We have all heard of croquet, but what is Golf Croquet? Croquet Victoria invited us to find out on a beautiful Wednesday morning at the Brunswick Malletsport Club.
Instructed to wear white and come in sensible shoes, a curious and confused group of media peeps lined up like novices on the edge of the lawn with little idea what to expect. To our immense surprise, we discovered a sport which is sociable, easy to learn, and even easier to play (as long as scoring isn't your only goal).
Golf croquet is like the 20/20 cricket of the mallet sports world. This version of croquet is quick - although that may depend on skill level - and still has all the fun of running the hoops and just a little bit of strategy to liven things up. In fact golf croquet seems to be more fun when played as doubles (or even trios) because once you start working in teams the stakes raise and strategy really kicks in.
Split into pairs, we were assigned instructors who showed us the grips and explained the rules of the game. The first lesson was how to hold and swing the mallet. Although the game is called 'golf' croquet, players tend to hit the ball from between the legs rather than in a golf club style. There are a number of grips depending on the flexibility of your wrists. The classic hold is the 'Irish Grip'. Apparently the Egyptian players prefer this grip and they hit the ball so hard and fast that special safety fencing will be erected during the World Championships!
After initial training we were split into pairs to face off against each other. The idea is to 'run the hoops' which means to get your ball through the arch-like pegs in the ground. The game is played in a specific order, but it is cut-throat so once a ball has run a hoop nobody else can play that hoop and you all have to move on to the next one.
My partner Craig (pictured top) and I soon discovered that he was very good at aiming and shooting, and I was very good at sabotage and sledging our opponents - I am an Australian after all! I spent my time knocking their balls out of alignment or just getting in the way and he went and won the game for us - although he did suffer his fair share of 'blobs'. A blob is when a ball stays inside the jaw of the hoop and doesn't go through. You don't win the hoop if the ball doesn't go all the way through.
Finishing with a lot of giggles, a few gasps of amazement, and some friendly rivalries in place we sat down to a delicious breakfast provided by Lola Barry. The food was vegan/gluten free and yet tasted as though created by angels. The chia seed porridge with fresh fruit was divine.
Golf croquet is really fun and a great family game for the park and the backyard if you are sick of hitting or kicking balls over fences and onto the road, and want something everyone can join in on. Everyone can play and in fact, Victoria's youngest entrant in the World Championships is Jack Williams (19) who started playing with his grandmother when he was little.
With at least 90 croquet clubs around Victoria you will have no problem finding somewhere to learn and laugh and cheer. Eventually you too could master the 'Jump shot' and the 'Dambuster'.
To get those inspirational juices check out the pros at the Golf Croquet World Championships. Spectator entry is free at all events. All you have to do is register.