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Dr Ian Plummer

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Refereeing Lawncraft


This document discusses how referees should carry out their 'lawncraft'; witnessing strokes and making factual judgments. An appendix covers the referees examination procedure. The theoretical side, knowing the Laws is covered in Know the Croquet Laws .

This is an unofficial document and where I have a distinct bias this is indicated.

Refereeing Strokes

The main situations are dealt with in the following sections. This part covers some of the peripheral aspects. The referee should always ask the player what the state of a game is. Seeing a ball six inches through a hoop with another ball just in front of it, it is automatic to assume that the hoop has just been run and the striker wishes to roquet the reception ball. What however if the balls are there by chance and the striker is playing a scatter shot having already roqueted the ball. Now you are looking for a hindered stroke and a double tap (excused on a roquet).

It is also prudent to ask a player what his intent is. If the player does something extremely novel it can distract the referee from doing his job. An example is where someone very close to a hoop deliberately attempts to bounce his ball off an upright to roquet an adjacent ball. If you are not expecting it you could be looking in the wrong place. I have also been surprised when someone used a diagonal sweep (see Chapter 8 of Intermediate Coaching Notes) to run a hoop when his ball was almost in a hoop's jaws at a most acute angle. Not having seen or tried the stroke in that circumstance I could not properly judge whether the sound I heard was expected of the stroke or not ... I have since experimented.

Once you know the circumstances you have to adopt a position which allows you to observe the stroke. The position should not unduly hinder the striker and where possible you should not cast a shadow over the balls. You should also check for personal safety if you are standing in front or behind people with exaggerated strokes. Wherever possible you should get as close to the balls as possible.

The referee has three tools at his disposal:

  • Sight
  • Sound, and
  • Expectation.

I will state my ground immediately here. I do not think that expectation is a strong tool, and as such I differ from the majority of the referees. There are referees who say "you only had to look at it to realise that there was no way the ball could have done ... unless it was a crush". Having watched 1000 frame/second video footage of close-to-the-hoop hoop runs, any and everything is possible without faulting. This however is only obvious when the video is slowed down. You also have to realise that many of the 'faults' can occur in a time faster than the human reaction time. I take the view that you have to have witnessed a fault, by sight or sound. I lie at an extreme here - I also seem to be called upon to do a lot of refereeing?

Sight: you have to adopt the best position to observe the stroke. You should remove any court accessories which confuse what you are seeing. You have to analyse which the likely fault will be, e.g. you need to be side-on to the balls and low down if you expect a beveled edge with the bottom of the mallet face, or standing beside the striker's shoulder if you expect a side beveled edge. It is popular to crouch behind a player close to a hoop to watch for a crush shot. Why? You can see the direction that the mallet is traveling? I consider this inadequate. If the mallet is swung with the mallet face at an angle to the direction of the swing the ball will happily glance off cleanly through the hoop but from the back it looks like they are driving it full into the wire! Do not just do it one way just because everyone else does.

Sound: Sound is the best indication of crushes and double taps. Before refereeing a shot you should remove all of the clips from the hoop and check how firmly it is in the ground - gently try to flex it with thumb and forefinger. If it is not solid then you would expect a different sound.

What does a crush sound like? Difficult to express, so you should experiment and note the sound. If there are two separate clean sounds; ball on mallet and ball on hoop, then no problem. If there is a rattle, then it may be due to a loose hoop. If the hoop was not loose then a crush would be a likely cause. If the sound is a blur or a buzz then a crush is suspected. Note that if you hold a mallet loosely you will get a cleaner impact sound than if you grip it tightly. Experience is your main measure.

Expectation: I would give one example, you are asked to watch if a ball hits another ball lying against a wire, then a marker placed in a line through the contact point of the target ball on the wire and its centre would define the ball's path if the hoop alone was struck. If contact is made with the ball it is unlikely that it could travel down that line. This may weight your decision.

Some referees may like to repeat the stroke themselves to determine what is happening. Whilst this is perfectly correct a player may feel that the referee is unsure and therefore should give them the benefit of doubt. Similarly if a referee takes a long time to make up his mind it also implies that there is doubt. Finally if you do remove clips from hoops to assist your refereeing decision, do make sure you put them back correctly. Otherwise you will have a complicated refereeing task later on sorting out a game where both players have been misled.

A referee will not always be right, in both judging shots or applying the rules. They should however be fair and honest and attempt in all circumstances to do their best. We all will make mistakes.

