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Dr Ian Plummer

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Laws Course for Potential Referees
Ian Bond

This was written for the 5th edition Laws and hence the Laws references are incorrect. It does however give you an idea of what is involved.

This course is intended for potential candidates for the Referee examination and covers both Law and practical refereeing skills. There is an associated set of forty preparatory questions - which are an integral part of the course - and a handout dealing with some aspects of the necessary practical skills, including tests for wiring.




Laws 1

10:00 - 11:00

Laws 1 to 15 (general laws of play 1)


Coffee break


Practical 1

11:15 - 12:00

Static positions and wiring tests

Laws 2

12:00 - 1:00

Laws 16 to 25 (general laws of play 2)




Laws 3


2:00 - 3:00

Laws 26 to 35 (errors)

Practical 2

 3:00 - 3:30

Dynamic positions: single ball 1


Tea break


Practical 3

 3:45 - 4:15

Dynamic positions: single ball 2

Laws 4

 4:15 - 5:00

Laws 36 to 43 (other forms of play)




Laws 5

10:00 - 11:00

Laws 44 to 51 (customs of the game)
Regulation 13 (time limits)


Coffee break


Practical 4

11:15 - 12:00

Dynamic positions: croquet strokes

Laws 6

12:00 - 1:00

Regulations 4 to 9 (Referees)




Practical 5

 2:00 - 2:45

Practical revision and questions

Laws 7

 2:45 - 3:30

Laws revision and questions


Tea break


Round up

 3:45 - 4:30

... and how to become a referee


General laws of play: part 1 (1 to 15)

Structure of the Laws - emphasise the basic structure of the Laws, in particular the four key sections (4 to 25, explaining the basic rules of the game; 26 to 35, dealing with errors and irregularities; 44 to 51, explaining the customs of the game and the role of the players as the principal referees; and the Regulations - especially 4 to 8, dealing with what a referee can do, and 13, on time limits).

1 - The standard court

2 - Equipment

  • The peg extension is part of the equipment but - like an accessory - removable. When it has been so removed, it becomes an outside agency.
  • Checking the width of a hoop: using a trial ball and feeler gauges.
  • The definition of the jaws of a hoop is important in various contexts.
  • Mallets must have identical end-faces. Discuss odd shafts etc ...

3 - Court accessories

Check students know the correct position of the corner pegs (many do not). Point out that a ball can hit a corner peg and yet not be a corner ball (in fact, it can clip the outside of it at an angle of slightly less than 60 degrees to the side boundary and not even be in contact with a corner ball!).

4 - An outline of the game

This is a key Law, but is all too often overlooked. It contains many important definitions, including that of striker's ball and partner ball (see also 40c, which modifies these definitions for doubles play). Remind students that continuation strokes are not cumulative.

Note that double banking balls, clips, players and mallets are outside agencies.

Question 36 can be dealt with here.

5 - The toss before the start of the game

Note that the right of choice in best of three alternates. If pegging down a game in a match of this kind, remember to record who won the toss - it is easy for the players to forget.

6 -The start of the game

The rights of contact conferred by 36(d) and 38(c) override the provision that balls must be played into the game from baulk: it is possible to play a ball into the game by taking contact anywhere on the court.

Question 39 can be dealt with here.

7 - Ball in play

8 - Option of striker to play either ball

'Election' is most easily explained by

  • starting with the simple case in (b)(3), ie playing a single-ball stroke at the start of the turn;
  • then dealing with (b)(1), which applies only when the balls are in contact at the start of a turn (there is no penalty for moving one of the striker's balls and then playing the other - 28(a) applies);
  • and then with (b)(2), which says that once a ball has been lifted under 13 or 36 (i.e. other than to clean or inspect it) it is the striker's ball and the turn ends if it is replaced and the partner ball played (28(a) does not apply in this case).

Mention also the effect of 38(a) on the right of election when a bisque or half bisque is taken (the striker must continue to play with the same ball as in the previous turn), and 40(c) for doubles (the same player must continue).

9 - Ball in hand

Straightforward, but often misunderstood: note especially that a ball still on the court does not become in hand until the stroke ends.

