A Long Short History of Croquet

From an Introduction to the Sport

Croquet is believed to have been first played by thirteenth century French peasants who used crudely fashioned mallets to whack wooden balls through hoops made of willow branches.

The origins of the modern game have been traced back to 1852 when a game called "crooky" was introduced to England from Ireland where it had been played since the 1830's. Widespread popularity came when a London sporting goods manufacturer by the name of John Jaques began selling complete croquet sets (John Jaques & Sons remain the foremost manufacturer of croquet equipment today). With the availability of equipment, croquet flourished and soon became one of the primary social and recreational activities of the British leisure class.

By 1870 croquet had reached virtually all of the British Colonies where it continued to gain recognition through the turn of the century. Given the nature of Victorian courting codes, it is not surprising that young people-particularly women-relished the game, which gave them the opportunity to socialize out of earshot of chaperons!

With the introduction of lawn tennis and the onset of World War I, the growth of croquet began to wane. But during the 1930's and 1940's croquet enjoyed a resurgence, particularly with the "literati" on the east coast and the "glitterati" on the west coast of North America. After World War II, toy makers miniaturized the standard croquet set, simplified the rules and marketed croquet as a backyard "children's game."

Croquet began its revitalization as a competitive sport in the late 1970's and has continued to grow in popularity throughout the U.S. and Canada since that time.


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Croquet Today
by Ross Robinson, Former Canadian Champion

The sport of croquet is now played competitively in over twenty countries. The growth of the sport can be largely attributed to the efforts of international and national croquet organizations such as Croquet Canada and the United States Croquet Association. Since the early 1980's the number of competitive players in North America has risen from 50 to over 8,000.

Many Canadians are familiar with the informal backyard version of croquet. This version, usually played with nine wickets and two stakes, is often played between friends and family under "house rules" on bumpy back lawns. The nine-wicket game continues to be hugely popular. One retailer estimates that over 100,000 backyard croquet sets are sold in Canada each year.

But it is the competitive version of croquet which is now experiencing a dramatic revival. This game is played with six wickets and one stake in the centre of the court. The "six-wicket" game offers the player the opportunity to learn more advanced shot-making techniques and strategies than the backyard game. Six-wicket croquet is a fascinating, competitive and social game. The equipment is very different from the "backyard' variety. Flimsy wire hoops are replaced by iron or steel wickets. The balls weigh one pound apiece and have only an eighth of an inch clearance through the uprights. Mallets are often made of fine wood and are weighted depending on the needs of the player.

Who Play's Croquet?

Croquet can be played by EVERYONE

Croquet attracts players of ALL AGES who compete together. It is a sport where players can continually improve their game as they get older and become more experienced. Men and women compete on an equal playing level without separate divisions.

Because croquet can be played by everyone, it is a very social game. Divisions exist only among skill levels and most tournaments offer competition for beginners and seasoned players alike.

No matter when one takes it up, as a youngster or older adult, croquet provides years of challenge, learning and fun!


Croquet in Canada

Croquet is in its infancy here in Canada. Croquet Canada was established in 1987 to promote the development of the sport across the country. Affiliated member croquet clubs have been established from coast to coast. Croquet is now played in Nova Scotia, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Barrie, St. Catharines, Vancouver, Victoria and many other cities and towns.

Croquet Canada is a non-profit organization run by volunteers dedicated to the growth and popularity of the sport. The organization provides many benefits to its membership, including:

  • a subscription to "The Mallet' the official newsletter of Croquet Canadaa

  • a copy of the official croquet rule book

  • opportunities to participate in Croquet Canada instructional schools, tournaments and special events

  • access to /handicapping and ranking programs

  • Croquet Canada emblemed merchandise and clothing ... and more!

"Today's beginners are tomorrow's champions!"

Ross Robinson, Former Canadian Champion

 

Caledon Croquet Club

"In The Hills", a magazine of country living in the Headwaters Region, wrote an article (June 16, 2011) on the Caledon Croquet Club.  Click here to read it:

http://www.inthehills.ca/2011/06/departments/a-courtly-romance/


 

GOLF CROQUET CORNER

Golf Croquet – The “Commitment-Free” Way

The Toronto Cricket Skating and Curling Club has about 4500 members, which should make it easy to recruit many new croquet players. However, these members are active in at least one, and usually more than one, sport and find it difficult to make time for another activity.

When we introduced golf croquet as a response to declining croquet membership, our target market was Cricket Club curlers. Our curlers play in several house leagues, with the same teams all season, and it is a rare week without a game in each league. Winter vacations require planning and the good fortune to find spares.  We did not think that they would take up croquet for the summer in a similarly regimented format

To entice new croquet players, we introduced golf croquet in a commitment-free format with the slogan:

“Come when you can, Leave when you must”.

The program format is as follows:

  • The courts are set up for golf croquet on Monday and Thursday evenings.
  • Players can arrive at any time.
  • Matches started after 5:30 pm are recorded, (most of our members work).
  • Matches can be doubles, singles or two-on-one.
  • Matches are set up by players as they arrive.
  • Matches can be best-of-seven wickets or best-of-thirteen wickets at the players’ choice.
  • As different matches finish, teams and opponents are shuffled.
  • A player can play only one match, or as many as they wish, until they are the last player standing.
  • As players retire from play, they usually gather on the patio for refreshments and socializing (unless they are rushing off to tennis or lawn bowling).

This format entices new members. The next question is how to retain them. The second program parameter is recognition and reward, as follows:

  • All matches started after 5:30 pm are recorded for win/loss.
  • The match winner(s) is awarded 3 points.
  • The match loser(s) is awarded 1 point. (Participation counts.)
  • Points are awarded to a player for their best three matches in an evening.
  • There is no penalty for not showing up on any day.
  • Players’ points are calculated each day, and a current ranking list is posted regularly.
  • In mid-July the first series is closed, and a second series begun.
  • The top three finishers in a series are penalized and awarded only 2 points for a win in the next series.
  • Each player is assessed $4 per series for prizes.
  • Prizes are awarded to the top three finishers of each series at the closing Brunch & AGM.


It did not take long to discover that a wide disparity in player skill can distort the results. To follow the Cricket Club mission statement of “maximum enjoyment for the maximum number of members” required special handling. Tune in to the next issue to see how we addressed this.

Georg Dej


 

Do Curlers Do It Best?

The Capital One Celebrity Curling Bonspiel was held at our Cricket Club on Saturday, June 5, 2010. Over $65k was raised for the SickKids Foundation.

Club curlers were joined by “Curling Celebrities” from across Canada including Brad Gushue, Glenn Howard and Randy Ferbey. Capital One also flew in Eve Muirhead from Scotland.

 Eve Muirhead


Just Jaws it Eve 

(Photo Credit: Anil Mungal, The Curling News) 


Those of you who do not spend Winters playing croquet in Florida will remember Eve as the 19-year old skip of the Scottish curling team in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and the Silver medalist in the 2010 Women’s Curling World Championship.

Joy and I had arranged to meet some friends on the croquet courts in front of the clubhouse. While waiting for them we started a casual game while a number of curlers were relaxing in the sunshine on the patio.

To our surprise, a fellow curler brought Eve out in her stocking feet and asked if she could try croquet. Of course! Eve removed her second pair of socks and we set up a golf croquet match with Eve and I against Joy. Unfortunately, Joy was a poor hostess. She found her “A” game and beat Eve and me handily. The second game was called when Eve had to return to curling.

Eve is a multiple-sport athlete, and if Scotland would pay her to play croquet as they do for curling, she would be a future threat to many championship level players.


Submitted by: Georg Dej



 

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