Croquet can be played as light-heartedly as it can seriously, from the back garden to international level. There are a few basic skills to learn but most people get the hang of these within a few minutes. These will be sufficient to give you immediate fun. So put aside any thoughts that it has to be a complicated game. Many, many people are happy to come along, meet their friends, have a cup of tea and bash a few balls through hoops. But if you want it to be complicated that’s not a problem!
Few sports cater for as wide an age range as croquet and is played by men and women as equals, which, of course, they are. If you can walk, you can play. You can only manage to play for 45 minutes? There is a game for you. Want to stretch yourself? You can play from dawn until dusk. True, it’s not aerobic. The heart rarely races. Ice baths are not necessary. But if you are keen you may walk up to 10 miles a day.
But it always looks so complicated, doesn’t it? Well, yes, it can be but it need not be. The best level of play requires considerable skill, a good range of shots and tactical awareness. Most folk will never get that far but can still have a good time.
OK, I can hit a ball through a hoop but surely there has to be more? Indeed there is but how much more is down to you. You may want to develop your game. You can improve you skills, you can learn to be competitive. If so there are a wide range of competitions you may want to play in from internal club events through inter-club matches right up to international level tournaments.
Golf Croquet is popular because the basics are quick to learn, it is directly competitive and each game is relatively short. Association Croquet starts with relatively simple shots but also has a more complex range of shots and strategy that can be learned. It involves break-building to advance your own position while denying your opponent the opportunities s/he needs. For some, it is these additional challenges that make Association Croquet the more interesting form of the game and worth the extra effort to learn it.
Can I try before joining the Club? Yes, of course. Our club day is on Tuesdays throughout the season and you are assured a warm welcome but advise a quick call to our club chairman, Stuart Smith on 01886 853311, or our secretary, John Guy, on 01905 748192, before venturing out.
Do I need my own equipment? Are mallets expensive? We advise against buying your own mallet too soon, the Club has its own that can be used. However, you will eventually want to buy one because, like any tool, club, racket etc, different mallets have different characteristics. One will suit you better than another. Second-hand mallets are surprisingly hard to find, a sign that once a player has settled on a mallet, they feel no need to change. A basic mallet can be bought for around £100 while the latest high-tech ones sell for between £300 and £400. In between there are a number of more traditional (and beautiful) wooden mallets designed for tournament play. When you get to the stage of wanting to buy, seek advice.
What have you got to lose? If all else fails you will get free tea/coffee and biscuits in one of the most beautifully situated croquet clubs in Britain.
This article has been reproduced with the kind permission of Ealing Croquet Club.