croquet (krōkāˈ) [key], lawn game in which the players hit wooden balls with wooden mallets through a series of 9 or 10 wire arches, or wickets. The first player to hit the posts placed at each end of the field wins. The game developed in France in the 17th cent. Though the American public identifies it as a casual picnic sport, higher levels of play that feature manicured playing surfaces, skilled shotmaking, and cutthroat strategy increased in the 1980s. An annual contest between the United States Naval Academy and St. John's College of Annapolis is a growing rivalry.