The intermediate range covers players who are roughly in the region from handicap 4 to 14. The notes below are taken from the Intermediate Coaching Sessions that Robin Brown kindly gave to an assortment of OUACC members during Trinity Term 2002.
For the first half of the session we went back to basics, considering briefly how to make good rushes, before looking at ways to play different croquet strokes. Following that, we looked at peeling, using both standard and Irish peels. With less serious intent we tried the Aspinall peel, before moving onto the rover peel and the straight double.
To avoid jumps, which either miss or top the rushee, guard against the "magnet effect" that draws you forwards towards the rushee, leading you to play down upon your ball. Concentrate instead on trying to hit the stroke exactly as you would were it a single ball stroke, in which you are hitting your ball coincidentally in a direction such that it will hit the rushee.
The primary issue to come out of the discussion of croquet strokes, was not so much how to play each stroke, as the importance of having a way to play the strokes reproduceably. This is particularly true in the stop shot, in which it is easy to become seduced by a desire seek large ratios of distances travelled, at the expense of consistency of either power or ratio.
Stop Shots and the Standard Drive
There are two ways to try to play stop shots, and only one is consistent enough to rely upon. Firstly a description of the unreliable method:
Many people try to play a shot in which the rear end of the head is simultaneously grounded as the head meets the striking ball. Although this technique can produce very impressive ratios of distances travelled by the two balls, when it works, it is not consistently reproduceable, due to the requirement to try to synchronise the grounding of the mallet with the short time during which the face is in contact with the rear ball (about 1ms). The difficulty in synchronising the stroke correctly causes variations in both the ratio of distances, and in the energy imparted to the balls.
The second approach to playing stop shots is to perform them in a similar manner to the standard drive, and so it is useful to consider the standard drive first:
Stand a comfortable distance behind the ball, and play the shot as per a single ball stroke, following through. You may wish to have the lower hand just a little lower down the shaft than for the single ball stroke.
For the stop shot, stand back a further one or two inches from where you stood for the straight drive. Keep both hands close together at the top of the shaft, but in quite a relaxed grip, so that the mallet drops like a pendulum. Let the mallet swing freely, but without any deliberate effort to promote follow through.
This will produce a shot with ratios that are only slightly larger than the standard drive. However, its great advantage is that it will reproduce the same ratios every time.
Roll Shots - Full, Half and Pass Rolls
Three inter-related ways to 'bring up the rear ball' closer to the front one are to stand further forward, play down onto the rear ball, and hold the mallet with one or both hands slightly lower. Exactly how much of each of these parameters is combined with the others to achieve each type of roll is very much an individual matter: again it is the ability to be consistent that matters most.
Regarding playing down onto the ball, this is a matter of having the handle tilted forwards. This means that the striking face points downwards, when it makes contact with the ball, forcing a good contact between the ball and the ground, consequently imparting spin onto the ball.
How the hands are moved down the shaft is again a matter of personal preference, but bear in mind that it is not necessary to keep the upper hand at the top of the shaft. For the full roll the hands might come down to the 60 and 20% positions (as measured up the shaft), and for a partial roll they would then tend to be somewhere between those positions and the top.
Besides tilting the handle even further forward, a second difference that can be introduced to separate the full and pass rolls, is to play the full roll with the mallet driven in a horizontal direction (tilted), and to play the pass roll driving the mallet downwards, in the direction the head is pointing.
- Croquet Stroke Conclusion
These points are provided hoping to offer some suggestions to help in playing croquet shots, and not as hard and fast rules. The only thing that can be dictated, is that every effort should be made to achieve consistent croquet strokes, allowing you to concentrate just on the power, knowing exactly which ratio you will get from applying that power in your chosen manner.
There are various times when it is useful to peel balls through their next hoops. One of the most common occassions is the rover peel, which is frequently done when you are also for rover, described in the next section as the 'standard' rover peel. In the standard triple it is also convenient to peel 4-b and penult immediately following having gone through 3 and 6 respectively, prior then to performing the standard rover peel.
