Belsay Hall Croquet Club

 

An article from the Croquet Gazette in 2005.  things might have moved on since then but the principles hold true.....

Advice & Information on Choosing a Mallet

Dr IanPlummer, author of www.oxfordcroquet.com, gives a guide to the many different types currently available.

If you visit a croquet tournament you will see very few traditional round-headed mallets, mallets are now mostly  square-headed with plastic faces. The Laws of Croquet put few limitations on the form of a mallet (Law 3e). In essence it must symmetrical with identical faces. There are no other requirements on the weight, length or size of the mallet.  If you have no other constraints a standard mallet would weigh 3 pounds total (1.362Kg), have a 36" shaft and a 9-11" head length. This is what would normally be supplied by manufacturers and be a good average for club use.

The weight of a mallet should be concentrated in the head. The shaft should be as light as possible since a heavy shaft serves no purpose. The balance point of the mallet, when resting the shaft on a finger, can be anywhere from 3" away from the head (good) to say 10" away. It is currently considered desirable to have the weight of the head concentrated at the faces. This feature is available from the more specialised mallet manufacturers.

Heavier mallets favour a straight swing and are hence good for hitting-in with, and they are also good for playing roll shots on a heavy lawn. They are not ideal for stop shots or delicate strokes.  Conversely lighter mallets have better touch and produce good stop shots. Heavy rolls with a light mallet can give tendon strains in wrists or forearms.

 Changing the weight of a mallet: heavy mallets can be symmetrically bored out to reduce the head weight and light mallets can either have a ‘sole plate’ of metal screwed to the bottom of the head, or lead can be put in bored holes to make them heavier.  The self adhesive ‘wheel balancing’ lead weights, sold for car wheels, seem practical as they can be added to or removed easily from the head. Some hollow shafted mallets can have sand poured down their shaft to increase their weight.

 Mallet Heads

The material from which a mallet head is made is inconsequential, except if it is a soft material then gathering balls (trundling) with the side of the head will cause it to wear. The faces of modern mallets are usually a hard plastic composite (Tufnol, Perspex, etc) or metal (metal faces were formerly banned).  Ideally the corners and edges of the face of the mallet should have a 1/16"- 1/8" bevel. If the edges are sharp then they may crack or flake during a mis-hit or cut the ball.  Long mallet heads have two advantages; with the weight of the head concentrated near the faces, the mallet head will resist a yawing action (a rotation about the axis of the shaft). Long heads also make roll shots easy, but conversely it is slightly more difficult to play stop shots with them. Short mallet heads are good for stop shots. Many top players use 12" long mallet heads.  The ‘diameter’ or face area of a mallet is normally between 2.25" - 2.5" square. Some expert players favour a very narrow head. Unless you are an expert though this mallet will produce horrendous mis-hits with the slightest deviation. A narrow head can prevent you from being hindered by a hoop or another ball.  The latest ‘high-tech’ mallet heads are made of large diameter (2") carbon fibre tube, faced with 3/8" thick brass disk faces and filled with polyurethane foam to prevent them sounding like a toy drum.

Mallet Shafts

There are three main choices of material at the moment; wood, fibreglass and carbon fibre. The main variables are the weight and stiffness of the shaft. Wooden shafts can either be a single piece of wood or have a short strengthening splice running up from the head.  Manufacturers tend to use ash, hickory or similar woods. Fibreglass shafts comprise of perhaps 12" of fibreglass rod which is recessed into the head and a wooden handle. Carbon fibre shafts are similarly constructed although there is now a model where the carbon fibre rod or tube runs the entire length of the shaft with the grip being comprised of two sections of firm foam glued together encompassing the rod. Metal shafts (heat treated aluminium tube) were popular but these seem to be out of favour at the moment for no good reason).  As indicated above the shaft wants to be light - about 14oz (398g) is typical. The choice then really is how rigid a shaft do you like to play with? The carbon and glass fibre ones tend to be more twangy or whippy than the wood or metal ones. A metal one can smack the hands a little on very hard hits.  For club use the fibre glass or carbon shafts have the advantage that they are almost indestructible.  The cross-section of the grip on most mallets is either octagonal or an elongated octagon. A few mallets have round grips. It is a matter of preference which you use. A round shaft forces you to check that the mallet is pointing forward, whereas an octagonal one gives a tactile feedback as to the orientation of the head. Some manufacturers produce shafts that can be locked at any rotation so that when the shaft lies in your hands the mallet head can be pointing forwards.

Mallet Length

The length and girth of the shaft is a matter of personal choice and style. Unlike many sports there is no simple measurement of the body which will relate to the length of shaft which would be best for you. Some tall people have very short mallets and vice versa. If you hold the mallet using the Solomon grip (i.e. sink plunger grip) you would require a longer mallet than someone using the Irish grip (golf-like grip). My general advice would be to get one an inch or two taller than you think you need - you can always saw off the excess whereas it is difficult to extend a shaft.

Tips

Use lead self-adhesive car wheel balancing weights to make a light mallet heavier.

If you have a wooden mallet ...

Store the mallet vertically over winter so that the shaft does not warp. Avoid hot dry storage places as the wood will shrink and the head become loose.  If the head becomes loose, a short term cure can be to leave the mallet in a bucket of water overnight. The water will swell the wood and make the head tight on the shaft. This treatment can last for a number of weeks. Check the head is aligned before you soak it!  A more permanent fix is to invert the mallet and, holding the shaft, bang the end of the shaft on a pavement or large rock. The momentum of the head will cause it to be forced onto the shaft.  The wedge should be tapped home after this.  If you make a new wedge for a mallet shaft, make it out of a hard wood. Soft wood wedges do not grip for long.