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Principles of Handicapping

By Bill Lamb, 1996

1 Introduction
2 Type of Game
3 The Nature of Bisques
4 The Mathematical Basis of Handicapping
5 The Automatic Handicapping System (AHS)
6 The Computer Grading System (CGS)
7 The Automatic Handicapping System and the Computer Grading System
8 Advanced Handicap Play
9 Advantages and Limitations of the AHS
10 Setting an Initial Handicap
11 Guidelines for Handicappers
   a) Handicaps above 12
   b) Handicaps from 0 to 12
   c) Minus players
   d) Reporting Procedures
12 Guidelines for Club Handicappers
   a) Handicaps above 12
   b) Handicaps from 0 to 12
13 General Guidelines for Players
      Qualifying games
      Handicap play
      Level singles play
      Starting handicaps and indices
      Handicap record cards
      Procedure for handicap changes
      Rapid Improvers
      Minus Players
14 Short Croquet
15 Bandits
16 Minus Players

1 Introduction

Many sports incorporate a handicapping system in their structure, in an attempt to extend the range of abilities within which players can play each other reasonably competitively. Handicapping is relatively easy in those sports where the play is mainly non-interactive, as for example in stroke-play golf, where the player is really competing against the course and can count the number of strokes taken, or in most forms of racing where the time taken to cover a set distance can be measured: in other, highly- interactive sports, such as tennis or squash, where players play alternate strokes, handicapping is practically impossible.

The interaction in croquet occurs at the end of a turn. The out-player-has the chance to make a roquet, play a few strokes and score a few points until his turn ends. The use of bisques, which prolongs the innings reduces the interaction and, in general, the more bisques available, the lower the interaction. This may be a reason wHy full-bisque play has never been popular, in spite of the enthusiastic attempts of some players to promote it. Also, the higher the standard of play, the less the interaction becomes, which is a cause of concern at the very highest level. We are fortunate that croquet is an interactive sport where handicapping works reasonably well but it will always be subject to fundamental limitations. Consistency will also have a part to play; good players are usually consistent (one of the reasons why they are good players), weak players much less so. When there is a wide ability gap between the players, the result of the game will depend largely on the consistency of the weaker player. If he plays a bisque or two better than his handicap, he will win; if he plays a bisque or two worse, he will lose. There is very little the better player can do about it. In general, handicapping will work best in croquet when there is only a small difference in ability and will become increasingly less effective as the ability gap increases.

2 Type of Game

In theory full-bisque croquet, particularly off base zero, is much easier to handicap and likely to be more accurate, because of the reduced interaction between the players. The game can be reduced to little more than two four-ball breaks for each player, i.e. the game becomes more of a contest between each player and the court, as in golf, rather than player against player. If a full-bisque game is played off a base other than zero, some of the interaction between the players is restored but it will always be less than in a game played with bisque difference.

The Handicap Co-ordination Committee (HCC) has no role to play in promoting particular forms of the game simply because they are easier to handicap. Instead, it has to respond to what players want to play and to provide a handicapping system which caters for all forms of play. As I shall show below, that is possible.

3 The Nature of Bisques

It is often said that a game of croquet is a race between the players to peg out even though play is not simultaneous. In other sports where the first to the line is the winner, the aim of handicapping is to give the slower person a start which is sufficient to get him to the line at or about the same time as a quicker person. The same is true of croquet: the effect of bisques is to give a weaker player a start so that he has a reasonable chance of getting to the peg-out before his opponent.

This can be recognised easily if the weaker player uses all his bisques at the start of the game. His clips advance to the point where his bisques run out. From there onwards he has to complete the game with his own ability. Exactly the same effect would be obtained by starting the weaker player the same number of hoops ahead but the use of bisques (which may be used at any time) to give a notional start adds a richness of tactics to handicapping that is not present in other sports.

Note that bisques do not transform a poorer player into a better one, just as a start in a running race does not magically change a slow runner into a faster one. A high handicap player is not changed into an A class player by using bisques; he remains a high handicap player who can plan his play with bisques according to his ability.