However, it is not only possible to peel balls when you are for the same hoop. It can also be possible to make peels at other times, when on the way to nearby hoops. For example, the rover peel can be attempted when on the way to 2-b, or at several other occassions.
The great thing about a peel is that it is actually a pretty accurate shot, especially for the front ball, the peelee. With an in-line (not split) peel it is possible to run a hoop with confidence from a greater distance than with a conventional single ball shot.
Although it may feel slightly foolish, when lining up the balls for a peel, in order to guarantee that the front ball goes exactly where it is intended, it really is necessary to get down onto the grass, and look along the side of the balls, with your head on one side, so that your eye is at the same level as the sides of the balls.
When the peel is angled, aim so that the front ball will just miss the near wire (as per a single ball, angled shot).
It is useful not to be too close to the hoop, when playing a standard peel, where you are intending not to follow through on the continuation stroke, as this would limit how hard you could croquet the peelee whilst still remaining in hoop running position with the striker's ball, and consequently how far the peelee can be sent through the hoop (it is generally undesirable to roquet the peelee in the hoop running shot). Also, as with a single ball shot, if the peel is played close to the hoop and hard, then it will have little opportunity to pick up spin, so that if it hits a wire it will be less able to continue through.
Conversely, for an Irish peel, in which both balls pass through during the croquet stroke by using a roll, it is desirable to be reasonably close to the hoop, since any inaccuracy in the angle of the mallet will have an amplified effect in the rear ball (compared with how it would have been in a single ball shot).
For a little light relief we contemplated the Aspinall peel. This is a way of playing a peel at an angle beyond that at which balls ordinarily run hoops. The intention is to jaws the peelee, and then to promote it through using the striker's ball. This is done by playing the croquet stroke as a slightly split roll, such that the peelee just misses the near wire and stops in the jaws, and the striker's ball follows, slightly angled away from the hoop, so that it will knock the peelee and promote it through. It can be played up to about 60% off the centre line of the hoop. It should be borne in mind though that this is not a terribly high percentage shot, although needs must when the devil drives...
The Standard Rover Peel
The rover peel is an extremely useful shot in any player's armoury. What is described below applies only in the case of the 'standard' rover peel, performed when the striker's ball is also for rover, and with the intention of pegging-out the peelee. When making the peel earlier, as can be worthwhile attempting, it will be neccessary to arrange things quite differently, but that case is not considered in this article. (An example of when it could be played early is if the peelee was your 3-b reception ball, and you get a good rush out of 3-b across to rover and the pivot is also reasonably close to rover, then it is worth having a go, since there is little lost so long as the peelee remains close to rover.)
The standard rover peel differs from most other peels in that it is pretty much the only time that a peel is made through a hoop just before playing through it yourself. This difference brings with it a risk, in that if the peelee should become stuck in the jaws, or pass through by only a small distance, then it makes running the hoop successfully and pegging out both balls problematic. Consequently, to improve the saftey of this tactic, it is desireable to have both of the other balls carefully positioned at useful places within the field of play: one is used as the reception ball, and the other is placed S of rover, just a few yards from the boundary. This second ball is known as the 'escape ball', and can save the break if a jump or half-jump through the hoop should be neccessary, to pass over a jawsed peelee, frequently leaving the striker's ball at the boundary. (You would not use this arrangement of balls for any other peel, since then you would have no pioneers with which to continue your break!).
The cardinal rule is that the peelee shouldn't be the pioneer on penult... Pioneer on 4-b is ideal, although having the peelee as pivot is also perfectly acceptable. So, if the peelee is the 3-b reception ball, either try to position it at rover after 3-b, if convenient, or simply swap pivot, bringing it close to penult. How to perform the rover peel from this latter case, in which the peelee is the pivot, and is brough down towards penult is discussed below:
- After 4-b send the reception ball to rover, whilst getting a N-facing rush on the peelee, to a comfortable distance beyond penult's pioneer.
