How to Play

2020 USCA 9-wicket rules - challenging options


Paul Bennett

A new set of challenging options can be played along with the basic rules.
These challenging options can sometimes drastically change the strategy of the game!

2020 9-Wicket Complete Rulebook2020_Complete_ 9 Wicket _Rules.pdf
[PDF, 235 kB]

Click “PDF” link to download the rules.

2020 9-Wicket Basic Rules2020_9 Wicket _Rules_Basic_Rules.pdf
[PDF, 200 kB]

Click “PDF” link to download the basic rules only.

2020 9-Wicket Challenging Options2020_9 Wicket _Rules_Options.pdf
[PDF, 26 kB]

Click “PDF” link to download the challenging options.

2020 USCA 9-wicket Rules - FAQs


Paul Bennett

USCA Nine Wicket Rules

Frequently Asked Questions


Q1: “At the start of the game, is it better to go first or last?”

A: It depends on court conditions and the skill level of the players. Assuming Beginner or Intermediate skill level, it’s generally better to go last because the more balls in front of you, the more options you have in using those balls.

Q2: “If my ball roquets a live ball and then goes through its wicket, what
happens next?”

A: You earn two shots and the wicket doesn’t count.

Q3: “If my ball is put through its wicket by an opponent, do I get credit for scoring that wicket?”

A: Yes.

Q4: “When is a ball through a wicket?”

A: See the diagram and discussion in the “Scoring Wicket and Stake Points” section.

Q5: “What happens if I miss my ball entirely on a shot?”

A: It counts as a shot, and if you had only one shot when you missed, your turn ends.

Q6: “Is there a rule that says you are ‘dead’ (not allowed to hit it) on a ball you’ve hit until you make your next wicket?”

A: Yes, see Option 1.

Q7: “At what point can I start roqueting other balls and earning bonus shots?”

A: Once the first ball has finished its first turn. That means after blue has finished its first turn, red and the remaining balls can strike it and start earning bonus shots immediately (unless Option 3 is used).

Q8: “What happens if I hit a ball I’m dead on?”

A: When Option 1 is in effect, all balls are replaced and the turn is over. If Option 1 is not being used, there is no penalty for hitting a dead ball; however, you don’t get two shots for that hit.

Q9: “If my ball is right up against a wicket or the turning stake, can I just hit the back of the stake or wicket and hope that knocks my ball forward?”

A: No. Your mallet head must strike the ball.

Q10: “Can I keep playing after my ball passes through all the wickets and hits the stake?”

A: No. Once either you or an opponent causes your ball to hit the finishing stake (after you have made all the wickets), you must remove your ball from the court and your ball may not be played anymore. If you do not hit the finishing stake, you may continue playing, either as a rover or as poison, depending on which rules are used in the game.

Q11: “Can a rover ball shoot through a wicket and earn two shots for roqueting a live ball?”

A: Yes, unless Option 6 is being used.

Q12: If I roquet a ball and pick up my ball (ball in hand), can I put it back down in its original position to take my first bonus shot?

A: Yes. If Challenging Option 9 is in effect, then the answer is No. You must use way 1, 2 or 3 once you pick up the striker ball after a roquet for taking the first bonus shot.

Bonus Shots

Q13: “Can I really use my hand or foot to hold my ball while hitting it and knocking another ball away?”

A: Yes, if you have roqueted a live ball earning two shots.

Q14: “When you send another ball away by a foot shot or hand shot, do you lose your second bonus stroke if your ball also moves after hitting it?”

A: No, you just play your ball from where it comes to rest.

Q15: “ Do I get three bonus shots if my ball roquets another ball and goes through its wicket on the same shot?”

A: No.

Q16: “What happens when, after receiving two bonus shots, my first bonus shot clears a wicket? Do I still have two bonus shots or just one?”

A: You have one shot for scoring the wicket.

Boundary Line

Q17: “If I send a ball over the boundary, is there a penalty?”

A: No (unless you use Option 2A or 2B).

Q18: “When you go out of bounds, do you have to place your ball back in bounds immediately or can you wait until your turn?”

A: You must immediately place your ball back in bounds.

Q19: “When placing your ball back in bounds, do you have to place it 90 degrees inbounds to the line at the point it went out or at any angle at the point it went out?”