Ball Over Boundary

The boundary of the lawn is a vertical surface raised from the inside of the boundary marking. As soon as a ball touches or penetrates this plane it is off the lawn, even if it rolls back on. (This is the opposite of when a ball runs a hoop then rolls back - its temporal history is ignored and the ball has not scored the hoop).

The boundary is taken to be defined by the most recent marking, and the local contours are taken into effect. You take the local wiggles of the marking as defining the edge and do not extrapolate the average position. Consequently string boundary lines are not adjusted if the position is critical.

Two methods are suggested to test a ball.

  • Square mallets are stood vertically along the boundary line on either side of the ball being tested, with their edges just touching the inner edge of the marking. Squinting down the edges of the mallet heads it can be seen if the ball touches or protrudes beyond the defining edges.
  • An open book, such as the Laws, is placed horizontal on the lawn with its top edge coincident with the inner boundary by the ball. One side of the book is lifted to close the book. If the top of the book brushes the ball the ball overhangs the inner edge of the boundary.

Wired Balls

When called upon to make a wiring judgment you must make sure that

  1. The opponent is responsible for the position of the ball on which the lift is being claimed, and
  2. The claimant is about to start his turn.

A player is not allowed to call for a referee to see if he is giving away a lift to his opponent. He must make that judgment himself. Being responsible for a ball's position remains until the ball is moved, irrespective of the number of turns since the ball was placed there. You become responsible for a ball's position if you have moved it or deemed it. You can move a ball by indirect action e.g. by hitting a hoop against which it was resting. If you commit a fault involving the ball, including an air shot, you become responsible for its position.

To be wired a ball must NOT have a clear path to all parts of at least one ball. A ball may be wired by:

  1. a peg or hoop upright lying in the path of the striker's ball including preventing it hitting either edge of the target ball.
  2. the inability to use all parts of the mallet face when it is swung in a direction towards the centre of the target ball.
  3. having a hindered back swing preventing a normal stroke.

A ball lying anywhere within the jaws of a hoop is wired even if none of the above apply, unless it is in contact with another ball Law [13c3].

The referee's judgment on whether a ball is wired is taken as a matter of fact and cannot be questioned or taken to the Referee of the Tournament. Only the referee's interpretation of the Laws can be questioned. Conceivably however his methods could be questioned.

Testing for a Wired Ball

If the balls are not blatantly wired by a hoop upright or peg you will need to do an optical test using test balls. These could be a pair of balls which are clearly wired - carefully marked so that they can be replaced.

testing for a wired ball See the adjacent diagram. You want to see if Red is wired on Blue by the peg. You first accurately mark the target ball (Blue) without moving it. There is always the risk that it will be minutely moved during the test. The aim of the test is to place test balls (White and Green in the diagram) against the target ball at right angles to the line joining Red and Blue (red line) and against the obstruction. You may need to place a wedge of coins beside each of the balls to make them touch. You can use a mallet laid on the ground as an aid to gauge a right angle.

You now squint over Red and White and see if Green is in line. You need to get down low over the balls. If it is a very close run thing you align the outside edge of the test ball with the corresponding edge of the striker's ball. Also try looking from the other end. Do not be afraid of putting coloured objects next to or behind the far ball to improve the contrast - seeing the edge of a green ball at 20 yards against a green background is not ideal.

If you are unsure the claimant is given the benefit of doubt. Note that another ball cannot cause a wiring - only pegs and hoops are considered. Also if ball A is wired on ball B the converse does not necessarily apply.

Testing whether a Mallet can Strike a Ball

mallet with hindered striking This test depends on the dimensions of the player's mallet head. Red is wanted to be driven in the indicated direction, however it is wired because if the striker chooses to use any part of his mallet face, e.g. the far right side, then the mallet swing will be impeded by the hoop before the mallet makes contact with the centre of the ball.

The player is under no obligation to play the stroke using his mallet as shown, it is just the case that should he want to the hoop would prevent him from hitting the ball. The player may not change mallets during a turn, however he could start a turn with a massive mallet in order to claim the lift! He would have to complete his turn using that mallet though. Should Red need to be driven in a direction perpendicular to the green (tangent) line then the hoop is not causing the ball to be wired. The ball can be hit using all parts of the mallet face. The fact that the mallet smashes into the hoop after the moment of impact is inconsequential to the ruling. A referee however may choose to remain in charge if the stroke is played from such a position to ensure that a beveled edge is not used.

