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Build a Croquet Court in Your Backyard

By Brett Freeman
Build a Croquet Court in Your Backyard

The life of a typical croquet set goes something like this. Within minutes of arriving home, someone opens up the packaging in the backyard and immediately sets to placing the stakes and wickets, with occasional references to the instructions. Almost immediately a game is under way, and then another. This goes on for a day or two. And then the following weekend everything is pulled up and set aside so that the lawn can be mowed. Maybe in another month or so someone gets the urge to play and sets the croquet court up again. Or maybe not.

Croquet can be a perfect summer backyard game, relaxing and competitive at the same time. But an uneven playing surface and grass that is too long can bring an element of frustration to croquet, with seemingly perfect shots being sent off line by hidden rocks and bumps. The diminished enjoyment that results adds up to diminished use of the croquet set, but it doesn't have to be this way. With a little preparation and effort, you can build a croquet court in your backyard that will greatly improve your enjoyment of the game.

Choosing the Right Spot to Build the Court

A standard croquet court is mostly level, though slightly crowned, and manicured like a putting green. You don't need that. Level is good, but in your backyard everyone is playing the same court, so who cares if it slopes off to one side or the other? What's more important is to find an area where the grass grows well, drainage is good, and there are no tree roots sticking up above ground level. An area that gets a decent amount of shade is also good. Make your court as big or as small as you like--the rules are easily adapted to whatever you have to work with.

Get a Smooth Court Surface

Natural ups and down in your lawn are fine. Learning to read them can give you a home court advantage. Areas where the ground is rocky or uneven won't work and can cause the ball to hop and change direction unpredictably. Fix these by watering your lawn and dragging an asphalt roller over the surface of the court. Be careful to put just enough water in the roller, and on the court, so that the roller presses the soil smooth, but doesn't mat the grass into the dirt. If you don't want to rent an asphalt roller, you can achieve the same result with a hand tamper, albeit more slowly.

The roller compresses the soil, which can inhibit your lawn's root network so use a plug aerator after the court has dried.

Cut it Down

You want the grass on your croquet court to be short--about an inch-and-a-half or whatever the lowest setting on your mower is. After mowing the first time, use a blower to blow the plugs left behind by the aerator off the court. Now you're ready to put the stakes and wickets in and let the backyard games begin!

Maintenance

Because it is cut so short, the grass on the croquet court needs more water than the rest of your lawn, and you should let it grow longer if you don't plan on playing croquet for an extended period. When you mow, remove the wickets and stakes. Trying to use a trimmer can damage them and the playing surface. And if you anticipate that your croquet court will be used frequently--more than once a week--consider planting Zoysia or Bermuda grass, which thrives at shorter lengths and can stand up to heavy traffic.

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