A Guide to Forming a Croquet Club
Editor: John Beech
First Steps Towards a Club
Formalising a Club
What Will it Cost to Run the Club?
Is Financial Help Available?
What About Playing Equipment?
Maintaining the Lawns
Setting Out the Courts
Do We Need a Club House?
Now We Are Started. Where Next?
The Croquet Association
Croquet describes, generally, games played with mallets which strike balls through hoops. These games were known as early as the 1850's in England. Croquet has become very popular and it is suggested that there are as many sets of rules as there are garden lawns on which the game is played.
The Croquet Association (CA), the governing body of the sport, was formed 100 years ago to regularise the game in order that competitions and tournaments could be held using rules in common ownership. The 'regulation' game became known as 'Association Croquet' and that is the principal game played by Croquet Clubs today.
The CA also regulates Golf Croquet and Short Croquet.
Croquet clubs registered with the CA are organised in Regional Federations.
Croquet is also played world-wide, again using rules developed by some nations independently of others. Historically the UK, Australia and New Zealand were the croquet nations and agreed common Association Croquet Rules. There is a World Croquet Federation coordinating International competition between many countries, using CA rules.
Most Croquet Clubs established in the last 20 years have been formed by a few enthusiasts in a locality who have learned to play a form of Croquet in their gardens or have had a taster at another club, or have attended a 'come and try it' session run by the CA or a regional Federation of Croquet Clubs.
The people to play and the lawns on which to play are the twin essentials for the establishment of a croquet club. People must come first, for a club is an association of people eager to play the game. They are best recruited through personal friendship, acquaintance and advertising in the local papers, shop windows, sports centres and libraries. In some areas the Local Authority Leisure Services officers will be very keen to help establish a new sport in their area and may give free publicity through their own channels. There is also the possibility of funding some publicity by requesting a small grant from the CA through the Regional Development Officers.
A minimum of half a dozen keen persons eager to play regularly is the basis for action. Next comes a search for suitable ground.
An ideal site would be flat with fine turf already established and room for at least two full sized croquet courts each measuring 35 yards by 28 yards. Such 'ready made' sites are rare, but it is worth searching your locality. Possible sources of such land are Schools, Colleges and Universities, County Councils, Local District Councils, Parish Councils, Hospitals, National Trust and English Heritage properties, Country Hotels, Golf Clubs, Country Clubs, Multi Sports Clubs, Stately Homes in private ownership or any property which appears to have grassland without obvious regular use.
Other considerations in site selection should be:
- Is there room for further courts in the future?
- Where will players park their cars?
- Are toilet facilities available nearby?
- Is there room to erect a shed to store equipment or will the landowner provide storage facilities?
- Is there room for erection of a pavilion in the future?
Such minimal specifications for land and potential facilities seem daunting to new croquet groups and there is a temptation to take the first easy option of one substandard court. This may be satisfactory for the first couple of years, but if the club is successful it will inevitably want more.
If more is achievable on the initial site, the whole operation becomes much more economic and feasible.
The following may guide you in site selection. If the land is capable of development in due course to:
- One half court or one court - you will be limited to a local club with very small potential membership.
- Two full courts and a pavilion - you can develop to about 50 members and take full part in regional leagues and national inter-club competitions.
- Four full courts and a pavilion - you have potential for a fully fledged tournament venue, which will bring in revenue and prestige and give playing capacity for about 100 members.
First Steps Towards a Club
The first essential is to make contact with the Croquet Association and the appropriate Regional Federation. Details in Appendix 1. Help may also be available from your Local Authority Recreation Services Officer.
The group should register with the CA and the local Federation as soon as it can muster the necessary fees which are quite modest initially.
The CA or the Federation will be able to arrange coaching for beginners, usually on one evening a week, or for a weekend. Try to get as many to attend as the coach will allow. A charge should be made to help establish a club fund.
The Federation may be in a position to provide enough equipment to get things started and some Federations will lend the equipment for one or two sessions in order to get the club established, at a minimal or no cost to the club.
The simplest game for beginners to play is Golf Croquet, which can be learned in a few minutes. It is best to learn Short Croquet first and then progress to Association Croquet on full sized courts.
Formalising the Club
As initial coaching proceeds, the group should begin to formalise itself into a club. The Regional Development Officer may help you. You will need to meet together. Initially a Chairman, Treasurer and Secretary will be appointed and minutes of the meeting (and subsequent meetings) kept. Early decisions will be taken about frequency of meetings, whether you will appoint a committee or subcommittees to execute the business, or whether the whole club will meet for business. You will need to decide levels of subscription. The club would be well advised to be realistic about subscriptions to anticipate the need to pay the rent, electricity, water and other regular bills to maintain the lawns, to purchase playing equipment (and possibly lawn maintenance equipment). Although croquet is not an expensive sport (i.e. compared to golf) it is often more expensive than bowls which tends to be subsidised by councils or sponsored by local firms.
