Coloured clips are used to mark which hoop a particular colour ball is next due to make. If a player is in the middle of a break they would not put the clip on the next hoop until they had finished their turn. Clips are defined in the Laws of Croquet, Law 3d, they may be of any material and match the colours of the balls. Typically clips are made from pastic or metal. The metal ones are by far the best.
It is a waste of money buying plastic clips - you will probably break the yellow clip trying to get it out of the packet. One manufacturer produces coloured rubber blunt wedges which hold on to the hoop. They are easily seen and unlikely to be taken home by mistake; they cannot be clipped onto a pocket though. Metal clips are highly desirable or, alternatively and much cheaper, giant clothes pegs. These were available from Sainsburys. You need to repaint them to get a full set of colours but otherwise they are fine. Note that normal clothes pegs barely gape wide enough to grip a cast metal hoop but are fine for tube and wire hoops.
Even a set of plastic clips can cost £5 a set. The Croquet Association, Big Game Hunters and Townsend amongst others sell metal clips. Jaques sell plastic clips which I have found to be very brittle.
2012. A recomendation was given by the Bristol Club for painted metal clips from Exquisite Scotland. ~£5.30 (total!) for 8 (4x primary and 4x secondary) with a lifetime guarantee against breakage. This compares favourably against £18 per 4 or £25 per 4 + P&P (E.g. The Croquet Association Shop).
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