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Dr Ian Plummer

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Croquet History and the Clip Game

All of this is from Lord Tollemache's book, Modern Croquet Tips & Practice. Chapter VIII. Published 1947 or 1949 by Strange The Printer Ltd, York Road, Eastbourne, Sussex, England

The first part gives a history of the game from the sequence, no lift, turning peg, no baulk days to the present. The second part gives a detailed description of THE CLIP GAME.

Tollemache writes ...

IN THE old days of the "sequence game" there was always the "dead" ball feature, which enabled the man-in-play to either play or lay a three ball break, while leaving the "live" ball out of it. The "live" ball was the adversary ball, which would play next. This feature, combined with the fact that all "right handed" players tend to "pull" their ball to the left when shooting, enabled me to design a "leave" at the end of a break, which was never hit once in the three years I used it in tournament play. The three ball break combined with the old "turning peg" setting made the break very easy to play. My special leave made the innings so hard to get that in the first-class, at any rate, the man who started nearly always won. In those days we had only the single balk opposite the first hoop. Blue used to go off in a distant corner, red laid a "tyce", which was supposed to "entice" the first player to shoot at it and miss, which he never did or hardly ever. This third ball black used then to lay an easily picked up three ball break. Yellow then either shot or cornered. The first-class player shot, well knowing it was probably his last hope of getting in. The rest cornered, in the hope that the first three ball "pick up" by blue would be messed up. In the first class it was not because it (a) was very well laid and (b) the standard of play was very high.

The "Willis" setting of the hoops was then introduced. The one in use today. This made no difference to the first class, but to the rest it did for a time. I then introduced the break in which two pilot [pioneer] balls were used at the third, the fifth and three back hoops.

This ensured always having a ball at the sixth, two back and rover hoops so well placed that they ceased to offer the difficulties, which the new Willis setting caused the average player.

I then invented the Either Ball game; which was adopted almost overnight, as it were, because the Council quite rightly considered that the advantage of being able to start must be stopped if possible. It was also hoped that the difficulty of laying a break with two live balls about would result in more chance of the out player getting in as the shot must be shorter in addition to the difficulty of laying a break at all. This was very short lived, as I invented the "double wired" leave of both adversary balls at the first hoop and four back and at the same time perfected a method for doing it. These methods are still in use. Joseph then invented the balk at both ends of the court. This really did have an effect! So much so in fact that in the first class the winner of the toss put the other man in, because he dare not let his adversary have the first half-lawn shot with the four balls on the court, which the balk at each end gave him. The rest of the players, however, still usually elect to play first, if they can! Until their shooting improves they are probably right.

At the same time I am not so sure about the first class! I think that if the first player puts his ball into the court between the first and second hoops, the second ball player will have to hit it and move it away to prevent the third ball having a three ball pick up! I expect the first class to make more efforts to do this, when they get over the war, and have time to get good again.

The object of this book is to help them to do this, as well as to help the newcomers to the game to start.

One main result of the either ball game was, I am afraid, a bad one. It greatly lengthened the average time taken to play a game by the average player, owing to the difficulty of laying a break. Their standard of play was not high enough to enable them to control the balls well enough to leave the double wired leave, while the A class were none too good at it, and a match took too long to play.

Unfortunately, I did not for some years think of the true either ball game, the Clip Game. In the meanwhile players did learn, at least in the A class, to leave the double wire leave fairly reliably, and so the out player became as badly off as ever. The shot he was offered to come in on was not more than six to nine yards shorter than the old one. They generally cornered, some in the hope of a break down, others to stop a triple peel.

Elvey then invented the lift, which gave the out player the right to lift his ball and play from either balk, after four-back had been made by the adversary, this meant a "lift", unless a triple peel was accomplished by the first player. Hence the cornering to make this more difficult, instead of shooting; a bad influence! This, of course, did give the out player a much better chance of getting in. In the first class it enabled the man who lifted his ball to peg his opponent out! This really is most unfair, as it enabled the out player (the lifter) to use his opponent's skill to help the lifter to beat his opponent by pegging his opponent out. A law should have been introduced to prevent this by enacting that a player could not peg any ball out in a lift turn. This law would give the other man an intervening shot which would make all the difference. I think this law might have come in but for the war! It's obvious "fair play" was becoming more appreciated.

The most serious effect of the lift, however, was to greatly increase the length of time the average game took to play. So much so that it became very difficult to finish tournaments at all, and practically did away with open doubles altogether. A real pity as this was a most popular event.

