for the opponent. For example, a shortish shot or one which could win the game should not be refused for fear of the consequences. A better opportunity might not present i

Conceding Contact - Three-Ball Endings

  1. It is not easy to decide when to peg out an opponent's ball. Remember that it is not a decisive advantage to peg out an opponent ball, however big the lead.
  2. If the single-ball player does not give away a three-ball break with a missed shot, then generally the two-ball player must proceed on a succession of two-ball breaks, laying up in a guarded or wired position at the end of each turn. Where time is approaching and the 2-ball player is behind, then he must adopt more aggressive tactics.
  3. The 2-ball player should not join up in the middle of the lawn, or where the opponent has a short shot. This would normally apply where a lift shot was given.
  4. The single-ball player must become very aggressive in his attempts to pick up a break. He must shoot at anything that does not give away the three-ball break.
  5. When the two-ball player has not joined up, the single ball player can shoot with relative impunity at the peg ball. Even if he misses, he will get both another turn later and an open shot because the two-ball player will be obliged to play with his peg ball. Alternatively the single ball player can take position.
  6. If you cannot shoot, look for threatening positions; thin wire or on a boundary equidistant from opponent's separated balls.


  1. If it is to provide value, practice should be enjoyable and structured. Routines should concentrate on perceived weaknesses.
  2. Divide your practice session into stages, each of which has a purpose and is aimed at improving technique or correct weaknesses.
  3. Loosen up a little before starting to practice seriously. Start with the more repetitive aspects; if they are left to the end, they are more likely to be omitted. Above all, a considerable amount of time must be spent in developing and refining the basic skills to achieve control.
  4. There are certain strokes and lines of play that occur time after time in A-play and it is essential to master them. Examples include the sequence of strokes needed to make a pickup after a missed lift. Cannons occur less frequently but when they do occur in a game you will appreciate the time spent in practising them.
  5. Set yourself targets and at the end of a session review your progress. If you feel that the session was not successful, analyse the reasons for this and address them the next time.
The Croquet Association Coaching Committee
All rights reserved © 2004-8

Updated 28.i.16
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