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Dr Ian Plummer

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Intermediate Coaching Notes

Section 8. Special Shots

In this Section we consider some of the details of cannons, peels, promotions and jumps. They are obviously best demonstrated and only the major considerations will be covered here. These shots need practising. The 'original' ball in the cannon is the one which was initially on the yard line or corner spot. The word cannon has two distinct meanings; a cannon is a croquet shot involving three or more balls in contact, to cannon is the same as to promote - to cause a ball to move by striking it with the croqueted ball.

Simple worm cannon & modified simple worm cannon
Figure 8.2. Left, the Simple or Worm Cannon where the red ball is lightly tapped. Right, the Modified Simple Cannon where red and yellow are rolled into the yard area to give a rush. Yellow is replaced on the yard line.

8.1. Cannons are well described elsewhere (e.g. World of Croquet). They are highly formalised and a simple prescription can be given for each corner depending on which hoop is required. The standard cannons rely on the striker's ball roqueting and rushing the original ball in the croquet stroke. The less standard varieties of cannons are given below.

8.2. The simple (or worm) cannon is not really a proper cannon and it fails to get both balls away from the boundary. It generates a perfectly aligned rush though. The striker's ball and original ball are arranged either side of the roqueted ball so that their centres point in the correct direction for the required rush (figure 8.2). The centre, roqueted ball, is placed in contact with both with its edge just overlapping the centre line of the two outer balls. A little tap causes the centre ball to move out sideways and the rush to remain pointed in the original direction. There is another (more reliable) way to play the equivalent shot which guarantees that the croqueted ball is well away from the rush.

8.3. The modified simple cannon. The essence of this cannon is that a small roll shot (or stop shot) is played once the balls are in position. The roll shot however is towards the boundary which does not move the original ball and both the striker's ball and croqueted ball are moved to inside the yard line area. The croqueted ball is then replaced on the yard line away from the original ball and the striker's ball now has a rush on the original ball.

wafer canon
Figure 8.5. The Wafer Cannon

8.4. The super worm (or promotion) cannon. This is a cannon used when you do not require to roquet the forward ball in the cannon, yet want to get the balls out into the lawn. For instance there may be a pick-up ball close by and you have a corner cannon. The balls for the cannon are aligned almost in a straight line. Small kinks in the alignment allow you to send the balls in useful directions. A substantial roll shot is played and the striker's ball ends up near the adjacent pick-up ball whilst the other balls are sent into the lawn.

8.5. The wafer cannon. This is a cannon in which the front and back balls are separated by a very small gap, the centre ball lying well off to the side. This is played as if it were a rush. The centre ball can however travel a few feet which must be taken into account when lining up the balls. By aiming towards the centre ball both the front and centre balls can be sent large distances. 

8.6. Four ball cannons. These crop up reasonably often, especially in the fourth turn of the game when everyone has been shooting to the East boundary. To help the description the striker's ball, the ball being croqueted and the ball to be croqueted are called the first, second and third ball. The intention is to croquet a ball into the lawn, roquet the ball following that and promote the fourth ball. The fourth ball can be promoted using the roqueted ball or croqueted ball.

four ball cannons
Figure 8.7. Left the normal four ball cannon. Right non-standard four ball cannon.

8.7. The normal four ball cannon. In this the fourth ball is promoted by the third ball in the cannon (figure 8.7). Consider that you are playing from the East boundary by hoop 4, for hoop 1. The striker's ball is placed in contact with the roqueted ball to send it to hoop 2. The third ball (to be roqueted) is placed in contact with it, to its left and finally the fourth ball is placed in contact with the last ball so that the lines of centres of the two balls point towards hoop 1. Any movement of the third ball means that the fourth ball must travel along the lines of the centres. A heavy roll is played on the striker's ball to send the second ball to hoop 2, promote the fourth ball to hoop 1 and roquet the third ball into the lawn. You now have a four-ball break by taking off from the third ball to the pioneer at hoop 1.

