Out of Bounds

by Michael Rumbin · 3 March 2016

Going over the rules and Challenging Options eliminates any ill feelings about misunderstandings. Photo by Michael Rumbin

It’s spring. You go into the garage and dig out the croquet set. You notice the blue ball is missing. The game doesn’t start without the blue ball. Then you find it over in the corner with dog teeth marks all over it. The wickets are bent out of shape so you take a little time and straighten them up. You check that the handles are screwed in tight to the mallet heads. Now you are ready to invite family and friends over for the first game.

Nothing is out of bounds

The court has always been defined as the back yard lawn with the driveway and garden Out of Bounds on the South and East and the hedge by the neighbor’s property and end of the grass on the North. Last year, everyone was complaining about the balls going down the driveway and in that dreaded poison ivy patch so you promised a new court with boundary lines. It is time to review the boundary line rules under the basic USCA rules.

When the ball crosses the boundary more than half way it is declared, out of bounds, and brought back in 36 inches or “if players are using mallets of different lengths, you can agree to some common distance”. Your mallets handles are 28 inches, so it will be 28 inches in and perpendicular to the boundary line. Any ball that goes out of bounds is immediately brought back in 28 inches. There is no penalty. Play resumes. When the strikers ball hits another ball, and his goes out of bounds, the striker may choose to place his ball in contact with the ball or a mallet head apart. It also says if two balls cross the boundary on the same spot, the striker may measure any ball inbounds first and then place the other ball up to a mallet head away on either side.

Perhaps it’s time to really define a “court” and play by the challenging options associated with boundary lines.

First you will have to size up the court. It can be any length you have available to you or you could impose the standard 50 × 100 foot dimensions of regulation court size. Then you will need string. Hardware stores sell a very durable nylon line used for masonry and landscape work that comes in white and bright yellow or pink. You should think about some sort of spool to hold the string and allow you to play it out easily and coil it up. Doing it by hand around a stick will be tiresome and lead to twists and knots in the line.

Nylon construction line wound on home made spools with handles for easy setup and takedown. The corner markers stand about 9 inches tall. Photo by Michael Rumbin

Then there are the corner stakes. You will need four. They can be made of anything from large 10 penny nails to sticks or dowels. I have made a set out of ¾ inch dowels and painted them blue, red, black and yellow to stand for the corner flags. This dresses up the court a bit and gets the expectation set higher for the competition. I set out the corner stakes starting with Blue in the SE corner, and go around the court counterclockwise ending with yellow in the SW corner.

You will have to set the two stakes and four side wickets in from the boundary line. On a full size court they are set in two yards. On a smaller court you can do less, but one yard is probably the smallest distance for a good setup.

Now let’s review the Challenging Options for playing with defined boundary lines.

Option 2. Out of Bounds Play

A) A ball is considered out-of-bounds if it is more than halfway over the boundary line which is considered to be the inside edge of the boundary marking. If a striker sends any ball(s) out of bounds as the result of their shot, all balls shall be measured in 9” from the spot where they crossed the boundary line and the turn ends.

The only exceptions to this are when the striker’s ball crosses the boundary line as the result of a roquet (where it is then lifted and placed either in contact or up to 9” from the roqueted ball) or a striker ball directly hits (not a cannon) any other ball out of bounds after it has roqueted a ball (any such ball is marked in and the striker takes croquet from the roqueted ball). Additionally, any ball coming to rest within 9” of the boundary shall be marked in 9” prior to the next shot unless it is the striker ball and it has any remaining shots. Any balls within the 9” at the end of a turn shall be marked in 9” inches. A mallet head is normally 9” in length. Longer heads should have a 9” mark on it for the placing of balls.

So the game has tightened up a bit. No longer can you continue your turn after going out of bounds and no longer can you send another ball off the court and continue play. Also by bringing the balls in only 9 inched they become much more difficult targets for extra shots because they are so close to the boundary line.

If you cannot find an answer in the basic rules or FAQ’s section go to the Contact tab and send a message to the Chairman or USCA. In the meantime, the players should decide and carry on but if that is impossible, the striker shall rule and thereby set the precedent until someone gets back to you.

Enjoy the game and keep out of the poison ivy.

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