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How to play

A croquet lawn features six hoops: four on the outside, forming a rectangular shape, and two inside, plus a peg in the centre. There are four balls, which must pass through each hoop ('run the hoop') in a set order. You can play as doubles, with four players (two teams, one ball each) or singles (two balls each). It's a game of both precision and tactics that's likened to a mix of snooker, chess and golf.

There are several different versions of the game, but the two most common in New Zealand are Golf Croquet and Association Croquet. (Other versions include Ricochet Croquet, where the objective is to hit the other players; Extreme Croquet, which is a combination of cross-country running and golf, mostly played by university students in varying degrees of sobriety; or croquet on ice, with pucks.)

Golf Croquet has only been around for a decade, but it's the version played socially in clubs throughout the country. "It gained a lot of popularity in a really short time because it's easier to understand," explains Greg. It's faster-paced and more social, largely due to the fact that players only have one shot per turn (as opposed to Association Croquet, where you can have 60 or 70).

Play commences in the lower left-hand corner of the field and moves clockwise through the hoops. Each player competes to be the first to knock their ball through the hoop; when a hoop is 'won', that person (or team) scores a point and all players move on to the next hoop. (Only one ball need pass through each hoop.) Once all six hoops have been won, play returns around the lawn in an anticlockwise direction. It's normal to play to a best of 13; you can add a tiebreak hoop if necessary.

Tactics involve focusing as much on knocking your opponents' balls away from the hoop as winning points yourself. While a battle for a hoop can last more than 15 minutes, a game can be over in around an hour, depending on ability.

Association Croquet is played at the world champs and most tournaments. In this version, players compete to reach the end of the course first. Unlike Golf Croquet, each player must run a hoop before they're allowed to move on to the next one.

Association Croquet is where things get a bit more complicated. If you run a hoop, you get a free turn. In addition, if your ball strikes another ball on the lawn (that's called making a roquet), you get to pick up your ball and put it down next to where the other ball comes to rest.You also get two free strokes.

Players aim to 'make a break', or gain a long series of consecutive shots. If you play a perfect game, it's possible to get all the way around the field without anyone else having a turn. As with chess, over time you learn to recognise the best moves for different configurations.