Croquet is believed to have started in Ireland in the 1830’s. The game, then called “crooky,” was introduced to England from Ireland in 1852. It became widely popular when London sporting goods manufacturer John Jaques began selling complete croquet sets. With the availability of equipment, croquet became one of the favorite social and recreational activities of the British leisure class. By 1870, it was recognized throughout the British colonies. It was widely popular with young people – particularly women – who, when playing the game, were able to socialize with men out of the earshot of chaperons.
The growth of croquet slowed somewhat with the introduction of lawn tennis at the beginning of World War I. But during the 1930’s and 1940’s, it enjoyed a comeback. During this time, smaller croquet sets were made and sold with simplified rules. It was marketed as a backyard children’s game. Many people grew up playing the informal backyard version of croquet with 9 wickets and 2 stakes. That version was usually played following house rules on bumpy lawns. Some estimate that over 100,000 backyard croquet sets are still sold each year.
In the late 1970’s, croquet began to be played as a competitive sport and has grown in popularity in the United States and Canada since that time. Competitive croquet is now played in over twenty countries. The number of competitive players in the United States has grown from 50 to over 8,000 due in large part to efforts of international and national croquet organizations such as Croquet Canada and the United States Croquet Association.
It is the competitive version of croquet – played with 6 wickets and 1 stake – which is experiencing dramatic growth. Because croquet is played by men and women of all ages, it has become a very social game. Divisions exist only among skill levels so competition is available for both beginners and seasoned players.
* Information summarized from The Croquet Foundation of America's "History of Croquet"