- Stop the peelee back down the lawn, into position, getting onto the rushline for penult. It is more important at this stage for the peelee to be close to the rover pioneer, than to try to put it into perfect peeling position.
- Seek to get a S-facing rush after penult, and croquet the reception ball close to the boundary S of rover, as the escape ball, whilst getting close to the rover pioneer. It can be advantageous to position the escape ball slightly off from the axis of the hoop.
- The aim in the previous croquet stroke was to get a useful rush on the pioneer, not a rush for the hoop, but a rush for getting onto the peelee's rushline.
- Position the reception ball beside the hoop, whilst getting a really good rush on the peelee. It is useful to arrange for the reception ball to be off to the opposite side of the centre line from the escape ball. This can make life slightly easier if it becomes necessary to use the reception ball to promote the peelee off axis, if it has not run very far through rover.
- Rush the peelee and peel, peeling with a standard drive type of croquet stroke.
- Go through the hoop, aiming not to hit the peelee.
What happens next depends on how far through the peelee goes:
- So long as the peelee came through a reasonable distance, and so can be rushed to the peg fairly easily, use the reception ball to get behind the escape ball, and rush close to the peelee, so as to get a really good rush on it towards the peg.
- If the peelee did not come through very far, try to run the hoop without roqueting it. Then roquet the reception ball, and play a split shot aiming to promote the peelee off of the axis of the hoop, whilst getting close to the escape ball. From the escape ball take-off to get a good rush on the peelee towards the peg. It was for this scenario that it was useful to position the reception and escape balls off axis and on opposite sides of the axis, since it makes the promotion shot easier.
- If the peelee sticks in the jaws, or barely goes through, it is necessary to consider jumping, or half-jumping through the hoop. This gives you a good chance of flying through the hoop at high speed, and is the scenario that uses the escape ball, positioned near the boundary.
The Straight Double
To perform the penult and rover peels, at the same time as the striker's ball, is quite a useful technique to practice:
- Before 4-b, position both the peelee and pivot at penult.
- Position the 4-b reception ball as a long-range pioneer on rover: about halfway from rover to the peg is ideal, getting a useful rush on the old pivot.
- Rush that past the peelee, and then stop that as the penult reception ball, whilst getting a good rush on the peelee.
- Since avoiding roqueting the peelee as you go through the hoop is a serious consideration, it is generally advisable to rush close to the hoop, and then perform an Irish peel (as described in the section below, even if the balls collide after they've been through the hoop, it doesn't count as a roquet).
- Use the reception ball to get a good rush on the peelee, down near rover, or the pioneer.
- Perform a standard peel. Then use the pioneer run the hoop, and use it again to get a good rush on the peelee, towards the peg.
Hoop and Roquet
The ruling on hoop and roquet can appear to be slightly counter-intuitive in some cases, but serves to remove the need to try to judge the positions of balls when in motion. This law is of relevance when playing through a hoop where another ball is in or near the hoop, and when playing Irish peels.
- If the second ball is clear of the rear (non-playing side) surface of the hoop prior to playing through the hoop, and the ball is hit as (or after) the striker's ball runs the hoop, then it is deemed to have made both a hoop and a roquet. This applies even, for example, if the second ball is only just clear of the hoop, meaning that you would ordinarily think that the roquet was made whilst the striker's ball was still within the hoop. Similarly, in the case of an Irish peel, the balls are not deemed to have made a roquet after passing through the hoop, even if they have touched after the hoop (unless of course they actually stop in contact).
- Conversely, if the second ball was not clear of the rear surface of the hoop prior to the hoop run, then if the ball was entitled to make a roquet, the ball is deemed to have made that roquet prior to completing the hoop, and consequently did not score the hoop.
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