4 The Mathematical Basis of Handicapping

It is clear that if handicapping is to have a sensible structure and is to be independent of the whims of individual handicappers then it must have a sound basis. That basis is provided by the concept of the scratch player who, given a reasonable opportunity - say an easy pick-up of a four-ball break - should be capable of taking that break to the peg. In other words, a scratch player should be capable of taking two four-ball breaks to the peg and pegging out given the right opportunity, although for tactical reasons he may decide not to do so. To be fair to all other players, who may be called upon to play a scratch player in a handicap game, they should likewise be capable of taking two four- ball breaks to the peg and pegging out with their full allocation of bisques. That is not to say that they will do so on every occasion, for croquet is not a sport in which chance plays no part; rather, there should be an even chance of doing so.

In practice, a break has to be set up in actual play, either by good play on the part of the better player or with the use of bisques by the weaker player. If a player receiving bisques uses some to set up a break, he will not have enough left on average to take both balls to the peg, even playing full-bisque. This still gives scope for scratch and minus players to play handicap games.

The idea that a player's handicap is related to his average performance is fundamental. A player's handicap is an average of the number of bisques he requires to take two four-ball breaks to the peg and peg out. On average a bisque will be worth M = 26/H points, where H is the player's handicap. This concept of the average number of points per bisques, M, is useful in demonstrating that handicapping works under a wide range of systems. Because it is an average, it does not matter that M is not usually an integer.

A player's ability is directly proportional to M and, of course, inversely proportional to his handicap, H. If two players X and Y have handicaps Hx and Hy resp. with Hy > Hx, giving Mx and My, then their abilities will be in the ratio Mx/My = Hy/Hx.

For example, if Hx = 6 and Hy = 12, then Mx/My = Hy/Hx = 2,

i.e. X is twice as good a player as Y because on average he scores twice as many points per bisque, which in effect means twice as many points per turn.

Let us consider as a general case a full-bisque handicap game played off base B by X and Y.

Each player receives a number of bisques equal to the difference between his handicap and the base, B.

Player X will receive Hx - B bisques; Player Y will receive Hy - B bisques.

X's bisques will be worth (Hx - B)Mx = 26(Hx - B)/Hx points.

The number of points which X must score without bisques, Nx is given by

Nx = 26 - 26(Hx - B)/Hx = 26B/Hx.

Similarly, the number of points which Y must score without bisques, Ny, is

Ny = 26 - 26(Hy - B)/Hy = 26B/Hy.

The ratio Nx/Ny = Hy/Hx = Mx/My

In other words, the ratio of the number of points that the players must score without bisques to win the game is in direct proportion to their abilities, That is fundamental to the fairness of a handicapping system.

Note that the result derived for the general case above is quite independent of the base chosen.

There are two special cases that arise from the general case:

(a) B = 0; This is the normal full-bisque game off zero base;
(b) B = Hx; This is equivalent to a bisque difference game;

If B > Hx, then the players play bisque difference, i.e. with the base changed to the handicap Hx.

Therefore, bisque difference and full-bisque are only special cases of the general case of full-bisque off a modified base and lead to the same result. This is no coincidence: its validity is verified by the fact that a single handicapping scale has been used successfully for many years for all forms of play. The above analysis shows that handicap play is fundamentally fair, no matter what form is played. It also shows that even if the scale of handicapping were to slip over a period of time, the system would still be fair, as this would be equivalent to a change in the base handicap, B. There is, of course, an underlying assumption that a player's ability without bisques is directly related to his ability with them. In general, this is a fair assumption, and particularly so for small handicap differences, but it will start to break down when the handicap difference is too large. In this case a weak player who loses the innings when all his bisques have been used may not be able to hit in and score further points. There is also an assumption that the number of bisques given is in accordance with Law 38 and Appendix 3 [now Law 37 and Appendix 3]. Any change in the number given or restrictions in their use will affect the fairness of the game.

Although mathematical analysis is useful, we should always remember that croquet is a game played with mallets, hoops and balls on a court measuring 35 yards by 28 yards and not by mathematicians with pencils on a piece of paper. There are other skills which come into play as well as the ability to play breaks, such as the ability to hit in and pick up breaks, etc... Nevertheless, there are great advantages in using the above concepts in handicapping even given the limitations and they should not be lightly discarded. The use of average performance to set handicaps leads naturally to an automatic handicapping system. It also makes it possible to devise an objective test to set initial handicaps. These advantages amply compensate for any minor discrepancies between theory and practice. As handicapping is most important in competitive games, then the conditions should be the standard conditions for handicap tournaments, i.e. firmly set hoops with 1/8 inch gap between hoop and ball (if the conditions are particularly easy, e.g. slow lawns with good turf, then the gap should be reduced to 3/32 inch). Hoop setting is probably the greatest cause of regional differences in handicap. If the hoops are too wide and too sloppy, the game is made easier and handicaps will be too low. Likewise, it is quite unfair in handicap play, particularly to high-bisquers, to set hoops to President's Cup standard or even tighter.