If I had invented the Clip Game in time most of this would have disappeared. It quickens up the game from 40 to 60 %, because both the out player and the other have more chance of playing for the clip which is behind that of the one they happen to be "in" with. I did not think of it until about four years before the war. It was tried at least three times in big handicaps at Roehampton. Its success was immediate. The manager found that all his "time" troubles were solved. A handicap entry, which he expected to take the whole week, was completed with ease in three and a half days. Everybody who played it liked it. There was not one objector! Several said they wished to play no other! Unfortunately it was never tried in a big first-class open event. I can't think why. I have no doubt whatever that it would have been at once adopted into the standard game by pressure of public opinion, if it had been tried. I suspect, however, that the influence of the player, who likes to corner and hope for a breakdown rather than having to shoot, was too strong. The Clip Game will largely destroy such "Aunt Emma" tactics, because of the two-direction automatic rush made possible in the Clip Game.

It has, however, now at long last been promoted to the level of an "alternative". So has the Whichelo game, which introduces "lifts" and more "lifts", which seems to be popular. I fancy, however, that it will only be possible to continue the "best of three games for A opens", if the Clip Game is incorporated as well! The time-saving effects of the Clip Game are so great, combined with the increased "opportunities" of break playing for the in coming player, will do the trick.

I am quite sure that the standard of play will also improve very quickly.

For the first class I think it will be necessary to restrict the balks to the first and third "corner spot areas", and also to have smaller hoops.

For the C, D, etc., classes the four inch hoop should be brought in again, in order to encourage the player to try to play breaks as well as make the next hoop.

These classes were at once reduced to this "next hoop only" the moment the Either Ball came in. I proposed a fifth or dead ball being placed on the court at some spot to be determined to cure this for these classes only, but no one would listen! This cure seemed to me so obvious and, I may add, that "it still does" A three ball break can be laid in spite of either adversary ball being able to shoot. Furthermore the still ball cannot "hit back at you", since it cannot be roqued. It can be rushed and croqueted, but not roqued.

The trouble is that these ideas and improvements, all of which have been invented and advocated by high class players, take so long to come in. The solitary exception was the Either Ball, invented by me, and later the Either Balk, by Joseph.

The Clip Game is the most important of all, because it saves so much time, and makes the game far more interesting both for the players and the onlookers.

It actually took twenty years before we got the "Willis" setting!

I greatly hope that the war may do one good thing for us and that is to make the Council more enterprising. It seems to be doing so. I earnestly hope that this book may help. Surely 40 years' concentrated thought and experience, such as I offer, must do some good.


The following short treatise is intended to make clear to those who have not played it before slight differences between the present game and this new Clip Game.

The Clip Game has been known for some years and has been tried three times with great success in handicaps, reducing average time per game forty per cent.

If given a fair trial in first-class singles (which it has never had), as well as in other events, including doubles, I have very little doubt that it will entirely displace the present game.

The following terms will be used :

Striker. The player who is actually in play at the time.
Ball-in-Play.The ball with which the striker actually begins his turn.
Partner Ball. The striker's other ball.
Peeling Ball. Is any ball other than the ball-in-play with which the striker is making points by peeling for another Clip.
Striker's Partner. The other player on the striker's side (not his other ball.)
The Clip-In-Play. The clip for which the striker first makes a point by running a hoop or hitting the winning peg.

In the present game, the striker, although he may play with either ball, is obliged to play for the clip corresponding in colour to the ball with which he is playing. Thus, in a sense, the present game is only half an either ball game. The new Clip game alters this. It makes it a true either-ball-either-clip game.

In the Clip game, the striker may not only play with whichever ball of his side he likes, but he may also play for whichever of his own clips that he likes.

In doubles each partner, although he may play with either ball of his side, as in singles, may only make points, with the ball-in-play for his own Clip, not for either clip, except by peeling.

This quite simple alteration comprises the whole difference in the two games. In actual play there is no other difference whatever throughout the game.

It is found that retaining the four different clips and balls makes for the maximum of simplicity. The player has only to learn to think of the clip he is playing for, or about to play for, instead of the ball he is about to play with, when all possible confusion will disappear. The actual clip for which he is playing, will be shown by the first point in order that his ball-in-play makes.

The ball-in-play is shown by the first ball with which the striker starts his turn. This ball will remain the "ball-in-play "throughout the whole of his turn, and all subsequent bisque turn.

The striker may if he wishes make points for his partner's clip by peeling his other ball through the partner's hoops next in order as shown by his partner's clip. If the striker wishes to make points for his adversaries, he must peel the adversary ball whose colour corresponds to the clip he (the striker) wishes to make points for.

For example: Ball-In-Play blue; red ball must correspond to red clip, and yellow ball to yellow clip.

This applies to both singles and doubles.