(a)(5) means that, if a ball is partly through its hoop in order and also in contact with another ball (for example, after a failed Irish peel), it cannot be played 'as it lies' and the hoop running completed - it must start to run the hoop afresh.

10 - Ball off the court

Demonstrate how to test this in the first practical session.

11 - Ball in the yard line area

Question 3 can be dealt with here

12 - Replacement of a ball ...

(b)(c)(d) need to be demonstrated on the board. This is an example - other will follow - of the Laws suspending pure logic in order to avoid the difficulty of requiring you to judge a dynamic situation (in this case, precisely where a ball crossed the line). Note also that the order of replacement is at the striker's option.

13 - Wiring lift

Note that 'deeming' and faults make the player concerned responsible for the position of the ball even though it has not in fact moved (a player should therefore always be explicit about which of his balls he is deeming). The procedures for testing are demonstrated in the first practical session (they are also covered - with diagrams - in the notes which should be circulated before the course).

Question 7 can be dealt with here.

14 - Hoop point

Demonstrate on the model hoop. This should be obvious to potential referees, but (d) in particular is worth demonstrating in order to show that the croqueted ball can be in the jaws but it can nevertheless be impossible to position the striker's ball so that it has not started to run the hoop. It is also worthwhile demonstrating how to check that a ball has/has not run/started to run its hoop in order.

Law 14b2 is another example of the Laws preferring practicality over strict logic: although a ball may pass completely through the hoop during the stroke, it only completes the running if it comes to rest in a position in which it is completely through it, to avoid the necessity of judging a dynamic situation.

Question 11 can be dealt with here.

15 - Peg point

Note that the peg point cannot be scored by a rover which has made a roquet in that stroke before it hits the peg.

Draw attention to (d) and the situation in handicap play (Law 39) - where the peg out may not 'count' and hoop points may therefore be scored.

Question 2 can be dealt with here.


  • Definition of the boundary (Law 1)
  • Position of corner flag and corner pegs (Law 3)
  • Testing for on/off the court (Law 10)
  • Wiring (Law 13)
    • Questions which must be asked of the claimant
    • Standard example
      • positioning of trial balls
      • how to check for alignment
      • the importance of checking from both ends
      • note that a ball cannot be wired by another ball
    • Ball in front of hoop
      • trial ball and mallet required
    • Hampered forward swing
      • value of trial ball
      • use claimant's mallet for the test
      • 'trick' case with ball in the jaws of the hoop
    • Hampered backswing
      • 'translation' of shot to avoid distraction by obstacle
      • check swing from side (at crown height) and back
      • irrelevance of closeness of target to striker's ball
    • Benefit of doubt
  • Testing for hoop run/not run (Law 14b)
  • Testing for position in croquet stroke in the jaws (Law 14d)


General laws of play: part 2 (16 to 25)

16 - Roquet

(b)(3) and (4) are further suspensions of pure logic, for good practical reasons. Only if the balls come to rest in contact is a roquet made.

(c)(1) allows croquet to be taken from any ball in a 3 or 4 ball group even if the striker's ball is not actually in contact with it; but ...

(d) requires that at least one of the balls be a yard line ball, so cannons cannot be 'arranged' if the group is - as occasionally happens - out in the lawn.

Question 38 can be dealt with here.

17 - Hoop and roquet

Another suspension of logic for practical reasons.

Note that a double hit caused by the roquet does not count as a fault if the hoop is run (32(a)(9)), but a crush or double tap off the wire is still possible. If the other ball is in the hoop, of course, 16(b)4 applies: the striker is then not absolved from any fault he may commit.

18 - Consequences of a roquet

(a)(3) arises because if a rover roquets another rover onto the peg, the latter is immediately removed from the game and the striker's turn therefore ends - croquet cannot be taken. The striker's ball is therefore not in hand and is left where it comes to rest. This is why, when rushing a rover towards the peg, the striker should not pick up his ball until he is confident that the roqueted ball will not be pegged out in the rush.

19 - Placing balls for a croquet stroke

The roqueted ball must not be moved or realigned in any way.

20 - Croquet stroke

Note that the turn ends if a peelee is sent off the lawn ...