5 The Automatic Handicapping System (AHS)

The AHS is a means of regulating the handicaps of those players who play a reasonable number of competitive games. It is objective, and in its purest form works simply on the number of wins and losses in handicap games only. Each player has an index, related to his handicap, which is increased by 10 for each win and is decreased by 10 for each loss. The system is extended to take account of level play games between players with different handicaps in a way that is related to the Computer Grading System.

Trigger points for handicap changes are set at 50 point intervals for all but minus handicaps. This happens to be convenient and easy to remember, but there is a more important reason for its adoption. We have to set a balance between making the system sufficiently responsive to genuine changes in players' abilities and yet not so responsive that random effects cause an excessive number of spurious changes of handicap. The random effects arise because, even if players are properly matched by handicap, there is a winner of every game. Any individual may win 50% of his games over a period of time, thus indicating that his handicap is correct, but within that period of time may accumulate the five net wins or losses which would trigger a spurious handicap change. This is a problem well known to scientists (the one-dimensional random walk). Theory predicts that there is a 50% chance of a spurious change occurring after nineteen games between properly matched players: if the trigger points are set at 30 point intervals, this number is reduced to seven. Spurious changes are reduced to some extent by the restriction that changes can only take place at the end of a tournament or event rather than take immediate effect.

6 The Computer Grading System (CGS)

The CGS algorithm has a strong theoretical foundation and is similar to that used in chess by the Elo rating system. Each player has an index, 1, which is changed after every game according to the pre-game probability, P(r), that the actual result would occur. The probability, P(r), is related to the difference in index of the two players.

The change in index for each player after a game is given by:

Delta I = K {1 - P(r)},

where K is a weighting factor which depends upon the importance of the event. K is set to 60 for major events, 50 for normal events and 40 for minor events.

The factor {I - P(r)}I is given by:

{1 - P(r)} = 1/{1 + 10 (Iw-I1)/500 }

where Iw and I1, are the indices of the winner and loser respectively immediately before the game.

Therefore, Delta I = K/{1+ 10 (Iw - I1)/500}

Delta I is added to the winner's index and subtracted from the loser's index.

With the values of K indicated above, the index, I, can be quite volatile; therefore, ranking lists are usually produced by means of a grade, G, which is a dampened version of I and is calculated as follows:

Gn = (1-Y)Gn-1+ YIn

Note, however, that the damping is quite arbitrary and has no theoretical validity. Currently Y is set to 0.1.

Ranking lists are a harmless and occasionally useful product of the CGS but they should not be taken over-seriously. An index difference of 20 is required to give odds of 11 to 10 in favour of the better player and it is unlikely that grades are any more significant. Ranking lists are only used by selectors to give a window of opportunity to players, who are then seriously considered for selection.

7 The Automatic Handicapping System and the Computer Grading System

It is clear that the inclusion of level play games in the AHS is necessary in view of the fact that many players, particularly improving ones, play both forms. In order to include these games in the AHS it was necessary to devise a mechanism which related the change of index for players to the probability of the result occurring. Although this probability can be obtained from the CGS, the CGS function is far too complicated for players to use directly. However, comparison of CGS grades and CA handicaps revealed a reasonable correlation in the range where data were available. This was used to construct a simplified table, which is based upon handicap step difference rather than handicap index difference, to obtain the increment to be added to or subtracted from a player's AHS index.

Handicap step difference rather than index difference was chosen initially as the basis for index increments for two reasons: (a) it is simpler to use, and (b) it avoids the need to calculate a new index immediately after each game. The latter reason was particularly important as it was believed that many players would forget their cards and could not be expected to remember their index, although most can usually remember their current handicap.