A: The ball must be placed perpendicular and not at a diagonal angle from where it went more than halfway over the boundary line.

Q20: “What happens if more than one ball crosses the boundary on the same spot?”

A: The striker may measure any ball inbounds first and then place the other(s) up to and including a mallet head length away from it on either side (but not in contact with the other ball).

Q21: “May I choose not to use a boundary?”

A: In informal play, yes. In USCA sanctioned tournament play, no.


Q22: “Is there any particular way that I must hold the mallet and hit the ball?”

A: You may hold the mallet however you wish but must strike the ball with the end face of the mallet head, not the side of it.

Q23: “What if I strike my mallet into another ball accidently?”

A: The shot must be replayed correctly with no loss of turn.

Q24: “If I have a mallet head that is round, while my ball is up against the turning stake, may I just run my mallet head downward between the stake and the ball in order to move the ball as my shot?”

A: No.


Q25: “What happens when someone plays out of turn? Is there a penalty?”

A: No, but once the out-of-turn play is discovered, you must replace the ball that last played out of turn and have the correct ball play. (See the out of turn rule in the basic rules section for an example).


Q26: “Do I have to go through the wickets in any particular order?”

A: Yes, you must follow the double-diamond pattern and go through the wickets in order of their numbers, i.e., wicket 1, then 2, then 3, etc. (See Sequence of Wickets diagram).

Q27: “If my ball goes through a wicket and then hits another ball on the same shot, what happens next?”

A: In this case, you have earned one extra shot for the wicket, (the first incident) but the roquet on the other ball is ignored. You may choose to roquet that ball again on the continuation shot to earn two extra shots, but you aren’t required to do so.


Q28: “Is there a variation of croquet called ‘Poison’?”

A: Yes, and its definition varies widely. Fundamentally, poison is a ball that has made all the wickets and tries to eliminate the opponent’s balls from the game by roqueting (hitting) them. However, if poison is roqueted by an opponent ball or if it should go through any wicket in any direction, poison loses and is put out of the game.

Q29: “May I create my own rules and variations for croquet?”

A: Yes, this is done all the time; however, it is the purpose of the USCA to offer croquet enthusiasts a standard set of rules with many options included. If a variation is to be used, it should be announced before the start of a game or in the case of a tournament, prior to its start.

Q30: “What happens if something occurs that is not covered in the rule book?”

A: The players in the game should try to decide the issue and carry on. If that is impossible, the striker shall rule until the USCA is contacted for an official ruling.

Q31: Are there mallet faults in the USCA 9 wicket tournaments?

A: Yes, In the spirit of the game, for mallet faults, the tradition in past national championships has been that there are no faults in the usual USCA sense…that is, incidental double-taps and crushes were allowed. The only thing not allowed in the past has been intentionally steering the ball (shepherding) where the mallet swing clearly deviates from the original line of swing after contact. Accidental contact between the mallet and another ball (not the striker ball) has sometimes been a “put the ball back and continue your turn” resolution and sometimes an end-of-turn fault.

Q32: Are Referees required in a tournament game?

A: No. The players can act as referees of the game. In singles, the striker makes the final decision but must consult with the adversary and in doubles play, all four players can act as referees of the game with the final decision by the striker. When an adversary is not watching the striker, they cease to be a referee of the game.

Q33: In timed games, what happens if the sides are tied in points?

A: (a) In “sudden stop” when the time expires, the side whose ball is closest to any part of its contested wicket gets a point for the win. (b) See Option 8.

Q34: What happens if my ball gets stuck in a wicket?

A: The turn is over if the striker has no additional shots however if the ball is stuck because it is touching both uprights from the striker’s last shot, the problem is remedied and the striker gets to take the shot over if they wish.

Q35: How can I become a member of the United States Croquet Association?

A: You can join the USCA organization and learn to play over 4 different types of croquet. A USCA membership offers you the ability to connect with other players and clubs throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico. The Association offers training camps, videos, qualified coaches and referees to help you improve and develop your club’s program and facilities.

More information can be found by writing or calling our office at:
United States Croquet Association
700 Florida Mango Road
West Palm Beach, Florida 33406
Phone: (561) 478-0760
Fax: (561) 686-5507

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