21 - Continuation stroke

... but the turn does not end if a ball other than the croqueted ball is cannoned off the lawn in the croquet stroke.

22 - Ball moving between strokes

This Law deals with balls which move through the action of agents outside the game such as the weather (it is Law 33 deals with 'active' interventions which disturb a ball). (b) is intended to (but in my view does not satisfactorily) define the end of stroke and should therefore be read in conjunction with 31(c). Explain the 'ten second' rule in relation to (b)(3).

23 - Imperfections on the surface of the court

This is best demonstrated on the lawn (practical session 2). Give examples of (c), especially of damage near a hoop which may require the movement to be 'mirror' movements relative to the line of the hoop rather than movement away from it (because that would leave the damage still on the line of the intended shot).

24 - Interference with a stroke

25 - Local laws


Errors and Interference (26 to 35)

26 - Definitions

These definitions need to be mastered - particularly (f) on compound errors.

Limits of claim are summarised on page 61

Question 28 can be dealt with here.

27 - Playing when not entitled to do so

Questions 17, 32 and 40 illustrate this well.

28 - Playing a wrong ball

This needs to be read carefully. The only real trap is that balls are replaced 'in their lawful positions' - which, for the wrongly played ball, is not necessarily where it was played from. In the case of a ball wrongly played in a lift stroke (by the wrong player of a doubles partnership, for example), this means that it can be replaced anywhere on either baulk.

Questions 5, 31 and 33 provide illustrations of various standard situations.

29 - Playing when a ball is misplaced - general rule

The key point to note here is the very short limit of claims: once the stroke has been played, it is too late to remedy the error. Note also that the adversary - and by extension a referee on call - must forestall if he observes that a ball is misplaced (eg not in contact before a croquet stroke is played).

Question 1 illustrates the harsh implications of this Law.

30 - Playing when a ball is misplaced - exceptions

The essential point to grasp is how the limit of claims is worked out: count the strokes as (1) the stroke in error; (2) the next stroke; (3) the next stroke but one. The various references to 'validly played' mean no more than that the striker was entitled to play them (in the sense of Law 27): they do not legitimise other errors such as wrong ball.

Note that (d) is one of the few occasions on which a spectator referee can intervene to ensure that play continues correctly.

31 - Definition of a stroke and the striking period

Explain the distinction between the end of the striking period (when the striker quits his stance under control) and the stroke (when all the balls have come to rest or left the court).

Note the exception for timed games, in Reg 13.

Discuss casting over the ball and what happens if a ball is disturbed. The stroke is by convention deemed (unless a fault has already been committed) to start as the mallet passes backwards over the ball at the bottom of the final backswing, so hitting a ball during preparatory swings is not a stroke - nor is swinging over it a miss.

32 - Faults

Demonstrated on the lawn. Points to note, though, are:

  • the mechanics of the crush (the 'quarter inch rule')
  • the exclusions in (9) for double taps in roquets and peg outs
  • the adversary's right to waive faults in croquet strokes where the turn would otherwise end - a safeguard against falsely admitting a fault
  • replacement 'in their lawful positions'

Many of the questions illustrate this law: 8 to 10, 14, 16, 21 to 23.

33 - Interference with a ball between strokes

34 - Interference with a ball during a stroke

An interesting point here is 'materially affects the outcome'. This should be fairly obvious. Note the (common) case of double-banked games, where a 'certain' hit cannot be claimed - the stroke must be replayed (Appendix 2(5)(b)).

35 - Playing when misled

Not easy to master. Note that only a misplaced clip and false information about the state of the game provided by the adversary are grounds for complaint.

The limit of claims is quite short, but it begins only from the point at which the player actually embarked on the line of play he would otherwise not have adopted. Taking bisques (38(g)) and deciding which of a doubles pair should start the turn (40(e)) are covered by 'line of play'.

Question 34 can be dealt with here.