8.8. Non-standard four-ball cannon. This differs from the above since the fourth ball, later to be croqueted, is placed in contact with the ball from which you are taking croquet in the cannon. This has been called the 'Tee' cannon. Taking the example above the first, second and fourth balls are placed in a straight line pointing at hoop 1. The third ball is placed in contact with the second ball to its left. A good thump aiming left sends the fourth ball accurately to hoop 1. The roqueted third ball ends up by the South boundary and the second ball in the centre of the South end of the lawn. The third ball is stopped to hoop 2 and pioneer at hoop 1 approached. A four-ball break awaits after running hoop 1. This does not sound as satisfactory as the normal cannon, but it can be improved slightly by arranging the balls more in a 'Y' than a 'T'. To be practised before use.

8.9. Promotion cannons. These are real fun. In essence you arrange that the forward ball in a normal croquet shot cannons into another ball causing it to move (a promotion) to a favourable position. They are a serious tool in a game.

promotion peel
Figure 8.10. Promotion Peel, yellow is cannoned through by blue whilst red takes position.

8.10. One classic instance of this is the rover peel when the peelee is stuck in the jaws. By arranging to take croquet from just to the side of the hoop on an enemy ball, the enemy ball can be croqueted into the forward ball peeling it whilst your striker's ball takes hoop position.

8.11. Another frequent instance is when your opponent sticks in a hoop off their partner ball and you hit in. You cannot get a rush on the hoop ball. If however you roquet the partner ball you can use that to cannon the hoop ball out of the hoop whilst positioning your striker's ball to obtain a rush on that ball. It requires a little practice to get the positioning of the striker's ball correct.

8.12. Peels. Only the technicalities are discussed, the mechanism of peeling is described in Section 15: The Triple Peel. Peeling is causing a ball other than the striker's to run its hoop. We saw in section 8.10 that a peel can be gained by a promotion. More usually they are achieved by croqueting the peelee ball through its hoop.

8.13. When lining up balls for a peel you can look over the tops of the balls. I prefer to look along the sides as well. Most people like to lie with their eye just behind the balls and to look along in the direction of the peel. The tops of each of the balls are aligned to point in the required direction. The alignment can be checked by looking from the other direction through the hoop - but it is more difficult to see the precise disposition of the balls.

8.14. The stop shot is the most accurate stroke with which to peel. The forward ball travels faithfully along the centre line linking the balls in the croquet stroke. What should be borne in mind however is that the forward ball will skid for the first part of its travel before picking up spin. Therefore it can be beneficial on angled peels to hit the balls gently rather than play a tight stop shot. The stop shot is ideal for long peels since the ball has time to acquire spin. It is advantageous at times to 'jaws' the peelee and a stop shot can be a reliable method of doing this on an angled peel.

8.15. Peels attempted with a roll shot suffer from an effect known as pull. The forward ball no longer travels faithfully along the line of the balls as set up in the croquet stroke but arcs (pulls) towards the aiming line of the shot. The amount of pull is dependent on many things; the heavier the lawn the more pull, thus wet or long grass increase the effect. Rolls at around 45° have most pull, straight rolls next to none. The rougher the balls the larger the effect - the G.B. team in 1987 claimed that aligning the centre of the 'bulls eye' of the striker's ball's milling at the contact point with the croqueted ball reduced pull! A 45° split 2ft. from a hoop on a heavy lawn could demand up to 2" compensation. Unfortunately it is up to experience to determine this.

Aspinall peel
Figure 8.16. The Aspinall Peel. Red is croqueted into the jaws of the hoop then promoted through by blue.

8.16. The 'Aspinall' Peel. This is a combination peel and promotion in one stroke . It is used when peeling from an acute angle near a hoop (figure 8.16). The aim of the manoeuvre is to jaws the peelee with a near roll shot, but to arrange the striker's ball in that croquet shot to follow behind the peelee and promote it through the hoop.

