Looking for something different to do as family, we decided to try our hand at the game of croquet. Broadbeach Croquet Club, offer a come and try session - of Golf Croquet on Saturdays and Gateball on Sundays. Broadbeach is a small club, currently with 31 members, tucked in next to the Bowls Club and adjacent to the Soccer Club. The Club has one full size croquet court and lighting for evening play.
We were greeted by enthusiastic, friendly members who introduced us to some of the basics of croquet, encouraged us to try some shots and then, when we were able to hit more than miss, we started a game. Golf Croquet is played as singles or doubles and the aim is to be the first through the hoop, at which point you claim the hoop and all players move on to the next hoop. 2 pairs team up to play a foursome. 4 different coloured balls are used and the sequence of play is decided after the toss. Heads it was and I was first up. It's not difficult to play although you soon realize it's not quite as simple as it first looks and those hoops do not leave much room for error when it comes to hitting the ball clean through. They are deceptively narrow in fact and the ball often stops right in the "doorway". You need an accurate hit for it to coast straight through.
Once your basic swing is established and you stop hitting too hard (repeatedly sending your ball off the field) and too soft (where it goes relatively nowhere) then the next fact about croquet dawns on you. What you thought was just a simple game transforms into one of strategy and tactics. That gentle, little old lady suddenly comes into her own and is knocking your ball back through the hoop just when you managed to get close. The smiling man blocks your way with a tactical shot and teams outwit you by knocking forward their partner's ball when the angle blocks their shot at the hoop. You realize that the combination of both the mental and physical exercise is what hooked these club members in the first place. Without realizing, you will walk for several hours - they say an average of 3.5kms in a game - which sounds a lot but when you think of how many times you retrieve your ball off the side as it shoots out of play, as a beginner, 3.5km is probably a good estimate.
Broadbeach Croquet Club is next to the Bowls Club and Soccer Club
The afternoon we were there, we enjoyed the warm winter sun under clear blue skies. Tea and a biscuit were a welcome stop halfway through the afternoon then it was back on court for another game. I can see why people get hooked. It's fun, mentally stimulating and good exercise, in the company of a cheerful, friendly group of people.
The leaflet I picked up on our visit states: "The history of croquet is clouded in mystery" so I was intrigued to read some more about the game. It appears to have started in Ireland and been taken to England in the early 1850's. It quickly became a hit, since it provided the opportunity for women to take part in an outdoor sport on an equal basis with men, although early games were carefully chaperoned. It gave Victorian teenagers an excuse to push the social boundaries of the time. A kick hidden by a long skirt or the purposeful hard hit off course meant a chance to follow your opponent into the shrubbery to find a lost ball. The Victorians loved it. By the 1860's garden parties began to be called croquet parties. There are some fun croquet cartoons from Punch, concerning the prudery of the time and how the limits were pushed.
In 1868 the All England Croquet Club was formed who leased 4 acres in Wimbledon. Tennis appeared in the 1870's, swept the country and in 1877 the club's name changed to the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club and the first lawn tennis championship was held at Wimbledon. As croquet faded somewhat in the face of tennis in England, it became all the rage in America. It was played at the 1904 Olympics, which was won by an American.
There are some 270 clubs in Australia. Visit Croquet Australia for more information and to find your nearest club. The four Mallet Sports played are: Association Croquet, Golf Croquet, Ricochet and Gateball. Southport Croquet Club are keen to introduce Gateball into schools so give Julia or Barbara a call if you are keen to hear more (President Julia Vickers 07 5532 3521 email: email@example.com, Secretary Barbara Northcott, 07 5577 5079 email:firstname.lastname@example.org). Gateball is played in teams of 5, uses wider hoops (gates), smaller balls and a game lasts just 30 mins.
Balls and mallets can be borrowed for beginners, just wear runners and take a hat along as you'll be out in the sun. If you get hooked then a mallet will set you back around $90 and above.