 Dynamic positions 1: single ball hoop strokes

  • Special damage (Law 23b)
    • definition and identification
    • remedy (Law 23c)
  • Attempted roquet of ball near wire/peg
    • do not mark the supposed 'line': it is unreliable
    • strange things can happen, especially when the ball is in the jaws
  • Striking period
    • casting over the ball
    • disturbing a ball (32(a)(10))
    • quitting stance/ball hitting striker's foot (32(a)(14))
  • Faults in hoop strokes
    • ball on wire (risk of 32(a)(12))
    • hard shot close to wire (risk of 32(a)(11) or (9))
    • gentle angled shot (risk of 32(a)(9) or (13))
    • reverse hammer shot (risk of 32(a)(4),(5) or (14)


Dynamic positions 2: single ball strokes after running hoop

  • Hampered continuation stroke
    • ball just through the hoop (risk of 32(a)(5))
    • ball played with hand in jaws of hoop (risk of 32(a)(1),(6),(8) and (9))
    • ball played normally but hampered by wire (risk of 32(a)(5))
    • scythe when hampered by wire (risk of 32(a)(3),(4) and (5))
  • Hammer shots
  • Scatter shots
  • Second hit caused by rebound off hoop


Other forms of play (36 to 43)

36 - Advanced play - optional lift or contact

Emphasise (c): once a player has pegged out a ball of either side, he is no longer entitled to a lift or contact under this Law - but is still entitled to a Law 13 lift.

37   - Semi-advanced play - optional lift or contact

This is not used in the UK.

38 - Handicap singles - bisques

Various points to note, including:

  • Peels do not count in half-bisque turns
  • The extension period restriction on using a bisque
  • The way a bisque must be taken
  • Adversary's duty to forestall if striker's turn has not yet ended

Questions 12, 13a, 24 and 25 can be dealt with here.

39 - Handicap singles - pegging out

Question 15 can be dealt with here.

40 - Doubles - general

Doubles does not require a partner. The celebrated example (following a ruling in 1969 that a player could place his absent partner's ball on a baulk line and deem it to be played) is of John Solomon winning a best of three match +24 +21 in the 1972 Opens against Terence Read and his mother, when Pat Cotter was absent at a bridge tournament in Paris. He lost the first game of the next round (against Ian Ballieu and Bernie Duthie) by 19 and play stopped for the day during the next game. The following morning, Cotter returned and they proceeded to the final - losing there to William Ormerod and Nigel Aspinall.

(c) means that a fault can be committed if a ball hits one's partner during a stroke, before the striking period has ended ...

41 - Ordinary doubles play

42 - Advanced and semi-advanced doubles play

43 - Handicap doubles play

The only limit on peels is peels on partner ball.

Question 6 can be dealt with here.


Customs of the game (44 to 51)

Time limits (Regulation 13)

44 - The state of the game

Questions about the state of a game are about its variables rather than its parameters. A player is for example under no obligation to respond to questions about which mallet he intends to use, before his opponent makes a leave.

45 - Referees of the game

This is a suitable point to expound on the underlying 'philosophy' of the game: the players are the principal referees of their game and have an absolute right to determine when they should call for assistance from a referee. They are, in addition, not absolved of their various responsibilities under 45(b) even when a referee is in charge or on call.

The role of referees is essentially secondary, supporting the players in their conduct of the game. They should not interefere.

In relation to (f), the meaning of 'positive opinion' should be explained: 'definite' is really what is intended, so 'I think it hit' is less positive than 'I am certain it missed' (and 'I think it hit' more positive than 'I think it missed').

Question 35 can be dealt with here.

46 - Interruption of the striker and presence on court

47 - Replacing yard-line balls

Replacement should be done with one's back to the court.

48 - Expedition in play

Note that (b) does not oblige the striker to take a lift when the claim is allowed.

49 - Advice and aids

50 - Tournaments and match play

It is worth referring forward to Reg 13 at this point, in relation to (c). A time-keeper is not generally or necessarily a referee, and when a referee so acts he is not - in my view - acting as a referee (either in charge or on call). He therefore cannot correct irregularities, though he is of course capable of acting as a spectator referee.

The time-keeper should watch the game, not turn away from it; and should call time distinctly - if possible, standing near the striker - and make sure that both players know precisely when it was called.

