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Going through the hoops this summer!

Forget bowls, forget gardening clubs! It seems croquet is the new sport for the over 50s. For many people, it is a bit of an obscure game with little seen on television and childhood associations with flamingos and live hedgehogs in Alice in Wonderland.

But in fact not only is croquet alive and well, but it is becoming hugely popular, with clubs operating at all levels right across the country.

The origins of the game are somewhat obscure although it is though it was introduced into England from Ireland in the 1830s. It soon became an agreeable pastime for wealthier people who had big lawns and time to play, mixing games with the pleasure of a gentle afternoon tea on the lawn.

But then lawn tennis was introduced and many croquet lawns were turned over into the new game. Since then the popularity of croquet has come and gone but in recent years there has been a real surge.

A key to its popularity is that it can be played by people of many ages and ability and it is also fairly cheap. Men and women can play together and most clubs are totally mixed, offering a high level of sociability as well as gamesmanship.

To start in the sport is fairly simple. You need six hoops, a peg, some balls and of course the mallets.

In the UK there are two main games played; golf croquet and association croquet. Golf is very popular in local clubs because it is more simple and also quicker. Each player has to hit his ball through each hoop and each turn comprises of just one stroke with the mallet. Association Croquet is far more complicated, with lots of different rules including being able to hit another ball which allows two further strokes; you can hit opponents balls right to the edge of the lawn; or use your turn to hit a partner’s ball nearer the hoop. It can become very tactical and this is the form of croquet that is used in national and world championships.

As with so many sports, it looks easy but as you get into the game, you realise that a high level of skill is required to become a top player. Working out new angles when one ball bounces of another ball to go in a desired direction is just one part of the game. It is also great fun because you usually play with a partner. With minimal equipment, it is easy to visit other clubs for friendly matches.

As with all sports, it has a language of its own, from “roqueting” when you hit another ball and a “Bray” slice when the mallet is swung at an angle to the line of the intended ball travel.

It is the range of levels that is possibly one reason for the sport’s growth in popularity; you really can enjoy a great game with minimal skill or experience; but you can also play very seriously to obtain a proper UK ranking. The range of competition is also wide, from fun local events to major national and international competitions. At the top of the game, a national player told Laterlife that competitors often read a book on the edge of the lawn while their opponent hits winning shot after winning shot; a bit like snooker they have to wait for a mistake before they can take up their mallet and get on the lawn.

But for most of us, we won’t need to take a book to our competitions! Instead, we can simply enjoy developing our skills with the mallet and having a fun social morning or afternoon in pleasant surroundings, usually followed by a club tea!

For more information, and to find a club near you, visit or ask at your local council for details of any local croquet clubs.

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The above article is part of the features section of called laterlife interest. laterlife interest contains a variety of articles of interest for visitors to written by a number of experienced and new journalists.

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