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  An unofficial guide to the 2001 edition of the American Rules
by Jeff Soo
Posted July 12, 2001
 • Readers' Forum on the New Rules
 • Rules for America, New Laws for the Rest of the World

The 2001 edition of "The Official Rules of the United States Croquet Association" arrived in members' mailboxes in June, and the revised rules went into effect on July 1, 2001. This is the first printed revision since 1995, although the new book incorporates two sets of changes: the 1997 revision and the 2001 revision. The online rules and search engine have been taken down while the revised version is being prepared and will soon reappear. Substantive errors and questions of interpretation in the newly printed rule book have given rise to a new national debate on how these matters should be resolved. Members of the USCA Rules Committee and readers are invited to comment in the Readers' Forum linked to this article.

The 2001 revision is more a tune-up than an overhaul. Most of the changes are minor and are intended to improve the clarity of the rules rather than to change the way the game is played. However, there are some substantive changes that all players need to learn.

This article is not an overall guide to the rules. Its scope is limited to the rules changed in the new edition. My intent is to give players, referees and tournament directors clear guidance in interpreting these newly-modified rules. You should have the new rule book at hand while reading this article.

All interpretations in this article are entirely my own, and in some cases may differ from what was intended by the Rules Committee. I am not a member of that committee, and this article is neither authoritative nor official. In my opinion, the rules must be applied as written and not according to any notion of the intent of the rulemakers, if such intent is contrary to how the rules are actually written. However, knowledge of intention or of precedent is certainly useful in cases of genuine ambiguity.

The 1997 revision

These changes were published in the Fall 1997 USCA Croquet Bulletin. The rule book was not reprinted at that time (players were advised to amend their copies), so the 2001 edition is the first time these changes have been printed in the rule book itself.

  • "Exception, Rule 51" was removed from rules 6(c) (this was 6(a)(3) in the old rules) and 47(b)(3).
  • Rule 48(b) was deleted.
  • Rule 51 was changed to exclude wrong ball cases.
  • Rules 51(c)(2) (as rule 51(c)(3) in the old rules) and 51(c)(4) were added, clarifying the definition of misplaced position.

The effect of these changes was to remove the misplaced position "shield" from the striker who strikes a wrong ball. Formerly, the misplacement error would take precedence and allow the striker to continue the turn. After the 1997 revision, whenever the striker strikes a wrong ball the turn ends.

Note that some of the 1997 changes have been reversed in the 2001 revision. See below.

The 2001 edition - general changes

Throughout the rule book there are many minor adjustments of grammar and wording. For example, all references to "he/she" have been replaced by gender neutral language.

Most occurrences of the term "referee" have been replaced by the term "official". This goes along with the addition of rule 54(c), which allows the Tournament Director to appoint persons to take on some of the duties of a certified referee.

In most cases where a rule refers to another rule, the reference has been augmented by a brief description of the relevant part of the rule.

Each rule now has its own descriptive heading.

Some of the rules have been renumbered. Except where noted, this article refers to the rules by their new numbering.

Substantive changes to the basic rules of play

Rule 8(c): When moving one or more balls to avoid special damage, such balls are replaced only if unaffected by the shot. Otherwise they remain where they come to rest.

Rule 24: The striker of a ball in the game (i.e., a ball that has scored #1) may lift any ball not in the game (i.e., a ball that has not scored #1), for any reason, and vice versa. The lifted ball must be replaced immediately after the shot, unless its replacement is interfered with by a roqueted ball or by the striker's ball when it is entitled to continue.

The old rule was commonly misinterpreted, so this change brings the rule into line with common practice.

Substantive changes to the rules governing errors

Rule 27 (and its effect on rule 46(a)(7)): If the striker's ball hits another ball out of bounds, it has not roqueted that ball. This resolves an ambiguity in the old rules. It is now clear that the double tap exemption (see rule 46(a)(7)) does not apply to such a shot.

Players must take special care to play a clean stroke when the striker's ball is very close to another ball, if there is a chance that the other ball will go out of bounds. Both deliberate scatter-shots and accidental rushes out of bounds may result in double-tap faults. (Note that the Rules Committee may have intended a different result. See "Problems of interpretation" below.)

Rule 46(a)(14): It is now a fault to fail to play into the croqueted ball. On a take-off shot, if the striker's ball is played away from the croqueted ball, but the croqueted ball moves anyway (usually by falling toward the striker's ball), the stroke is a fault.