8.17. Jump shots are where you deliberately cause your ball to jump when hitting it. The purposes of jump shots are to clear an obstacle, peel a jawsed ball or run an angled hoop. A wide cross-wiring is an occasion where jumping the hoop may be an option. Jump shots however lack any subtlety, the ball will bounce on landing (probably over its target) and travel a large distance. An advantage of the jump shot is that it confers a great deal of spin on to a ball. It is this feature which makes it popular for running angled hoops. The intention is that the ball strikes the far upright of the hoop spinning greatly, falls into the jaws and pulls itself through. Some people advocate that hoops are slightly wider at the top, they are however more likely to give the higher up you hit them and hopefully allow the ball to snake through them. If you have to jump through a hoop it's as well to have your reception ball a long way from the hoop.

8.18. Jump shots are achieved by standing over the ball and hitting down on it at an angle of say 30-45°. Best results are obtained with the hands well down the mallet. The ground must be firm to get a jump shot since a spongy lawn will absorb most of the energy - do not try them on wet lawns. Most jump shots should be refereed. There are a number of possible faults. The two major ones are playing a crush (maintaining contact between the mallet and the ball for an appreciable time Law 28a7) or damaging the lawn. There is also a Law (28a15) which says that if you play a shot which is likely to damage the lawn - and does, then you have committed a fault. To play a fair jump shot you must lift the mallet as soon as it has made contact with the ball. If you cannot play a jump shot without damaging the lawn - don't.

8.19. Half Jump. This is a combination of a jump shot and a peel. With a ball in the jaws of a hoop you jump your ball so that it just clips the top of the jawsed ball pulling both through. In my experience it is better to err on the high side of a jump since too little height results in your ball bouncing back out of the hoop and a red face. This shot can have the beneficial result of reversing the original orientations of the balls leaving a rush to peg after rover.

8.20. Irish Peel. This is a roll shot played to send both balls through the hoop. This shot should be refereed since there is a good chance of playing a crush stroke if the balls are close to the hoop. Unless the balls end up in contact after running the hoop you can then roquet the forward ball again once you have run the hoop.

8.21. The Hammer Shot. This is a single ball stroke where the mallet is swung in the manner of a pick axe hitting down on a ball and driving it between one's legs. It has two main uses; to allow you to hit a hoop-bound ball where there is very little room for a normal back swing, and to run an angled hoop where the ball is close to the hoop's uprights.

8.22. The ball is hit at an angle of 30 degrees or more to the ground, the mallet being lifted as soon as contact has been made. All hammer shots should be refereed since its is possible to crush the ball into the ground, or damage the lawn - both faults. If the hammer shot is used on a hoop-bound ball, you must be careful also not to infringe the extra constraints invoked for a hindered shot. It can be tempting to rest your arms on your thighs but this is a fault.

8.23. The idea in using a hammer shot to run a short angled hoop is that there is a reduced chance of crushing the ball on the hoop uprights, as the mallet is lifted as soon as the ball is struck. Hitting down on the ball confers top spin on it which assists it through the hoop.

'von Schmieder' sweep
Figure 8.24. The von Schmieder Sweep

8.24.The 'von Schmieder' sweep. This is a novel stroke played on a hoop-bound ball when it lies about 9-14" directly behind the hoop. It allows you to roquet a reception ball lying further behind the hoop. The stroke is played with the mallet held horizontal with the shaft 2-3" off the ground. The ball is believed to be pulled in towards the striker rather than travel along the tangent to the sweep. The head of the mallet is positioned between the hoop-bound ball and the hoop, so that it just clears the hoop when pivoted back from the other end of the shaft (figure 8.24). Remembering not to rest any arm or hand involved with the stroke on the ground, the mallet is pivoted about the 'top' of the shaft. The struck ball does not travel off tangentially to the swing but pulls in slightly by 2-3" over a couple of feet. See additional notes on playing the sweep shot.

diagonal sweep
Figure 8.25 The Diagonal Sweep. Note that the mallet head is at an angle across the body.

8.25. The Diagonal sweep. This is a more conventional method of dealing with a ball which is nearly hoop-bound from roqueting another ball. The mallet is swung on a diagonal across the aiming line but with the mallet face always perpendicular to the aiming line (figure 8.25). The ball will move away at the moment of impulse in a direction normal to the face of the mallet and hence along the aiming line. The stroke is played using a normal swing except that the mallet faces point at some angle to the direction of the swing.

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Updated 28.i.16
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