Judging a Hindered Back Swing

The player should have a clear back swing and if any object (other than another ball) would impede his back swing then he may be eligible for a lift. If a player has a crooked back swing then there are occasions when they would get a lift and a straight back swing player would not. It can be interpreted that the player should be able to use any back swing he conceivably may want to play. Common sense governs what a player can claim as a hindered back swing.

The Laws make no account for the furniture on the court affecting the stance of a player. Hence if a hoop gets in the way of their body preventing them from playing a stroke in their favoured manner they have no recourse to the Laws.

Hampered Strokes

Hampered strokes are those which require special care because of the proximity of a hoop, peg or other ball. Typical examples are where a ball is very close to a hoop it is about to run, or in amongst a collection of other balls. Note that it is solely in a hampered stroke that it is a fault to unintentionally use a beveled edge [28a6]. It is always a fault to deliberately play with a beveled edge.

The main reason for calling a referee to watch a hampered stroke is that it is easy to fault [28] and also it allows the player to concentrate on the stroke. It is the duty of a referee to adopt a position which will allow him to observe the stroke to the best of his ability. There are occasions however when faults are committed which the referee is unaware of and it is up to the player to declare a fault if he believes he has committed one. It is not a case of "well I got away with it".

Hoop Crush Shots

The referee must confirm that the mallet does not push the ball against a wire. This is judged by:

  • The direction of the swing and orientation of the mallet head.
  • The amount of follow-through.
  • The noise made during the stroke, and
  • The angle of emergence and the distance travelled by the ball.

In addition the referee must watch for any of the standard faults being committed. The popular ones are resting arms on legs, balls bouncing back onto the mallet or feet or airshots.

The popular position is crouched behind the player (see note above). The line of the swing can be seen and the noise of the impact(s) heard. It is however difficult to judge the amount of follow-through or the angle of the mallet head. Provided that there is space you can stand looking over the striker's shoulder (must referees be tall?). The direction of the mallet face, swing and amount of follow through can be seen from that position, and the way the ball emerges from the hoop.

For a ball an inch away from a hoop the event you are witnessing will take place in less than 20 thousandths of a second. You will be able to hear detail at that speed but not see it. For a steeply angled hoop it is unlikely that a ball will travel any distance through the hoop. Given that a ball may ricochet between the jaws before emerging from a hoop, it can come out at any angle.

"She ran the hoop on her third attempt. It was only one stroke though"

Jump and Hammer Shots

Jump and hammer shots consist of hitting the ball with the mallet face angled towards the ground. For a jump shot the player stands behind the ball, for hammer shot the player stands in front of the ball, facing it, to drive it between his legs.

Five faults are common:

  1. a 'crush' into the ground - extended contact between the mallet and the ball [28a7].
  2. resting arms on legs [28a3],
  3. damaging the surface of the court [28a15], and
  4. the ball bouncing back onto the player's feet or mallet.
  5. hitting the ball with a beveled edge.

As a rule of thumb, any jump or hammer shot where the face of the mallet is greater than 45° to the vertical is going to be a crush. This however is not the case if the mallet is retracted immediately after contact. Few people however have been taught to do this. The normal effect is to watch the mallet descend on the ball and hear a buzz as it is scraped towards the hoop. Shots where the ball skips or jumps are generally clean.

Damage to the surface of the court does not mean a mere bruising of the surface of the court, but a tearing of the root structure of the grass. If the shot results in grass pulp - no problem. If it results in a nick where the soil can be seen between torn roots, I rate this as damage.

The Commentary coyly says

"It [this law] is intended to be held in reserve as a deterrent. A player who infringes will probably get away with it the first time, ..."

This is bad advice - it relies on the player getting the same referee next time! Fault them first time and show them how the stroke should be played.

Double Taps (Law 28a8)

Folk law has it that if you sandwich a piece of carbon paper and plain paper on the face of a mallet and play a croquet stroke, (especially a roll), there is the evidence of multiple contacts recorded by the carbon on the plain paper. I have done this and it is true! (See report). A double tap to me is the continued trundling of balls in the croquet stroke, plainly indicated by a buzz or knocking in a roll shot. You will not see a double tap except in a scatter shot where the balls are separated by some considerable fraction of an inch.

A double tap in a roll shot is solely bad technique and should always be faulted.

