There is a number of croquet-like games – collectively referred to as “mallet sports”. They include Association (or International) Rules croquet, American Rules croquet, Golf croquet, Ricochet and more. Of these various croquet “codes” Association croquet and Golf croquet are the most common in Australia.
Both codes are played through a course of twelve hoops in a set order. Both are played with four differently coloured balls, most often black, blue, yellow and red. Black and blue form one team, red and yellow the other.
Association croquet is the older of these two. In this code the object is to get both of your balls through the twelve hoops and then to hit the peg in the middle of the lawn. A turn will start (usually) with you trying to hit your ball so that it hits any of the other three balls (called a “roquet”). If you do, you pick up your ball and place it in contact (called “taking croquet”) with the ball you roqueted. You then play the croquet stroke (with the two balls in contact), sending both your ball and the other (croqueted) ball to (hopefully) strategically chosen positions on the lawn.
You can then try to roquet one of the two remaining balls and take croquet again, ideally each time getting your balls better placed to make your hoop, or, if you feel your ball is in the right position, you can try to hit your ball through the hoop. You must go through the hoops in a set order. Once you have run a hoop you are “live” on all of the other three balls again and you can continue roqueting and croqueting until you run the next hoop (and the next and the next ...) or until you miss.
At the end of your turn your opponent has a turn. The balls are not played in any particular order (unlike Golf croquet). When it is your turn you can choose to play whichever of your balls is most strategically positioned, but you must play the same ball throughout that turn. The game ends when one player/team has “pegged out” both balls.
Golf croquet is a simpler and generally quicker form. In Golf croquet only one of your balls needs to go through a hoop for you to win that hoop. Then both teams move on to try to win the next hoop, playing from wherever their balls lie (with some exceptions). The winning team is the first to score seven hoops. Unlike Association croquet, you cannot make a “break” (i.e., have a series of consecutive shots). Each player has only one hit in turn. The balls are played in a set sequence: blue, red, black, yellow.
The concept is simple but Golf croquet is still a game of tactics and strategy - as you find out the first time you are lined up to make an easy hoop only to have your opponent hit you to a far corner of the green.