Croquet England Logo

Sharing Common Ground: Croquet and Bowls in Harmony?

By Sally Green

Your croquet club is flourishing with many new members. You would like to expand and there is a bowls club nearby with a green which could offer that opportunity. Or perhaps you have enough lawns on a daily basis but the occasional use of a neighbouring bowling green would give you the opportunity to host a couple of larger tournaments each year. You decide to approach the bowls club to ask whether they would be willing to share their lawns with your croquet club, and want to be well-informed and ready to deal with any concerns and questions the bowlers may have for you. This has been compiled with the help of people who have shared lawns, and been generous enough to share their experiences:

Will the Croquet Players Damage the Lawns?

Bowling causes more damage to the lawns than croquet because bowlers deliver from one place at each end of a rink and mats must be used to mitigate against the grass being chewed up as a bowler's foot twists upon delivery. In contrast, croquet players walk around all over the lawn, leaving little in the way of footprints.

Occasionally, a croquet player will dig into the ground with a mallet, but this does not happen very often and the damage heals quite quickly. Even then, such damage is not as severe as that from a ball being dropped by a bowler, rather than it being rolled upon delivery.

Will the Hoops and Peg Cause Damage to the Lawns?

The holes left by standard hoops are sufficiently small that often croquet players have difficulty in finding them, even when they know where they should be. The bowlers can choose where they send the jack out, so it is possible for them to avoid the holes, but in fact they often do not notice them at all.

However if the bowlers are not prepared to accept the use of finned or fluted carrots on hoops, 'spear' hoops may suffice as alternatives. The spear hoop gives a firmer grip than the foxy hoop. A spear hoop's base is essentially an extension of the stanchion (vertical portion of the wicket above ground). In a tournament hoop, that would mean the anchor would be 5/8" diameter by about 8" - 10" long or deep." One should ensure that there are no irrigation pipes at that depth which might be punctured by the spear hoop.

A variety of hoops can be also being found in the CA shop. The important thing for croquet players is that their final choice should not be so insecure in the ground as to spoil their enjoyment of the game.

The peg would normally leave a larger hole, but it can be modified so that it is fixed into the ground on a metal pin, which need only be about a centimetre in diameter.

How Will the Hoop Holes Be Repaired?

One option is to use a steel corner flag shaft (approximately 18" x 3/8") for closing hoop holes in a lawn. The shaft is driven in at an angle, slanting away from the hoop hole, and the soil is shifted toward the hole by bringing the shaft upright. Repeating this four times around a hoop hole will usually be sufficient to close the hole. It is best to avoid filling hoop holes with sand because of the build up over time of "hills" where hoops are usually installed. It is unclear whether this method is successful in all soil types or when the soil is very dry.

It is also possible to plug the holes. One club adapts rubber ferrules, which are intended for use on table legs.

How Will the Boundaries Be Defined?

The croquet boundaries can be defined with cord or rope, which is secured at the corner flags. These can be custom made with tape markers at intervals corresponding to the position of the hoops, thereby making it easier to find the hoop holes when setting out the lawn. Bowling greens are constructed with a ditch around them, so boundary boards may not be necessary.

What Are the Advantages of Sharing?

The bowls club will get a useful contribution to their income, more people from whom to solicit volunteers for jobs around the club, and extra 'weight' from increased use if they apply for assistance from local councils or grant bodies. With many bowling clubs losing members, sharing with croquet players is an excellent way to utilise an expensive resource.

Hopefully more use of the club house and lawns will discourage vandals. The advantage for the croquet players is that they get extra playing space on what is often an excellent playing surface. Don't be too surprised if some bowlers approach your croquet club wanting to share your lawns. This will not be a first!

Maintaining Harmony

It might be said that the most important ingredient of a successful sharing of facilities is building up and maintaining a very cordial relationship between the bowlers and the croquet players.

Once arrangements about lawn time, finances, and division of labour have been agreed, consider appointing one or two members from each club who can be easily contacted if difficulties arise, so that these can be dealt with quickly by people who are familiar with the agreements which are in place.