Reg 13(c)(2) has the effect of creating a 'dead' period in which the adversary may not be entitled to play, even though the striker has completed his strokes and the adversary's turn will therefore be deemed to have begun (for the purposes of the extension period) if time is called: Law 29 still applies and, if the balls moved as a result of the striker's final stroke have not yet come to rest or need to be replaced on the court, the striker may validly forestall. If time is running short, the adversary cannot for example play (or deem) immediately, in order to ensure that time is called in the striker's next turn.

Reg 13(d) should be gone through carefully here.

Questions 18 and 19 can be dealt with here.

51 - Emergency law

This should be used sparingly, and not simply to correct apparent injustices!

Questions 4 and 30 can be dealt with here.


Dynamic positions 3: croquet strokes

  • Peg out
    • do not use the 'finger on peg' method.
  • Faults in croquet strokes
    • take-off (risk of 32(a)(10) and (15))
    • gentle hoop approach (risk of 32(a)(7))
    • roll shots (risk of 32(a)(7))
    • Irish peels (risk of 32(a)(7),(9) and (11))


Regulations for referees (4 to 9)

Reg 4 - The tournament referee

Describe the practicalities of being a RoT.

Remind students that the RoT should generally avoid acting as a referee on call or on appeal in the first instance, as to do so deprives the players of a second opinion from the RoT.

Reg 5 - Referee in charge

This is a rare situation to be in: on call is more usual. But many of the powers and duties carry across to the following two Regulations, so should be studied. Note in particular:

  • (c) may require you to take up a position the striker does not like. Do not be deterred - but be reasonable.
  • (d) benefit of the doubt is a rather stronger test than just whether or not you can make up your mind: you must be unable to judge one way or the other.
  • e) is to stop time wasting (see 48(b))
  • (f) you should not volunteer that a ball has been moved or shaken.
  • (h) you should not adjust equipment in a way which confers advantage on either player.

Questions 29 and 37 can be dealt with here.

Reg 6 - Referee on call

Explain the interpretation of 'remains in charge'. Some argue that it allows the referee a fair degree of scope to 'interfere'; I disagree with them.

Reg 7 - Referee on appeal

When you are called as a referee on appeal,

  • establish first whether it is because an error or irregularity has occurred, or because the players are seeking advice on the Laws.establish the nature of the game (singles or doubles; level, handicap or advanced).ask the players to explain exactly what has happened: establish the sequence of events and the point at which the supposed error occurred. Was it in fact an error? Have you been called within the limit of claims?

When you have made your decision, inform the players accordingly. If it is a complex situation and you are in two (or more!) minds as to the correct answer, seek advice from another referee.

I recommend not carrying your laws book onto the court with you, but have it nearby. This gives you the option of informing the players that you need to go and consult it - allowing you more time for reflection.

Question 26 can be dealt with here.

Reg 8 - Spectator referee

Emphasise again the limited scope for action under this regulation.

Questions 13b, 20 and 27 can be dealt with here.

Reg 9 - Umpire

Many umpires may be unaware of Reg 5(f).

Reg 13 - Time limits

This is covered under Law 50 above.


Practical Session 1 is used essentially to demonstrate testing for wirings.

This session can usefully start with some pre-laid examples of claimed wirings for the students to test for themselves: for example, a (long) standard situation down the middle of the lawn, with the peg and hoops 5/6 as potential obstacles; a hampered forward swing at hoop 3; and a target ball in front of hoop 4. It helps to set the examples up uniformly, for example with Yellow as the claimant, Red as the target and Blue/Black on hand for use as trial balls.

Hoops 1 and 2 can then be used for demonstration/practice of faults.


It is worthwhile re-capping on the forty questions, in numerical order, so that the students can check that they have got the correct answers (as a study aid); and to deal with any other points which they want to discuss.


Explain here how the examination is structured and taken. Students may need some reassurance by this stage, as many become dazed by the newly-revealed complexities - both off the lawn and on it. It is fair to tell them that the examination is itself used to some extent a training/calibration session and that the examiner will want to develop (not simply to test) their skills. Provided he is confident by the end of the examination that the candidate has mastered the subject - especially on the lawn - he will usually be quite tolerant of any initial slip-ups.

April 1998

Author: Ian Bond
All rights reserved © 1998

Updated 28.i.16
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