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Dr Ian Plummer

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Stop Shot Techniques

Generally in croquet great care is taken to hit the ball with the centre of the mallet face. Some players advocate that for stop shots, the ratio of the distance travelled by the croqueted and strikers ball is increased if the striker’s ball is hit off centre.

The mechanics of the stop shot are to give the striker’s ball a sharp impulse in the croquet stroke and arrest the forward movement of the mallet head immediately on impact. The intention is that the energy of the stroke is transmitted through the striker’s ball, in much the way as Newton’s cradle works, and the mallet is then stopped from sweeping through the striker’s ball. A standard technique for playing stop shots is given in Beginners' Coaching Notes 1

Below is a discussion from the Nottingham news group.

 John Riches writes

[A problem with heavy mallets is that] it can be difficult to play an acceptable stop-shot. I would want to at least be able to play a stop-shot from the yard-line in front of hoop 1 to send a ball one yard in front of hoop 2 while holding position to run hoop 1. This involves a stop-ratio of only 4.5:1, when the older books suggest that a ratio of 8:1 or even 10:1 should be achievable. Players are asking me to help them improve their stop-shots and so far I am unsure of the way to do it, other than to tell them to get a lighter mallet which they do not want to do. Is there a technique for playing good stop-shots with a heavy mallet?

Everyone agrees that a good stop-shot requires exact timing which can only be developed by plenty of practice, and that it is necessary to stop the forward movement of the mallet at (or just after) the instant the mallet contacts the ball, but on other aspects of stop-shotting there seems to be a surprising amount of disagreement and a wide variety of ideas. For example -

  1. Some say that a flexible shaft can be used to facilitate better stop-shots, while others say that the shaft needs to be as rigid as possible.
  2. Some say that the best way is to move one or both hands about half-way down the mallet handle and hold it very tightly. This is supposed to make it easier to arrest the forward momentum (inertia) of the heavy mallet-head. Others teach the use of a long grip, saying that if you move your hand(s) down the handle it will send the striker's ball further.
  3. Some insist that a Irish grip is best for stop-shots, possibly in conjunction with '2' above, while others say that a Solomon grip, or even a standard grip, is best.
  4. Some say that you should stand back so that the mallet-face contacts the ball after it has passed the bottom of the swing and is moving slightly upward. The idea here is that hitting down on the striker's ball will send it further. Others stress the importance of an exact horizontal movement of the mallet with the handle exactly vertical.
  5. Some say that you should hit down through the back of the ball, and if possible have the shaft tilted slightly backward on contact. The idea here is to catch the back of the ball on the mallet-face and drag it downward in an attempt to impart some backspin to the ball. Some try to achieve the same effect with the mallet initially tilted slightly forward, and moving the top of the shaft rapidly back toward the body as the mallet contacts the ball. There is no doubt that backspin can be achieved in a stop-shot - in the past I have seen it happen many times and demonstrated it to others - but it is not easy to achieve with the new mallets. Perhaps a rough mallet-face would help with this stop-shot method. I think the ball is more likely to skid or spin slightly backward if the lawn is wet.
  6. Some claim that you should slacken your grip as the mallet contacts the ball. This method may work with a light mallet, but seems unlikely to be the answer with a heavy mallet.
  7. Some stress the importance of using a long back-swing, while others use very little back-swing. The idea of the longer back-swing is that as it contacts the ball the mallet must be moving forward fairly rapidly in order to provide the force needed to send the front ball to hoop 2, but it must be stopped (or at least rapidly decelerated) immediately after contact. If your hands, rather than gravity, are being used to accelerate the mallet forward, then it is difficult to also use them to stop or decelerate the mallet at almost the same time.
  8. Some say that you should forget about stop-shots and plan to set up and play your breaks without them.

 Some further ideas which have been communicated to me privately, and for which I thank the writers:

Some players use the ground to stop the forward movement of the mallet at the desired point in the swing. This can be done by starting the swing fairly high (one player stands on tip-toes at the top of the back-swing) and jabbing down through the back of the ball onto the ground. Another method is to tilt the mallet slightly backwards (by standing a little further back from the ball) so that the "heel" of the mallet will contact the ground at the right time. This would apparently require accurate timing. [Is it likely that such a shot could be faulted due to lawn damage? - perhaps not, as although an indentation could be made, the lawn surface is unlikely to be broken.]

It seems that few, if any, have conducted objective experiments designed at finding authoritative answers to questions such as those I asked, although there must be many who are now using heavy mallets with low balance points, and who will be wanting to find the best way to play stop-shots if they have not already done so.

Shifting the impact in a stop shot

Hitting off-side in the stop shot to improve the ratio of distances travelled by the balls

I am hoping that there will be some people willing to commit themselves, even if it is only an unsubstantiated opinion, on the answers to questions such as:

  • Is a flexible shaft an advantage for stop-shots, or should a player buying a heavy mallet opt for the most rigid shaft?
  • Is it a good idea (technique) to put one or both hands down the handle for a stop-shot, or should both hands remain at the top of the handle?
  • Is it best to hit down at the ball, up at the ball, or to use an absolutely flat forward swing?
  • Is it helpful to relax the grip at the instant when the mallet contacts the ball?

Keith Aiton

In addition to JR's list of "techniques" I would add the following:

Make contact with the striker's ball on a part of the mallet face between the centre and one side or the other, which seems to allow the mallet head to twist and thereby impart less "force" into the striker's ball. I don't know if that is actually what happens, but it does seem to give a better (i.e. higher ratio) stop shot. It needs a bit of practice though as straying too far away from the centre of the face is not good!

David Maugham

I don't tend to do this [hitting off centre] (deliberately) on straight stop shots, but do with split stop shots. It's important to get the correct side of the mallet doing it with split stop shots as, I believe, part of the effect is due to the face of the mallet being in contact with the strikers ball for a shorter period of time. One should hit the strikers ball with the face on the same side as the direction which the strikers ball will go.

Note that the opposite is also true, and can be used to "fine-tune" a particular croquet stroke to give more or less roll.

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Updated 28.i.16
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