As you can see by the diagram, the game is set up with two stakes and 9 wickets or "hoops" arranged in a double diamond. Study the image and arrange your wickets and corner flags accordingly - but don't stress yourself striving for perfection! Rules are pretty casual, but croquetters who want to play the real thing should stick to these fundamentals.
As you probably guessed, the point of croquet is indeed to hit balls through hoops by smacking them with your mallet, but there's more to it than that. It's almost like a race! Your goal is to shoot the ball through the wickets in sequence until you hit the stake(s) and finish doing so before your opponent(s). Players begin at a stake, navigate a single side of the double diamond, strike the turning stake at the opposite end, trace their way back on the opposing side of the double diamond and touch the stake that began the game.
9 Wicket Croquet is typically played in teams of two or three individuals per side and like all other games the order is always pre-determined by the color-coded stake! Blue goes first, then red, black, and yellow, but if you're playing with 6 croquet balls and 2 more teams you'll then cap things off with the green gang and finally the orange.
Players have one shot per turn, but earn extra shots by scoring through a hoop or striking the ball of an opponent, called a "roquet." While scoring earns you a single bonus shot, banging into an enemy's ball awards two! An optional "deadness" rule will ensure that a roquetted ball can't be struck repeatedly for more bonuses unless the striking player has first scored another wicket (and really you're going to want that rule otherwise things might get ugly between friends). If a ball ever stops out of bounds, place it inside the boundary in a direct line from its position.
Golf croquet is one of the most popular new forms of the game due to its simplicity, fast pace, and competitive nature, but don't go trading in your favorite croquet mallet for a nine-iron and driver. Golf croquet features the same croquet balls and mallets as other croquet games, but teams/players compete to earn points by being the first and only ball to clear each wicket.
As you can see from the diagram above, the Golf Croquet court looks a bit different from 9 Wicket Croquet, particularly in the way that it has 6 and not 9 wickets. It also features only a single stake, which is planted at center court. While 9 Wicket Croquet can trace its way around the double-diamond from either the right or left side, golf is stricter. See the numbers on the diagram? You'll aim for the #1 hoop and then once someone has scored you'll move onto #2, #3, etc. Once you've completed 6 hoops you'll spiral your way back through the course again and then all the way back up #3 again for a grand total of 13 hoops. Why 13 hoops? Because the first person to 7 points wins!
Each player takes a stroke in turn, trying to hit the ball through the same wicket. As soon as a wicket is won, the sequence of play continues as before, but at the following wicket. If you hit another player's ball through the hoop, that's just bad luck and your opponent gets the point. If two balls go through the hoop on the same stroke, the point is scored by whomever's ball was closest to the hoop at the start of the stroke. Doing poorly and thinking about getting a head-start on the next hoop? You'll be called off-sides and your opponent will have the chance to send you to one of two penalty spots. Golf croquet is a harsh mistress.