ALMOST any piece of level lea land will serve as an arena for the play of Croquet.1
A correct croquet-ground will be perfectly horizontal plane, without any obliquity or unevenness.2
The turf should be of the smoothest that can be obtained, with the grass carefully out, and the moss killed out of it.3
The ground should be frequently rolled - and with the heaviest of rollers - until the surface become thoroughly hard and firm.4
The ground should be chosen within the precincts of the shrubbery, and not, upon the open lawn.5
The shape of a croquet-ground, - that is, the arena, should be that of an a oblong square or rectangle.6
The dimensions of a croquet ground depend a good deal upon the character of the surface. Where the turf is unexceptionable, the arena should be a rectangle, of thirty yards in length by about twenty in breadth.7
The boundaries should be marked, either by a slight line traced upon the turf, a trench or a parapet.8
One of the shorter sides of the rectangle becomes the base, and is denominated the foot.9
The opposite end of the arena is the head ; and the play is upward or downward, as it proceeds from the foot to the head, or vice versa.
The sides of the rectangle are the flanks, - denominated right and left.10
The corners of the croquet-ground are the four corners of the rectangular figure forming the arena.11
The centre is the centre of whatever figure many have been adopted for the arena. If the shape be oval, it is the point midway between the two centres of the ellipse. If a circle, it is the circle’s true centre. In a square or rectangle, it is the point of intersection of the two diameters ; and if the figure be irregular, its centre will be the point if bisection of the straight line lying between the two stakes.12
1 Many people are deterred from entering upon the game of croquet, under the impression, that they have not ground suitable for the play. In most cases this idea is erroneous. There are few cottage dwellings in England, either rural or suburban, that cannot command a croquet ground, from a plot of grass-turf already established, or the easy means of making one. By judicious arrangement of the bridges, croquet may be played upon a piece of ground not larger than the floor of a good-sized dining-room.
2 If the perfect level is not obtainable, and the surface be oblique, or undulating, the play is still possible, though not so pleasant. The player will take into calculation the declivities of the ground ; and, as this calls forth an extra display of skill, it is questionable whether a croquet ground of sloping surface may not afford as good sport as one that is horizontal. At all events, both parties to the play will be equally affected by any imperfection of this kind ; and therefore neither can have cause to complain of a disadvantage.
3 The same remark applies to a rough surface, as to one that is sloping. The play is still possible, but not so pleasant.
4 Hardness is one of the essential qualities of a croquet-ground. Where the surface is soft and yielding, either from the nature of the soil, or from being overgrown with moss, not only are the balls impeded in their progress, but that one upon which the foot rests while making the croquet, gets pressed into the ground, so as to make it necessary to take it up, and dress the spot, before proceeding with the play.
5 Croquet is a game of the parterre rather than the pasture ; and as it must needs be frequently played under a hot sun, the shade of the copse should be convenient. In winter too - for croquet is a game for all seasons - the shrubbery affords shelter.
Let such trees stand for the present. The time is not distant, when they will be transplanted, or cut down ruthlessly and without remorse yes, flung into the fire as faggots - to make way for this sweet pastime - itself to be cherished, as if it were the tree of life!
6 It is not absolutely en rigueur that this should be its shape. The square, circle, or ellipse, will answer equally well - the ellipse even better, but the rectangular form is preferred, as being the most convenient.
If the turfed surface be not large enough to admit any of the regular figures, of sufficient size, the arena may be of irregular shape, having for boundaries, the edges of walks, borders of flower-beds, &c.
Benches may be placed for the spectators ; but it should be a grand forfeit for a player to use them. The sedentary pose conduces to neglect of the play - a crime not to be tolerated, either in friend or enemy.
7 The dimensions given will be found to answer well upon perfectly level ground, where the turf is smooth and carefully kept. Otherwise the size of the arena – as well as the distance between the bridges, may be reduced. The breadth of a croquet ground is of much less importance than its length, and admits of greater variation according to circumstances.
8 If the arena be an irregular figure, or one improvised for the occasion,the boundary lines may be agreed upon by the players, without being actually traced out. On the other hand, if it be intended to have a permanent croquet-ground (and who is there without such intention?) then its boundary should be marked out by one of the modes suggested. Either the trench or parapet is preferable to the simple line, as both serve to prevent the balls from being driven to an inconvenient distance “up the country.” The trench need not be more than a few inches in depth, by eighteen or twenty in breadth ; while the parapet – which is a simple embankment of earth – may be turfed, or otherwise made ornamental.
9 Usually that lying nearest to the dwelling.
10 In reference to the position of any one standing at the foot, and facing toward the arena ; when the right flank is that to the right hand, the left being, of course, on the opposite side of the ground.
11 These are not to be mistaken for the “corners” spoken of in the chapter on THE SLANG. The latter are the points of passage from flank to central bridges, and vice versa on THE ARRANGEMENT.
12 In actual play this point is of no importance. It is altogether imaginary ; and is introduced only as an aid to the comprehension of the rules and instructions.
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