The K values used in the CGS leads to indices and handicaps in the AHS which are far too volatile, given the simplicity of the present trigger points for handicap changes, and therefore a lower value of 20 was chosen. This value is consistent with an index change of 10 for handicap games.

The agreement of the CGS (with a K value of 20) and the AHS increments can be seen in the following table, where one handicap step difference is equivalent to an index difference of 50 for both the CGS and the AHS. However, the maximum odds that can be incorporated in the AHS without resorting to decimals in the index change are 19:1

Table 1 Comparison of CGS and AHS Index Increments

Handicap Steps
CGS Index
AHS Index
-6 4.02 4
-5 4.81 5
-4 5.69 6
-3 6.68 7
-2 7.74 8
-1 8.95 9
0 10 10
1 11.15 11
2 12.26 12
3 13.32 13
4 14.31 14
5 15.19 15
6 15.98 16

In the first trials of the AHS with the inclusion of level play, those games which involved a player with a minus handicap were excluded. However, that proved to be highly unpopular as it was believed that the minus players were being protected. The reverse was actually the case, for the correlation between handicap and CGS grade becomes extremely non-linear for minus players, and anyone playing such a player in the system would have been at a distinct disadvantage. This problem was solved with the introduction of notional steps for minus players, which correspond with the increased gap between the trigger points at this level.

8 Advanced Handicap Play

As was pointed out in section 4, the handicapping system is only valid for the normal forms of handicap play with normal use of bisques. Advanced handicap play may upset the balance of probabilities between the players, with the advantage going to the better player. From the handicapping point of view, it would have been better to have retained the normal definition of a bisque as an extra turn rather than the continuation of the previous turn. However, we have to deal with the situation as it is. For the time being, advanced handicap games will count as qualifying games for the AHS.

9 Advantages and Limitations of the AHS

The introduction of the AHS was viewed with suspicion, not to say hostility, by many players and in particular by some handicappers. Yet, after a few years, most players accept that it has been an important step forwards. The old system where handicaps were adjusted by individual handicappers may have worked when the number of players was comparatively small and most players and handicappers knew each other. With the spread of the game differing standards became apparent. Moreover, the old system was not based on average performance but more on an historic-best basis. Once a player was established on the tournament circuit, his handicap would only be reduced when he played above his normal ability in a tournament. Winners of tournaments came to expect a handicap reduction, and were usually satisfied by handicappers, but those who lost badly rarely had a handicap increase. The whole system had a built-in downwards drift which had to be counteracted at ever-decreasing time intervals by the HCC. Such intervention was always unpopular.

The AHS, based as it is on average performance, in theory overcomes the disadvantages of the old system but it is not perfect. If it were, there would be little need to have handicappers. Because of the random accumulation of wins and losses, a player who has achieved a fairly consistent level of performance will still experience some fluctuation in his handicap. Someone with handicap 8, for example, will play most of the time off that handicap but will from time to time move up to 9 or down to 7. A handicap, therefore, is not defined more precisely than +/- one step, and there is no point in handicappers making adjustments of this magnitude.

The AHS also requires players in the system to play many games (at least ten) and against different opponents. The more games a player plays, the better his chance of finding his level in the system. The system works best, therefore, for players who do play regularly and competitively. It is no use at all in standardising handicaps for closed communities of players with no contact outside their immediate circle, although it will still provide comparative handicaps for them. It cannot cope with rapidly improving players and was never intended to: separate arrangements outside the AHS are made for these players.

The great majority of players who do not play many competitive games have fairly high handicaps. Most beginners improve fairly quickly once they have got to grips with the game, but few come within the category of rapid improvers (those who come down to a low single-figure handicap within a season). For these reasons handicappers are given complete freedom of action to adjust handicaps above 12, although naturally they are expected to keep such handicaps in line with those of players who are playing sufficient games within the AHS. The AHS also works in intervals of two bisques above handicap 12. This reflects the fact that most high-bisquers are inconsistent in their play, and it also makes it easier for genuinely improving players in the system to reduce their handicaps to a suitable level.

The AHS is a purely domestic system and applies only within the domain of the CA and to members of the CA regardless of nationality. Whilst it would be nice if handicapping were uniform throughout the world of croquet, that clearly is not the case. Overseas games and games where one of the players is not a CA member are specifically excluded.

