Croquet aims to change its image

PIMMS anyone?Well, maybe later because that's not the image of croquet that players in Ipswich are trying to portray as they aim to bolster the ranks of their club.

PIMMS anyone?

Well, maybe later because that's not the image of croquet that players in Ipswich are trying to portray as they aim to bolster the ranks of their club.

The Ipswich Croquet Club has moved into a new clubhouse in the lower arboretum of Christchurch Park and, with just 20 members on its team sheet, is keen to dispel a few of the game's less fashionable myths.

While John Prescott enjoyed playing the game while standing in as prime minister, few others have been tempted to don a pair of flat-soled shoes and pick up a mallet before heading out on to a carefully manicured lawn.

But the game has been transformed in recent years, local players say, and many people would be surprised just how fast paced it is.

Martin French, a member of the club who has played for Great Britain in the past, said: “I don't think people know enough about it. Most regard it as a silly game played in the back garden.

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“But the game has become much more aggressive, must faster. In the last few years the balance has shifted towards more shot-making like snooker has.

“The perception is it is played by elderly people pottering around but that's just not how it is.”

The croquet club, which despite its small size is still Suffolk's biggest, occupies one of the most scenic sections of Christchurch Park and could cater for about 50 members. Instead only about 20 turn up occasionally to weekly Tuesday evening sessions.

Mr French, who finished last season in the top 100 in the country, said all new players need is a pair of flat-soled shoes and they'll have a mallet and other equipment provided. Cucumber sandwiches are optional.

There is even a simplified form of the game called Golf Croquet which makes learning the ropes easier.

“It's a game for everybody,” Mr French, of Constable Road, Ipswich, said.

“If you turned up at a typical A-Class event, yes you would find lawyers, solicitors and computer scientists but you would also find retired old ladies, 18-year-olds and one player I know is a fireman. There are all sorts of people who play.”

Club nights are held from 6pm on Tuesdays between May and September. New players are welcome to go along and have a go.

A toffs' pursuit or fun of the masses? What's your view on croquet? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

Did you know?

Ipswich man John Walters was croquet world champion in 1990.

Croquet:

Sometimes described as chess on grass, croquet is played on a lawn 35 yards by 28 yards - the size of two tennis courts.

There are six heavy cast iron hoops on the lawn.

One player takes the black and blue balls, while the other takes the red and yellow balls.

The aim of the game is to position the balls until you are able to hit them through the correct hoops around the lawn.