I am always dubious, but lenient, when some one does a roll shot and the mallet hooks away to the side where the striker's ball is - perhaps to give it some follow through. This smacks of a push or pull and is unnecessary. Note that a push can only be committed once the balls part contact, Law [28a7].

Note that as a referee you cannot act upon an event which you, or a reliable witness (as defined in Reg 4d), did not see. If someone is accused of committing a double tap and you are called in after the event your best option is to remain on the lawn, as a referee in charge or ask that the referee of the tournament appoints a referee in charge. Once in that position the referee will be able to witness all subsequent strokes.

Roquet of Ball in Hoop

This is an event which does not demand a referee but normally only an umpire. A witness is required to view an event of fact. See Reg 7 however to see who may be defined as an umpire; if the Referee of the Tournament does not explicitly permit all players to be umpires, it has to be a referee. That being said how often have we seen players 'umpire' a hindered roquet from 10 foot away?

The referee should firstly check how loose the hoop is by gently flexing it with thumb and forefinger. Obviously if it is slack then it may move into a ball which could be 1/4" away from the hoop causing it to move. If it is stout - very rigidly set in the ground, then a hard strike on the hoop may cause a large plate of earth around the hoop to shake. This can cause the target ball to shake.

You need to look down on the ball, remove any clips which are in the way and try to avoid placing your shadow over the ball. You should also be prepared to jump if balls scatter towards your feet. You will note where the target ball lies in the jaws of the hoop. This is important if the hoop is the next hoop in order for the striker's ball. [17].

If the ball is on or very close to the wire you can put down a marker coin which lies on the line between the point of contact of the target ball on the hoop upright and the ball's centre. This is the track down which the ball will move if it gets solely an impulse from the hoop. If the ball is truely roqueted it is highly unlikely that it will travel down this line.

If the ball is arriving from a distance you can follow it into the point of impact - you have time to re-focus your eyes. If the striker's ball is close to the hoop or traveling swiftly then you have to look at the target ball. Whilst watching the shot you must note whether the target ball has shaken as a consequence of the shot. It may have been nudged by the wire or shaken as a consequence of the plate of earth around the hoop shaking.

Having witnessed the event you tell the striker whether the ball was roqueted or not. You must not volunteer the fact about whether the ball has been shaken and hence the striker is now responsible for its position. You do however have to remain on hand to give this information if asked as it may lead to a wiring lift [13c].

The Referees Exam

2008 - This procedure may now be out of date.

The Croquet Association (CA) organises refereeing courses to assist people wanting to become referees and appoints Examining Referees who can conduct the exams. The referees courses are advertised in the CA Fixtures Book(Calendar) and in the Croquet magazine. Additionally, interested people can call the CA for details of the courses and exams.

Whilst the test may look terrifying it is conducted to assist the novice referee to learn by their mistakes. After all no one wants a referee who makes silly mistakes but we would be expecting too much for him to be totally infallible!

The exam has consists of four parts (the format may however change with the introduction of the 6th Edition Laws):

  • Part A. The candidate sits a written test without the Laws book to test their knowledge of the Basic Laws [1 to 21]. This is a multiple choice paper of 20 questions, some of which may require a reason giving for the answer, lasting 20 minutes.
  • Part B. More complicated questions answered with the Laws book. The test takes around 35 minutes and comprises of a written and a viva voce section. The whole test can however be conducted as a viva voce. The candidate is expected to be able to:
    1. Summarise the problem clearly.
    2. State which Laws and Regulations apply and what they say.
    3. Give a concise and accurate ruling.
    4. Deal with an awkward player.
  • Part C. Practical test of static situations. The candidate is expected to be able to:
    1. Demonstrate what preliminary questions may be necessary before carrying out a test.
    2. Apply the correct test procedure.
    3. Give the correct answer clearly and unambiguously.
    4. Deal with a dissenting player.
  • Part D. Practical test of dynamic situations. The candidate must demonstrate that:
    1. He knows where to position himself to judge and how to deal with a player who objects to that position.
    2. He knows what to look and listen for.
    3. He knows how to interrogate the player.
    4. His decisions are not made with undue hesitation.

A failure in either Part A or B requires the whole exam to be retaken, but a failure in Parts C and/or D requires only those to be retaken at the next attempt. A Championship Referee is required to answer the questions to a higher standard.

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Updated 16.vii.17
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