Croquet: Fun for the Backyard and Beyond
Leslie J. Payne
Say the word “croquet” and my thoughts go to summer evenings as a child. Sounds of wooden mallets hitting wooden balls punctuated the enthusiastic cheers of several generations competing for the Backyard Championship. As a child I thought croquet was limited to backyards and barbeques, but the fun world of croquet is so much more.
Backyard croquet is still played in yards across America, but there are other versions of the game: American, International, Golf and Gateway croquet. Nine-wicket croquet is the family game for backyards and parks. Six-wicket croquet is the modern sport played with precision equipment on specially built courts and requires skill and strategy. If you want to play, there are plenty of ways to learn: clubs, videos, online instruction, magazines and even croquet schools.
According to one who knows, the best thing about croquet is the fun and the people. Peter Oleson, a member of The West River Wickets, laughs warmly as he explains how the club got its start. A group of friends in Galesville, began playing backyard croquet, an excuse for some summer fun. A team from Shady Side found them and together they enjoyed some competition. Eventually, the two groups merged, formed the West River Wickets, and in 2007 became official members of The United States Croquet Association.
When asked if the Wickets is a small, elite club, Oleson laughed responding, “Anything but!” The group, always open to newcomers, currently boasts about 30 members ranging in age from the late 20s to the oldest player at 86. They play six-wicket croquet, which is demanding because the clearance between ball and wicket is only 1/16th of an inch. While they do follow the rules and standards of the USCA, the purpose of it all is enjoy the game.
Have Mallet, Will Travel
Croquet can also be a great excuse for travel. The USCA Croquet School is located in West Palm Beach, Florida. Three-days of intensive courses cover all aspects of the game and “is a great way to get the rust out” as Peter Oleson puts it, to be ready for the new season. The playing season is dictated by weather. In Florida one can play year round, but in Maryland the season is April to November, or whenever the cold takes the pleasure out of the game.
Tournaments are hosted by croquet clubs in various states including California, Florida, the Carolinas and Maryland. Some competitions are more laid back than others, but all are focused on fun. Whether the tournament is in your backyard or part of an invitational championship on a manicured green, croquet is all about having fun, being with friends and enjoying good weather.
Patuxent Croquet Club, Inc.
Contact at (410) 381-6234
or reach Lee Hanna at firstname.lastname@example.org
West River Wickets
Contact Peter Oleson at
Jun 5-7, 2009 • The Peachwood Classic
Location: Patuxent Croquet Club, Woodbine, MD
Contact: Lee Hanna
Phone : 410-381-6234
For More Information
The United States Croquet Association