Rule 50 now applies to any misplaced ball. This fills a gap left by the 1997 revision, but may have created additional problems. (See "Problems of interpretation" below).

Rule 51: Lifting a wrong ball after a roquet constitutes misplaced position, and as such, it should be forestalled by the opponent or referee. This is a reversal of one of the 1997 changes.

Substantive changes to the rules governing tournament play

From the "Court Accessories" section of the unnumbered Introduction: The allowable game time limit has been increased to two hours. It remains unclear as to whether this is a guideline or a rule.

From the "Customs and Etiquette" section of the unnumbered Introduction: "Expedient play" is required. This is the old Experimental Rule #2. There is no specific penalty. It is unclear how this rule should be applied, or if it is even a rule and not merely a guideline.

Rule 54(b): The Tournament Director may rule that no corrections are made after it is discovered that a player has run one or more wickets out of order, other than to place that ball's clip correctly. This might be used if such an error is discovered long after its occurrence.

Rule 54(c): The Tournament Director may appoint officials to act as referees with respect to rule 54a (intervention).

Rule 54(d) describes how board-keepers should react when a player hits a dead ball: stop marking changes, unless the fault is condoned. If a player asks the board-keeper to update the board, the board-keeper then informs the players of the fault.

Rule 57(e): In a handicap tournament, the Tournament Director may choose the method of allocating bisques. This is the old Experimental Rule #1.

Rule 60(e): Time-outs taken during out-of-turn play are now restored.

Rule 62(a): The old Experimental Rule #3, for determining which ball is the first ball in last turns, has become the standard rule. If the striker has struck the striker's ball (or passed) before time is called, and there are no further shots in the turn, that ball is not the first ball in last turns.

Experimental Rule #1: allows for the option of multiple last turns rotations.

Selected minor changes

An accidental miss is no longer a fault. However, the result is unchanged: the turn ends. Rules 4(b) and 46(a) have been altered accordingly. This change is essentially semantic and has no real effect on play.

A list of examples has been added to rule 5, describing out-of-turn situations and how to deal with them.

Rules 18 and 19 have been reworded for clarity.

Rules 21 through 24 have been reorganized. The terms "ball in the game" and "ball not in the game" have been defined.

Rule 47(a)(5) has been reworded for clarity.

Rule 56(a): The second occurrence of the word "referee" has been replaced by "striker (who is the referee on that shot)". This clarifies that if no referee is called to watch a questionable shot and a fault is apparently committed, the striker has the final call and may not be overruled.

Nine wicket croquet

There are no substantive changes.

Golf croquet

The old USCA golf croquet rules have disappeared. The rule book refers to the World Croquet Federation rules of golf croquet, and gives a condensed version of those rules.

Errors and omissions resulting from the changes

The Foreword has been replaced by a list of changes in the new edition. However, this list is incomplete, missing several substantive changes.

Rule 27(b)(3) is new, and is there to assist with interpreting rule 40(b) (wiring). Unfortunately, it makes no sense when applied to 27(b)(2). Interpret 27(b)(3) as applying only to 27(b)(1), not to 27(b)(2).

Golf croquet rule 1(b) incorrectly states that the stake is contested after hoop #6 in a 7-point game. 1-back (called hoop #7 in golf croquet) is the seventh point.

Golf croquet rule 1(c): as above, except that the thirteenth point is played by contesting hoop #3 again.

The nine wicket rules are misnumbered from Part 7 onwards.

Problems of interpretation resulting from the 1997 and 2001 revisions

This section is not intended to be comprehensive, and deals only with what I see as the most serious problems resulting from the revisions. My goal is not to criticize the 2001 revision nor to create controversy, but to give players, referees and tournament directors a consistent way of interpreting the new rules.

Rule 27 In the old rules it was unclear as to whether a "roquet" out of bounds was or was not a roquet. This was mainly of importance with regard to the double-tap exemption in rule 46(a)(7). In the new rules this has been cleared up: if the attempted roqueted ball goes out of bounds, the shot is not a roquet. The double-tap exemption applies only to roquets and peg-outs. So if the striker's ball hits another ball out of bounds, the double-tap exemption does not apply, QED.

