From our coach, Pixie Jones (see 'Documents' for an easy-to-print PDF version)
Hoop Running If you tried and have persevered with my suggestions on stalking last month, you should by now be finding a vast improvement with your roquets.
What about your hoop running? We have lovely new hoops at Orewa but getting used to them can take time. If your ball placement is accurate, obviously you will have more success in both Golf and Association. You can be very accurate if you follow a few simple suggestions.
Ball placement in golf croquet requires the continual practice of “depth of hit” in a single ball shot. You can alter how far your ball is travelling by either shortening your back swing or by controlling your follow through. Either method will help but practice is needed to get it right most of the time in order for your “muscle / brain” to kick in. A good practice to use in a game situation is to concentrate on always landing in a hoop running position when going to the next hoop, especially if you are the first player to the next hoop. In the situation where you are doing a stun shot to send the opposition away from a hoop, again your shot should be controlled to enable your ball to finish in a hoop running position.
Association is somewhat different. If taking croquet from the playing side of the hoop, you want the forward ball to finish up on the non-playing side while your ball stops in a hoop running position. In the past we were always told “roll to your hoop”. But what kind of a roll, how far do we tip our mallets forward? If we roll the balls from a metre away, where will the forward ball end up? Probably beside the hoop, which means the next roquet is not going on toward the next hoop. As a coach, I do not use the expression, “roll to your hoop”. Unless croquet is being taken from 4 or more metres away, all we have to do is tip our mallets forward slightly and understand that by doing so our ball will travel a bit further while the forward ball will travel approximately the same distance as it would if our mallets were more upright. Therefore if taking croquet from one metre away, try a stop shot; two metres, a drive; three metres, tip your mallet forward slightly into overdrive; further away, start tipping your mallet forward a bit more. Remember that when tipping the mallet forward, the feet come forward and the hands move down the mallet and part company.
Lots to think about, but the first thing is to understand it all. By putting a forward tilt on your mallet, stepping forward a little and bringing your hands down the mallet a little, (overdrive) the ball you are using will travel further in comparison to the distance the forward ball will travel. In other words the ratios of the two balls. In a stop shot you step back, tilt your mallet back and arrest your follow through. Your ball will not travel far in comparison to the forward ball. In a drive, which has a follow through while you are standing in the normal roqueting position, your ball will travel further than in the stop shot but not as far as in the overdrive where your mallet starts tipping forward. Step out the distances each ball travels for these three shots, work out your ratios and understand what is happening.
When it comes to making that all important hoop, a small backswing is preferable with a low, smooth, almost slow follow through which will take the ball on through the hoop. Hitting at the ball will only make it come back at you if it touches the legs of these new hoops!! Your backswing should not be faster than your forward swing and follow through. Low and slow.
And in all shots KEEP YOUR HEAD DOWN until the follow through is completed.