Many suggestions have been made to improve the system, usually to cater for a small number of players who do not fit easily within its confines. However, such improvements must always be viewed in the light of their effect on the system as a whole, not just upon that small number of players. For example, it is impossible to improve the lot of steadily improving players within the AHS by reducing the gap between trigger points without affecting the stability of the whole system. Some have suggested that close games should be discounted on the grounds that they could have gone either way and should be counted as a draw. The whole point of handicapping is to produce close results, and to remove these games would lead to a less satisfactory system. The AHS is game-hungry and the more games included, the better the system works. Taking out close results would also affect the neutrality of the system when there is a wide handicap difference. A scratch player can hardly ever win by more than a few points because of his opponent's bisques but can easily be beaten by 26.

10 Setting an Initial Handicap

Given the standard set by the scratch player, namely his ability to take a break to the peg without the use of bisques, it is possible to devise an objective test to set the handicap of any other player. In practice, the situation is rather more complicated than just counting the number of bisques a player requires to make two all-round, laid, four- ball breaks. A player's handicap is usually determined by a number of factors: his ability to play a four-ball break; his ability to set up a break with bisques; his ability to build a break without bisques; his ability to play carefully when conceding bisques.

Fortunately, most players who require an initial handicap are beginners and consequently high-bisquers. In these circumstances, the last two of the above factors are largely irrelevant and it is only the first two which need to be tested.

The test for a new player (and good practice for him anyway) is to start with two balls about three yards apart on the east boundary in the vicinity of hoop 4. The adversary balls are in a tice position on the west boundary and in the second comer. This is a common enough position at the start of a game when the opponent has missed the shot at his own tice at the start of the game. The player must then set up a four-ball break with bisques and take the break to the peg, finishing with a tidy leave. The total number of bisques required should be noted and the exercise repeated a number of times. The player can be left to do this for himself over a suitable period of time and then report the results to the club handicapper. Each attempt must be continued to the peg, even if disaster strikes along the way. It is probably better for the handicapper to discount the first couple of attempts to take account of the unfamiliarity of the exercise. The remaining attempts should be averaged and one bisque subtracted from the average. The result should then be doubled and rounded off to the nearer integer. The averaging process is most important and the handicapper should stress this to the player under test, In theory, the resulting handicap is a couple of bisques too high but it makes some allowance for the difference between practice and competitive play, and the natural tendency to discount disastrous attempts.

Note that the hoops should be set to normal tournament standards for the club, as it is the tournament players who will set the benchmarks by which other players will be judged. If the hoops are too wide and slack, poor play will not be penalised and the resulting handicap will be too low. If the player later goes on to play in tournaments off a handicap which is too low, he could be disheartened by losing most of his games.

It is quite common for beginners to improve rapidly, particularly if they are prepared to practise. They should be encouraged to incorporate the above exercise into their normal practice routine and to keep a record for the benefit of their club handicapper, particularly if they intend or are requested to play in league fixtures or handicap tournaments such as the All-England, in fairness to their opponents.

Note also that the above test does not apply to established players. It is far easier to learn how to do the test than it is to cope with conceding bisques or to build breaks without them.

11 Guidelines for Handicappers

Handicappers should allow the AHS to work with as little interference as possible and in particular should refrain from making minor adjustments to handicaps. Please remember that the system is no more accurate than +/- one step and therefore adjustments of this magnitude should not be made. Where action outside the AHS is required, adjustments may be made as follows:

a) Handicaps above 12

There is no restriction on setting a handicap above 12. You may also make use of odd- numbered handicaps if you so wish. The player's index should be reset to the appropriate value. Report the change of handicap on the normal report form.

b) Handicaps from 0 to 12

Changes outside the AHS must be by at least three steps and based on the evidence of two tournaments or ten games. An index change of at least 80 points is required over the period considered for the Rapid Improver procedure to be used. Rapid Improvers will usually be in their first or second season of serious play. Report the change on the Rapid Improver report form.