The club will need to decide how often to meet as a club (e.g. every Wednesday at 6pm and every Saturday at 2pm), whether members can have access at other times to practice or play each other, whether green fees are charged or whether all the members costs are covered in the annual subscription. Within the first year the club will need to adopt a formal constitution or a set of rules. The CA and Federations have access to examples which you could use as a model.
Once the club is established and at least half a dozen members have had a coaching course, it should make contact with the nearest neighbours in other croquet clubs and arrange friendly fixtures or even 'get-togethers' in order that the new club can become established on the local croquet circuit. The CA or Federation will provide the necessary initial introductions. Perhaps by the second season, the club may be in a position to play in a local league organised by the Federation. The ideal way to start competition croquet is by playing the game of Short Croquet.
What Will it Cost to Run the Club?
There is no definitive answer to that question, as the essential costs of maintenance and rental of land and buildings can vary so much.
The examples given are for 1998 and the upper and lower examples are illustrative only. For ease of calculation they are based on an area of one full sized court, with 25 members.
|Per Annum||Low Cost||High Cost|
|Pavilion / Store Rent||£250.00||£1500.00|
|CA Registration *||£137.50||£137.50|
* Cheaper in the first 3 years
Clearly subscriptions will relate to revenue costs and any capital expenditure anticipated. There are clubs which survive with extremely low membership fees - some as low as £25 per year. This is not realistic if the club is to provide good facilities and equipment for members and visitors. At 1998 prices £50+ is really a minimum. At £50 a member attending a club to play two games per week for a season would pay only 27p per playing hour on average. New clubs and new members must be realistic. The examples of costs listed in para. 17 above would result in subscriptions of £30 (low cost) and £173 (high cost) respectively based on 25 members, excluding funding for capital items.
Is Financial Help Available?
Sources of grant and sponsorship for Croquet are difficult to obtain, but clubs determined to develop good facilities have been successful. Detailed planning and estimating is essential. Always reckon that the club will have to provide about 50% of its funding itself. The best way of raising that is by getting a lot of committed members who will want to give or lend the club reasonable amounts for capital investment.
The local Federation and the CA may be able to help in a modest way. Contacts are listed at Appendix 1.
Your Local Council may have a scheme of assistance for sports clubs. They will have their own rules and criteria for qualifying. Your City, Town or County Hall will give you the information. There may be local funds or charities administered privately or by your local authority. The local Recreational Services Officer may advise you of the possibilities.
By far the greatest source of funding is the Sports Council National Lottery Fund. A few croquet clubs have made successful bids, but you should know that the application process is exacting, time consuming and you will need to be careful to comply with all the detailed requirements.
The most difficult of these is to prove that the club has already accumulated its own resource which is at least 35% of the total project cost (unless the club is in a designated area of extreme social and economic deprivation, when the club share would be 10%), and to prove ownership (freehold) of land or leasehold. The minimum lease to qualify for major grants is 21 years, but more modest grants are now payable to clubs with formal legally binding leases of 7 and 5 years. There is now reference to a minimum lease of 3 years for very small grants, but in practice these are rarely successful. For full details of criteria and an application pack you should write to The Lottery Sports Fund, English Sports Council, PO Box 649, London, WC1H 0QS. Telephone 0171 273 1500.
The Lottery Sports Fund is to introduce a small grants fund under its Awards for All programme 'Lottery Grants for Local Groups'. The grant range is from £500 - £5000. Eligible groups, with income under £15,000 per annum, do not seem to need security of tenure or matching funding to qualify. Grants will be available for revenue and small capital schemes and it looks as though playing equipment will be eligible for an award. Clubs in the East Midlands may apply from December 1998 and in the rest of England from June 1999. Details and application forms are available from the address given in paragraph 23 above.
What About Playing Equipment?
After borrowing equipment initially, the club should aim to purchase its own stock as soon as possible. The costs of these items should be considered at the time of setting the subscriptions. It is reasonable to spread the purchases over a number of years, and so careful planning is important.
Details of equipment needed for 1 court are itemised at Appendix 2 which also gives examples of costs and a list of suppliers.
