SHADOW PLAY Croquet at Calverley Grounds

ROYAL Tunbridge Wells Croquet Club will celebrate National Croquet Day on Sunday (June 4) by holding an open day in Calverley Grounds.

It will open its lawns to all-comers from 10am to 4pm with a programme of challenges for novices in aid of the charity Parkinson’s UK.

Members will be on hand to teach people to play, and there will be competitions with prizes. They are also planning a full introduction course at the end of June.

The sport has witnessed an increase in the number of people playing the game, and the local club currently boasts 60 members. 

The Royal Tunbridge Wells Croquet Club was founded in 1965, and moved to its current location – which consists of three lawns – in Calverley Grounds 30 years later. 

It provides free coaching to members by qualified coaches, from beginner’s level upwards, throughout the season, which runs from April to October. 

The club also runs several internal tournaments and two Open events from June to August, as well as a number of beginner contests. 

There are two main versions of the game of hoops, the traditional Association game and Golf Croquet, which has a shorter duration.

The most important difference between the two formats is that in the latter there is no extra shot offered if you go through a hoop or you strike your opponents’ ball. 

It’s a highly skilful and tactical pursuit, although it is also accessible: Golf Croquet can be learned in 10 minutes.

An advantage of the sport is that it allows men and women to compete against each other on an entirely level playing field. 

And it suits the full span of ages – full-size -equipment is suitable for children from the age of 10 upwards, and Tunbridge Wells has several members who are over 90.

A handicap system allows beginners and skilled players to be able to play against each other in a competitive fashion. 

Many people will have played croquet informally in gardens but the top level of croquet is a fiercely contested international sport.

Britain recently lost the World Team Championship, held at Mission Hills in the USA, to the young and very strong Australian team. 

Stephen Mulliner from Surbiton is the World Association Croquet champion, while the Golf title is held by Reg Bamford from South Africa, who lives and plays in the UK.

The game is becoming increasingly popular among young people, with more than 2,000 -students taking part in the Oxford and Cambridge University ‘Cuppers’ – a tournament contested  between the colleges. 

This year also saw the inaugural University Championship, held at Sheffield University.