A player enters a tournament at handicap 11, having won four of his last five games at that handicap. He now wins all five games without loss and with some ease, leading to an automatic handicap change to 10. Over those ten games his index has changed by 80 points and you may judge that a handicap change to 8 (or lower), i.e. at least three lower than the handicap at which he started the period under consideration, would be more appropriate.

c) Minus players

CA handicappers are not permitted to allot or change a minus handicap.

d) Reporting Procedures

The majority of handicap changes will be reported through the tournament report system. Players are asked to notify automatic changes of handicap to the Tournament Manager or Handicapper, who should initial their cards and send a report of such changes to the CA Office at the end of the tournament. If the player's card has already been initialled, you should take no further action. Please do not initial anyone's card unless you intend to notify the CA Office of the change yourself or through your club.

Please use the current issue of the appropriate forms. Use block capitals and enter the names in the style used by the CA, i.e. surname followed by title (Mr. may be omitted) and all initials, in order to help the CA Office. Players have been asked to record their names on their records cards in this style; if you see any entered otherwise, please ask the player to correct it.

12 Guidelines for Club Handicappers

The AHS will usually cope with players who play at least ten competitive games per season. Please note that friendly games are specifically excluded from the AHS and players may not take them into account for automatic handicap changes. You may wish to consider them for non-automatic changes, but please bear in mind that friendly games are often played with sloppy hoops and with a lack of competition nerves. In general, you should aim to keep players' handicaps in line with those set by players who have handicaps set by the AHS.

a) Handicaps above 12

CA handicaps in this range may be altered or set by a club handicapper, including the use of odd-numbered handicaps between 12 and 24. The player's record card should be initialled and the change reported to the CA Office. Please do not report any changes for players who are not CA Associates.

b) Handicaps from 0 to 12

CA handicaps in this range may not be altered by a club handicapper. However, the club handicapper may make a recommendation to the HCC but it will not take effect until confirmed by the HCC. In general, the player's handicap should be substantially out of line (at least three steps) with CA standards. Minor discrepancies will be taken care of by the AHS. Recommendations should be accompanied be the player's record card (or a copy). If you otherwise alter a player's club handicap in this range, it should be made clear to the player that it is not a change to a CA handicap.

13            General Guidelines for Players


The AHS operates nationally for all CA Associates (except overseas Associates) within the domain of the CA. The Scottish Croquet Association uses a system which differs only marginally from the AHS and games played in Scotland may also be used. Overseas countries, including Ireland, do not have an automatic system and games played in these countries are not applicable. Handicap changes made by handicappers overseas are not valid within the domain of the CA.

Qualifying games

All singles games in CA Calendar Fixtures, Federation Leagues, inter-club contests, and designated club competitions qualify for the system. Club handicappers should provide a list of designated club competitions at the start of the season. All qualifying games should be played with hoops set to CA tournament standards.

Short croquet, golf croquet, friendly or ad hoc games, walkovers and abandoned games are specifically excluded from the system.

Handicap play

Each competitive handicap singles game played to normal handicap laws, whether bisque difference or full-bisque, that you win will increase your index by 10: each game that you lose will decrease your index by 10.

Level singles play

This includes ordinary and advanced singles play. The index change for both players is calculated from Table 4. NB This table is not based upon simple handicap difference; rather, it is based upon the number of steps difference in handicap between the two players. A step is one bisque from handicap 5 upwards and a half-bisque between 0 and 5; below 0 see Table 5.

Starting handicaps and indices

All players carry forward their index from the end of the previous season to the start of the next season. Players new to the system should be given an index equal to the trigger point for their handicap.

Handicap record cards

The CA provides all players with record cards to help them keep track of their handicaps and indices. To help handicappers and tournament officials to complete handicap return forms, please enter your name in the style used by the CA, i.e. surname followed by title (Mr. may be omitted) and all initials.

Procedure for handicap changes

You are responsible for recording your own results, calculating your own index and determining any handicap changes. If you fail to do so and play off an incorrect handicap you may be disqualified from a tournament. It will not be necessary to hand in your card at the start of each tournament, but tournament officials may ask to see it.

At a CA calendar tournament a handicap change can only be triggered at the end of the event. Then, if your handicap is on or past a trigger point for a handicap change (see Table 2), you must notify the tournament handicapper or manager of your change of handicap before you leave the tournament, so that it can be notified to the CA as soon as possible. The official will initial your card on the front cover to acknowledge the change, but the responsibility for correct recording and calculation still lies with you.