New groups need to be very careful about their initial purchases. There is a lot of cheap croquet equipment offered by large stores, mail-order houses, and sports shops, which is entirely appropriate for 'social croquet' in domestic gardens, but entirely unsuitable for Association Croquet played in clubs.
You are advised to purchase from one of the listed suppliers and your enquiries and orders should emphasise that the equipment is 'CA approved' equipment for club use.
Maintaining the Lawns
If your landlord will maintain the lawns to a good standard, preferably keeping the grass to 5 or 6mm in height in the season and 10mm in the winter, and undertake all the annual maintenance of aeration, scarifying, top dressing, worm, weed and pest control, you will have a trouble free maintenance regime. The costs are considerable however and will be reflected in the rent. Your club could be towards the high band cost estimates outlined in para. 17 above.
Many new clubs have neither opportunity nor resources for such service and have to rely on voluntary effort by club members. Detailed advice is given to clubs in this position in the CA booklet ' Croquet Lawns - their Establishment, Improvement and Maintenance' paras 45 - 64.
This publication is available from the CA office. The volunteers will need encouragement, training and organisation. The lawns will need to be cut at least twice a week in the growing season.
Another regular 'chore', is white lining the court boundaries. If your landlord or contractor mows the lawns, this operation needs to be built into the contract. If the club has to do it itself, a line marker will be needed. New machines cost from £200. The 'wheel to wheel transfer' type is the best and if washed out after each use will outlast the club! (assuming that the club lasts for 50 years!) White lining material is most economically purchased in dry powder form in 25Kg bags, which needs premixing with water in a large bucket before pouring into the machine. A messy job. The alternative is to purchase ready mixed white liquid in drums or household emulsion paint, which is very expensive.
Setting Out the Courts
Equipment required: Measuring tape (preferably at least 35 yards long). Hoop drill or iron spike to make carrot holes for hoops. 'Dead-head' mallet, lead shot filled, with plastic faces. Wooden block. Miles of string! and plenty of bisques (small pegs).
The dimensions of the courts are shown in the 'Laws of Association Croquet', available from the CA (see Appendix 3). The standard court of 35 yards x 28 yards is shown on page IX, and the short court on page 38. Although the short court is shown as 24 yards x 16 yards, most croquet clubs simply bisect a full court with a string line to provide two short courts. In this case each short court will measure 28 yards x 17½ yards.
This is quite acceptable for league and competition play. The position of the hoops from boundaries and centre peg are the same for both alternatives of short court size.
The first job is to mark the court boundaries, ensuring that the corners are square using the '3, 4, 5 triangle' principle with your tape. If you have a line marker, mark the boundaries as soon as the strings are in position.
If strings are to be used for boundaries each time the club meets, some sort of corner marker needs to be driven into each corner. An ideal device would be a wooden peg 1¼' square with a hole drilled through its length which would house the corner flag, and would hold the strings in position during play. This peg needs to be driven into the turf so that its top end is at least ½' below the surface of the turf to prevent mower damage.
The next job is to bisect the lawn both ways with strings to determine the centre spot (at the intersection of the strings). Use the iron spike to create the centre hole and insert the centre peg. Next mark the position of hoops 5 and 6 by measuring North and South of the Centre Peg. These hoops will straddle the string. To make hoop hole, ensure the correctness of the position of the hoop as it is offered into position (an assistant is needed to 'sight' the hoop in the vertical and lateral planes), then lightly press the carrots into the turf. At each indentation a hole is then 'drilled' by using the drill or the iron spike. Then place the hoop in the holes and drive it into the turf so that at least 1/8" of the top of the carrots is still visible.
Before play can start, each hoop must be 'set' using a ball and a set of CA feeler gauges (see Appendix 2). Never drive hoops into the ground with a hammer. The effect is to distort the crossbar or to break the hoop. It is best to tap the hoop in place with your foot (ensure that you have strong soled shoes) or use the special 'deadhead' impact type mallet. If you insist on using a club hammer, ensure that the impact is softened by placing a stout wooden block on the hoop crossbar before clubbing the hoop into the holes.
The initial marking out and drilling holes is best done when the ground is soft. In cases of hard ground or rocky or stony substrata it is best to use a cold chisel and an immeasurable volume of human patience!
If the location of the court means that balls hit hard would be propelled to a road, river, sea, children's play area or car park etc., it is best to provide ball stops. Simply nail or screw 'shoes' (wooden blocks 3" x 3" x 2") to timber rails (say 8' x 3" x ¾' ) and place them off court at the vulnerable boundary. They are easily removed for mowing.
Do We Need a Club House?