The rule as now worded is clear, and this type of shot played when the striker's ball is very close to another ball is very likely to result in a double-tap fault. However, I have been advised that the Rules Committee did not necessarily intend for the change to have this effect. They may issue an amendment to change this, presumably by extending the double-tap exemption to attempted roquets under rule 27(f). There will then remain the question of whether or not a deliberate scatter-shot counts as an "attempted roquet". (There is also the obscure question of how to treat shots where the attempted roqueted ball stays in bounds but cannons a third ball out of bounds: is this a roquet?) But until such an amendment is issued, a double-tap that occurs during a scatter-shot or unintentional rush out of bounds is a fault.

Rules 50 and 51 In the 1997 revision, rule 51 was curtailed in scope to apply only to cases where "the striker plays the striker ball from a misplaced position". Also, rule 48(b) was deleted. This left rule 50 as the only rule dealing with cases where a ball other than the striker's ball is misplaced. Since the old rule 50 dealt only with balls less than nine inches from the boundary, this left many cases of misplacement completely outside the scope of the rules. Most players and referees, myself included, failed to notice this at the time, and kept applying rule 51 (incorrectly) to such cases.

This has been corrected in the 2001 revision by expanding the scope of rule 50 to cover all types of misplacement. Unfortunately, this change has created new problems. Rule 50 is now so broad that it completely overlaps rule 51. But the two rules have different limits of claims, and other differences besides, so how are players and referees to apply these rules in cases when either could apply?

This brings up a longstanding problem in the rules: they do not tell us which rule to apply when more than one error or misplay is committed in the same shot, or when one error occurs within the limit of claims of an earlier error. If both of the errors are "fatal" (i.e., turn-ending) then there is not really a problem. But if one of the errors is fatal and the other is non-fatal, which takes precedence? For example, which rule applies if the striker strikes a wrong ball when that ball is misplaced?

My view is that this is a genuine ambiguity in the rules. In such cases we should look first to any rulings issued by the USCA, second to precedent or other quasi-official statements, and as a last resort to common sense. In this case we don't have an official ruling. For precedent we must look to earlier versions of the rules. This is not much help as the 1995 and 1997 rules give conflicting precedents: in the 1995 edition a misplacement error would take precedence over a wrong ball fault, but in the 1997 version the opposite was true. So in the absence of a clear precedent we next look to the putative intent of the Rules Committee, which, I have been advised, is for the misplacement error to take precedence. It is reasonable to extend this principle so that a misplacement error always takes precedence over any fault, if both occur simultaneously or if the misplacement error occurs first. This is hardly a satisfactory method for interpreting the rules, and I hope that the Rules Committee will issue a clear ruling or amendment to resolve this.

What about cases where either rule 50 or rule 51 could apply? That is, the striker plays the striker's ball from a misplaced position. This falls under the scope of both rules. If rule 50 is to apply then the limit of claims is the striker's next shot. If rule 51, then the limit of claims is opponent's next shot. I don't know of a precedent, so I resort to a common-sense interpretation. My view is that since rule 51 is more specific, it should take precedence. Otherwise, rule 51 would be rather useless. Again, I hope that the committee will clear this up with a definitive ruling or amendment.

Note that if the striker plays a wrong ball from a misplaced position, and then plays an additional shot before the errors are discovered, the balls are replaced and the turn ends. This is because the rule 50 limit of claims will have passed at the time of discovery. Rule 51 does not apply in this case!

Finally, when are players and referees supposed to intervene to correct misplacement errors? Rule 50 requires the opponent to intervene whenever any ball "relevant to the shot" is "not properly placed". Rule 54(a)(2) requires a referee to "correct the misplacement of balls". Also, the players have the duties of a referee, except when a referee has been called to make a ruling or watch a questionable shot. Rule 51 gives a restricted definition of "misplaced ball", but this rule only applies to a misplaced striker's ball. At any rate, it appears that an opponent or referee must intervene in any case of misplacement, noting the exceptions in rule 51(c). This interpretation fits well with the idea that a misplacement error always takes precedence over a fault.

Copyright 2001 by Jeff Soo.

[You may make and distribute paper copies of this article, under the following conditions: each copy must include the complete text of the article, unmodified, including this copyright notice. The copies must be distributed free of charge. Electronic distribution or re-publication is prohibited, unless permission has been granted by the author.]

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