In club and federation matches, one-day events and rounds of extended tournaments, changes of index and handicap will normally be calculated at the end of the day. As a matter of courtesy you should always tell your club handicapper of any handicap change, whether at a CA tournament or not. If you are a CA Associate and do not intend to play in any later CA calendar fixture, you should ask your club handicapper to notify the change to the CA.

If your handicap has changed between CA calendar fixtures, you should inform the tournament manager or handicapper at the start of the tournament and have your card initialled.

Rapid Improvers

Rapid improvers are players whose skills are improving more rapidly in relation to the number of competitive games that they play, so that their handicaps become substantially out of line with their ability. Such players will usually be in their first or second season of serious play and procedures exist to deal with their cases.

Minus Players

In order to accommodate players with minus handicaps, notional steps have been introduced into handicap steps difference. The notional steps are indicated in Table 5, and are accumulative.

14 Short Croquet

Short croquet has a separate handicapping system, which is related to the normal system in Table 6. Note that the correspondence is one way only, i.e. the table may be used to derive a short croquet handicap from a normal handicap but not vice-versa. A Croquet Association handicap must never be adjusted or set on the basis of short croquet.

For those who play regularly and competitively a separate and simplified automatic handicapping system has been introduced. All the games are 14-point, full-bisque. The winner's index increases by one; the loser's index decreases by one. See Table 7.

15 Bandits

This and similar terms are widely used to describe players whose handicaps are thought to be too high. Used in a jocular sense there is probably no harm but its use to make a player feel uncomfortable is deplorable. There have always been players who take up the game enthusiastically and are prepared to practise frequently and thoroughly. No handicapping system, whether automatic or not, has been able to cope with these players but they soon reach their potential level of ability. Such players should be encouraged rather than made to feel pariahs. There is little financial reward in croquet and instances of deliberate farming of handicaps are rare.

Otherwise, when problems do arise, they are usually in Federation and local leagues with players who do not play many competitive games. In fairness to other teams and players, club handicappers have a great responsibility to see that their own team players are correctly handicapped.

16 Minus Players

Some minus players complain that there is little opportunity to decrease their handicaps still further, particularly if they are at -2. Few play many handicap games but, in any case, against a conceptual scratch player it is not possible to concede more than two bisques and still have a 50% chance of winning. Nevertheless, minus players do have a useful function in the AHS: they serve as an anchor to the system and help to prevent any downwards drift in handicaps.

Table 2: Handicap and Index Trigger Points

Handicap Index Handicap Index Handicap Index
-3.0 3050        
-2.5 2800        
-2.0 2600 3.0 1700 11 1200
-1.5 2400 3.5 1650 12 1150
-1.0 2250 4.0 1600 14 1100
-0.5 2100 4.5 1550 16 1050
0 2000 5.0 1500 18 1000
0.5 1950 6.0 1450 20 950
1.0 1900 7.0 1400 22 900
1.5 1850 8.0 1350 24 850
2.0 1800 9.0 1300 26 800
2.5 1750 1 0 1250 28 750

Table 3: Supplementary Handicaps and Indices


Table 4: Level Play Index Increments

Handicap Steps Difference Index Change
Higher Handicap Wins Lower Handicap Wins
0 10 10
1 11 9
2 12 8
3 1 3 7
4 14 6
5 15 5
6 16 4
7 or 8 17 3
9 or 10 18 2
11 or > 19 1

Table 5: Notional Steps for Minus Players

0 to -0.5
-0.5 to -1
-1 to -1.5
-1.5 to -2
Notional steps

Table 6: Croquet Association and Short Croquet Handicaps

Handicap Handicap
Normal Short Normal Short
-2 to -1 3 Peels 8 to 9 3
-0.5 to 0.5 2 Peels Io to 11 3.5
1 to 1.5 1 Peel 12 to 13 4
2 to 2.5 0 14 to 15 5
3 to 3.5 0.5 16 to 17 6
4 to 4.5 1 18 to 19 7
5 1.5 20 to 21 8
6 2 22 to 23 9
7 2.5 24 10

Table 7: Trigger Points for Short Croquet Automatic System

3P 115 3 70
2P 110 3.5 65
1P 105 4 60
0 100 5 55
0.5 95 6 50
1 90 7 45
1.5 85 8 40
2 80 9 35
2.5 75 10 30
©1996 The Croquet Association
All rights reserved © 2004

Updated 28.i.16
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