To have a commodious Clubhouse with a cafe, kitchen, bar, lounge, office, viewing veranda, toilets and cloakrooms would be ideal. In fact what most Croquet Clubs long for but only a handful have. At least some accommodation is essential. You will need to store the playing equipment and if you are a DIY club you will need much more room for mowers and other turf machinery.
Remember too that the atmosphere is much more sociable if there is a meeting point for members, with at least a notice board to keep everyone up to date with matches, competitions and other club activities. If no 'ready made' accommodation is available a simple garden shed or summer house about 10' x 8' will suffice initially. Good quality timber buildings this size are available at about £700. A brick or stone built clubhouse will cost at least £25,000, but good pavilion accommodation can be provided in timber construction for under £10,000
Now We're Started. Where Next?
You should aim to increase your membership to about 25 per court; to take part in inter-club Federation events, play friendly matches with other clubs, organise internal competitions for members, encourage each member to become an Associate Member of the CA and to encourage groups of members to play in CA tournaments. Above all be friendly and welcoming to newcomers and encourage the members to play at the club at least once every week during the season.
Many successful clubs have indicated that their prosperity is due to retaining members season on season and that the secret is a thriving winter programme. If the club meets at least once a month in the close season friendships are cemented and enthusiasm to 'get out on the lawns' at the earliest opportunity in the spring is generated. Examples of reasons to meet in the winter are: The AGM with supper or some other social attraction. An Annual Dinner. General Planning meetings for next season. Games evenings in the Pavilion or in a members house or a private room in a local pub. Indoor Croquet is played on a mini carpet in village halls etc. in some Federations. The CA also has two 'short' croquet sized carpets which are used by some Federations and clubs. Some larger clubs have Bridge clubs, but even the smallest of clubs can get together to talk or to view each others holiday slides.
Support is Available
Always remember that your Federation will have people who will be pleased to help. The Chairman, Secretary, Development Officer and Coaching Officers are usually extremely supportive. Use their knowledge and experience in developing Croquet facilities in your area.
The Croquet Association is the Governing Body of Association Croquet who will be pleased to help. Your Croquet Club should register as a club with the CA at the earliest possible time.
The Secretary, The Croquet Association, C/o Cheltenham Croquet Club,
Old Bath Road, Cheltenham, GL53 7DF
Telephone / Fax: 01242 242318 Email: caoffice#croquet.org.uk.
The Regional Federation for your area has voluntary officers who will be keen to help you establish a new croquet club. The Croquet Association office will supply you with an appropriate Federation contact.
Playing Equipment Required for Each Croquet Court
- Association Croquet Hoops usually referred to by manufacturers as 'Championship', 'Association regulation' or 'Competition' hoops. They should conform to the CA Laws 2(b)(i) and 50(d) and have 'carrots' to keep them firmly in the ground during play.
- 1 Winning Peg. 1½' diameter 18" protruding above ground with a removable extension at the top for holding clips.
- 1 Set of 4 Primary Colours Balls (Red, Yellow, Blue, Black)
- 1 Set of 4 Secondary Colours Balls (Pink, White, Green, Brown)
The Secondary Colours set enable two games to be played on one court simultaneously. Clubs should ensure that the balls are 'CA Championship Approved' or that the manufacturer guarantees that the balls conform to the CA Championship standards. Cheaper balls are available but they may not be used in CA competitions and most Federation leagues.
- 1 set of Primary Colours Clips
- 1 set of Secondary Colours Clips
- 4 Mallets
In addition the following items of equipment could be made by members or purchased:
- 8 Corner Pegs
- 4 Corner Flags
- A large quantity of bisques (say 30)
The current (2005) costs are in the order of:
- Hoops £150 - £200 per set
- Balls £117 - £179 per set
- Pegs £14 - £30 each
- Clips £16 per set
- Mallets £70 - £200 each
- Flags £33 per set
Suppliers of CA Approved Championship equipment currently include:
The Croquet Association Shop, which supplies equipment to CA specifications at discounted prices.
John Hobbs, The Lewins, Mayfield Road, Rotherfield, E Sussex, TN6 3LS.
Telephone 01892 852072. Mallets only.
Manor House Mallets, The Manor House, 1 Barncroft, Penwortham, Preston,
PR1 0SX. Telephone 01772 743859. Mallets only.
Mike Percival, The Laurels, Heath Road, Hessett, Suffolk, IP30 9BJ.
Telephone 01359 270200. Mallets only.
Woodlands Croquet, Woodlands, Skipton Road, Barnoldswick, BB18 6HH.
Telephone 01282 813070. Supply all equipment to CA specifications.