NOTE.-This is why it is best to stick to the four different coloured balls, in order not to make the picking up of a break to peg out the adversary too easy. Frequently the success of a peel depends on its easy start, especially so if taken on late in the game, when, for instance, the adversary may have broken down going out.

When playing for the yellow clip with the red ball, he sits in the penultimate hoop. If the enemy ball can roquet this through immediately, the peel is as good as over. If, however, the yellow ball has to be collected first, the subsequent pegging out is very far from being so certain.

Thus by retaining the four different colours, a great element of luck is eliminated.

Incidentally, I may point out that a little thought will show that there is slightly less risk in going out when playing with the partner-ball, which does not correspond to the clip for which the striker is playing.

This is just one of these small points which may be worth thinking of later on, although such point would most certainly not be worth taking an extra risk for in picking up a break, by sacrificing the rush, which might be obtained by playing with the other partner-ball! This brings us to one of the main advantages of the new Clip game, which is, "that there is frequently an automatic rush in either direction at the start of a turn, since either ball may play for either clip":-

For example: You have one clip on four back, and the other on hoop one, and your two balls lie along that line somewhere in the middle of the court.

You have, therefore, an "automatic rush" in both directions, with something to play for in either.

In the new Clip game you will be much relieved to find that although your blue clip is on hoop one, you may play for the blue clip with the black ball.

Instead of as at present having to play for the first hoop without a rush, you can play for it with a rush, and a possible all-round break will be there in consequence.

This is the great reason why the new Clip game is such a time-saver, on the one hand, and generally offers a greater opportunity of play to the out-player when he gets the chance, on the other.

This fact, that the in-coming player has not only two balls to choose from with which to make his break, but also two points of attack as well from which to start his break, will nearly always enable him to do something useful towards getting on with the game, instead of, as in the present game, not only having nothing to play for at all, but having to waste his own and his manager's time by attempting to lay the balls in a position from which he has a chance next time, which as likely as not may be upset by the adversary.

Thus this renders the time spent even more futile, as it is more likely than not that the adversary in his turn will have been obliged to play with the ball with which he is round already, and which he does not want to get in with again! So the endless waste of time goes on.

It will be found in the Clip Game, that nearly the whole of this waste of time will be eliminated.

One comment has been made on the Clip Game, which is "that it offers no ground for defence". This comment was advanced mostly by the class of player who had yet to learn that offence is generally the best defence, and who will now have to learn something different to sitting in a corner with his partner-ball with his adversary in opposite corners. In the Clip Game, "Aunt Emma" is practically dead.

Likewise finessing and counter-finessing will not be found quite so useful. As this is the most prolific time waster of all, it is just as well!

And last, but not least, the very much easier start which the in-coming player is likely to find, owing to the "automatic rush," and the "two points of attack," will greatly encourage the in-coming player to try to do something useful for himself, instead of concentrating exclusively on preventing his adversary doing anything. This unfortunately is the rule rather than the exception now.


It is essential, to avoid confusion, that the striker remove his clip immediately after he has made his first point in order, because this announces to his adversaries which clip he is playing for.

When peeling the striker must immediately remove the clip for which he is making points by peeling, and place it on the next hoop in order.

If these two rules are not strictly adhered to confusion is almost sure to ensue. The striker's adversary should insist on it every time, even at the cost of interrupting the player, who has failed to obey the rule.

Believe me, the Clip Game will make for better croquet and brighter games; more of them, and more interesting, so please meet it with at least an open mind. Try it, and go on trying it. Your standard of croquet will improve astonishingly, a fact which I can practically promise you.


(1) A "partner-ball" may be peeled through a hoop, even when it is lying in the hoop, PROVIDED that it came into the hoop from the playing side.

(2) A player may roquet his ball through a hoop when the ball is lying in the hoop, and thereby make a point provided that it came in from the playing side. This ball then becomes the ball-in-play, and the clip must be at once removed.

(3) If an enemy ball be found lying in a hoop it may only be peeled by an adversary, if its colour corresponds with the enemy clip on the hoop and it came in from the playing side.

(4) In all cases of doubt the owner of the ball must state from which side the ball entered the hoop.


A player may always make points for his other clip by peeling his other ball, which is not the ball-in play. He may also make points for his adversary by peeling, provided that the color of ball and clip is the same.


This fact is determined by the first stroke made by a player at the start of his turn. It remains so throughout the turn including any bisque turns he may make.


This fact is determined by the first point in any turn made by the ball-in-play: either by a hoop or by peeling his other ball.

I want to thank Garth Eliassen for scanning in the text which made my editing job easier.
Tremaine Arkley
Author: Tremaine Arkley
All rights reserved © 2004

Updated 28.i.16
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