Choosing Mallets for your Croquet Sets
The most important part of your croquet set is your mallet.
Croquet equipment that comes with a croquet set usually consists of mallets, balls, hoops and a center peg or winning peg. The most important of these components, however, is the croquet mallet. This accessory, whether for professional, social or casual players, is not only important in that it must feel comfortable, but is also key for making clean and accurate shots.
Mallet size can matter- if in doubt, go larger.
Choosing a proper mallet for a more regular social play can be a daunting task. There are different materials, styles of heads, shaft styles, lengths and weights. Children's croquet equipment obviously boasts smaller mallets, but for adults the size differences can either make or break your game. Which croquet set you choose, often determines the size of your mallet. For instance, indoor sets have smaller, lighter mallets than garden sets. Normally, however, a mallet is around 2 to 3 pounds and generally 36 inches in length. Purchased individually or custom made, the length and weight can vary depending on your play style, need and preference. If you are in doubt about your mallet's size, larger is better. Choose a shaft that is an inch or two longer than your first guess, giving you some room for manoeuvre. If it is too long, you can always shorten the mallet. Heavier and larger heads lead to fewer mis-hits. Narrower heads keep hoops from hindering your shots; however, they often cause terrible mis-hits for the less experienced. Overall, larger heads are generally more accurate.
Croquet mallet heads.
The mallet head comes in different sizes, shapes, styles and materials. The one thing that all heads share is the beveled edges that range from between an eighth of an inch to a sixteenth of an inch. The edges around the head are beveled to keep from chipping or denting your head as well as from chipping or cracking the croquet balls during your strike. While most heads are wood and can be hollowed out to add metal balls or rods for weight, some are molded from stainless steel or carbon fiber. Some heads are round, while others are square. In certain cases they are a beautiful mix of both.
Brass rings protect your heads.
Having a head with brass rings, or ferrules, as protection will extend the life of your wooden croquet mallet head. Some croquet sets generally do not have these protective measures, so keep this in mind. These rings keep your head from splintering or chipping in the case of mis-hits. They also add heft to make it more stable. While these rings are mostly functional, they can also lend beauty and style to your otherwise plain croquet mallet. Mallets with brass rings are consistent with the better and also more expensive croquet sets on the market.
End plates are not just for protection.
End plates can adorn both faces of the mallet head. These are often fashioned from a durable plastic, usually Perspex or Tufnol. Like the brass rings, end plates keep your head from damage. Recently however, rules have allowed the use of metal. These increase the head length and create increases in inertia and striking face mass. The functionality also aids in accuracy, keeping your mallet from twisting on off-center strikes and lending stability during your swing.
A mallet's weight and length matters.
Mallets range in weight - between 2 and 3 pounds. The heavier the weight, the sturdier it is. With this in mind, it is also worth mentioning that the heavier your head, the stronger your shaft should be. When it comes to play, mallet head length can be a conundrum. Longer heads benefit roll shots, while stop shots are easier with a shorter head. Finding a middle ground is not always easy. However, the better you get at the game, the less of an issue this becomes. For social play this is less of a factor.
What materials are mallet heads made of?
Most often, a mallet head is made of a hard wood such as hickory or ash. These enable drilling for added custom weights and other personalization. In recent years, however, more high tech heads are available. Carbon fiber and steel are common among croquet sets now, and offer different benefits such as durability and the reduction of added weight. However, starting off with a wooden mallet will enable you to find the weight that best suits your style of play.
A good croquet mallet needs a good shaft. The shaft needs to be sturdy enough to support the head's weight, and strong enough not to shatter near the head on hard shots.
Structure of the handle does matter.
There are two different styles of handles for most mallets - those that are round, and the octagonal ones. This is mostly a matter of preference. Octagonal handles enable you to find the orientation of your head without looking. Round shafts force you to look at your head to make sure it is facing the correct direction.
Having a cushioned grip on your handle provides comfort, especially for metal shafts. Hard hits with a metal shaft can sting your hand but a well-padded grip minimizes pain and shock. Having a roll grip near the head also offers better control for roll shots.
With handle and grip styles, you need to know specifics. Wooden shafts have a few drawbacks from other firmer materials. If the wood is not hard enough, it can give during a strike and decrease your accuracy. Ensuring you have a hardwood shaft or a stronger material prevents this slight bend. On the other hand, the rigidity of your shaft is also a matter of personal choice and comfort. No matter what you choose, a shaft should be light - around 14 ounces. If you do choose wood as your material, adding a sturdier 12" rod from the head decrease your chances of snapping your shaft during harder strikes.
Which mallet is best for you?
For a social player, whether competitive or just for fun, finding the proper croquet equipment for your game can be as easy as finding what is available and what your preferences are. Find a mallet that is to your liking and the rest will follow. Once you have your mallet chosen, the rest depends on where you are playing. Croquet sets with heavier, regulation balls (16 ounces) are more for sculpted croquet lawns and heavier mallets. Lighter weight balls (12 ounces), for normal recreation, are better for gardens and normal lawns and are less of a risk to lighter mallets. If you choose to play indoors, the choice of hoops and winning pegs narrows down to weighted equipment, while lawns use wire hoops. The thicker and narrower the hoops, the closer you get to tournament standard and a more difficult game.
Packaging to suit your needs
The last thing you should think of is how you will store your croquet set. This depends on how much travel you will do with your set. Where you go, how mobile it needs to be, and how much croquet equipment you have will determine whether you need a wooden box, toolkit croquet set bag, a simple nylon bag, or a convenient trolley. No matter what your needs, there is a cost effective and safe solution to store and transport your croquet set for each use.
- Andre Boeke