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Martha Stewart: Have fun romping in the wicket world

IT USED TO be that almost every house, whether in the suburbs or the country, had a patch of grass large enough for a family to put up a net and play a game of badminton.

IT USED TO be that almost every house, whether in the suburbs or the country, had a patch of grass large enough for a family to put up a net and play a game of badminton.

I have included information on croquet and badminton here; further information on horseshoes and bocce can be found at and One can be a gentle amateur or an aggressive, competitive player at any of these sports. All that really matters is that one gets outside and enjoys nature and friendship at its best.


Born on English lawns in the mid-19th century, this game conjures images of refined garden parties, but expect a day filled with rollicking competition.

EQUIPMENT: Nine wickets, two stakes and four colored balls (blue, red, black and yellow), plus one mallet per player (or teams can share one).

OBJECT OF THE GAME: In nine-wicket croquet, two sides (single players or teams of two) square off on a grassy field set with a course of arched metal-wire wickets and a pair of stakes. The first team to get its balls through the course in the correct order wins.

COURT SETUP: A standard court is 100 by 50 feet, but the size can be scaled to suit your yard. Wickets are arranged in a double diamond, with an extra wicket and a stake at each end. (For backyard play, you may need to alter the course to work around trees and other fixed elements.)

BASIC PLAY: The winner of a coin toss chooses his colors: either blue and black, or red and yellow. (In singles, one person plays two balls; in doubles, it's one player per ball.) Players take turns striking the appropriate-color ball (the "striker ball") with a mallet; the balls are played in the sequence of blue, red, black, yellow. One strike is a turn, unless the ball passes cleanly through a wicket, which earns the player one bonus stroke, or hits another ball (a "roquet"), which earns the player two bonus strokes. In the case of a roquet, the player can pick up the striker ball, move it next to the ball that was roqueted, and hit the striker ball again (a "croquet shot"); after this, the roqueted ball is out of play until a wicket is run or the next turn begins.

SCORING: The first team to maneuver both balls through the course (running all wickets and hitting both stakes) wins. When a ball completes the course, it is removed; remaining colors carry on playing without it.



British officers first played this game - an adaptation of a sport called battledore and shuttlecock - in the 1860s in colonial India.

EQUIPMENT: Lightweight rackets, a net, and shuttlecocks (also called shuttles or birdies; they were traditionally made of feathers but are now commonly found with plastic skirts).

OBJECT OF THE GAME: Volley the shuttlecock across the net without letting it hit the ground.

COURT SETUP: A standard rectangular court measures 44 feet long by 20 feet wide (for doubles) or 17 feet wide (for singles). The net should be 5 feet tall at the center and an inch higher at each end. A service line divides each side into right and left halves.

BASIC PLAY: A player serves a shuttle from her service court to the opposite corner, beginning a back-and-forth rally. The serve must be underhand and below waist level with the racket shaft pointing downward (unlike in tennis). Other strokes may be forehand, backhand, or overhead. The player (or team) who sinks a shuttle on the other side before it can be returned scores a point and wins the rally. The scoring team then serves the shuttle to begin the next rally.

SCORING: A point is earned with every serve. The first player (or team) to reach 21 points wins the game, and the best of three games takes the match.


Address questions to Ask Martha, care of Letters Department, Martha Stewart Living, 601 West 26th Street, 9th floor, New York, N.Y. 10001. Questions may also be sent by e-mail to: mslletters@ Please include your name, address and daytime telephone number.