In recent months there have been several complaints that Golf Croquet is becoming too exhausting and organisers should have some duty of care to reduce the stress level, especially for our older players. What were we therefore likely to expect at Surbiton on Tues 25 when Bill Arliss and John Spiers introduced their version of speed Golf Croquet to seven pairs of players. At least one would expect St John's to be standing by with an oxygen supply at the ready. No such precautions, so had we come to the right place. The tournament instruction did say 'Dress, predominantly NOT white' and there was John Spiers in his psychedelic striped trousers, others in shirts and trouser of all different colours, Hammy and his 'Mum' in smart black T shirts with white logoed names. Of course there is always the odd one who does not join the party and insists on traditional whites.
Well what exactly was 10-10 Golf Croquet to be?. The organisers had drafted a set of rules which they reserved the right to modify at any time during the competition. In very simple terms, the game would be a standard 13 point game of doubles. The only difference would be that the time taken by each side would be limited to 10 minutes which would be recorded on a chess type clock for each side. On expiry of a team's time they could no longer score and further points and could only prevent their opponents from making further scores. The biggest complication in the rules concerned the situation when the clocks were changed over after balls had left the court and had to be replaced.
Play got underway just after 2.00pm with the brothers Sheen taking on Hammy and Daphne. This proved to be quite a struggle with a final winning score of 7-6 being reached by the Sheen brothers in just 14 minutes total elapsed game time. There was no frantic rushing around and as play progressed throughout the afternoon one still saw the customary four or five swings being taken from players like Mulliner, Beck, Morrow, Hamilton and Gaitley on every clearance and hooping shot. Between 2.00pm and about 6.30pm , the managers packed in 14 games using only two lawns. Of these games only three were not completed in time with score lines of 4-3;5-4 and 6-5. In one game Bill Arliss and Stella Russell took only 4 minutes 45 sec to record a 7-2 win over Hammy and Daphne.
The format chosen used was flexible Swiss and after all teams had played four games, two clear leading pairs emerged with the brothers Sheen and a Don Beck/ Paul Salisbury combination both having three wins from four games. As expected this was again a close game with the Sheen brothers having a slight edge. As hoop 12 was approached, the Sheens had a 6-5 advantage and were approximately 20 seconds better off on time. Possibly it was this time advantage that put the pressure more on the Beck/Salisbury partnership who missed an opportunity to hoop and let the Sheens eventually win 7-5, with only 23 seconds left on their clock and 2 seconds on their opponents.
The managers had purchased a goodly supply of bottles of wine from Surbiton which was distributed to the winners, runners up, best team costume and quickest game.
Of course the question must be; was the afternoon a repeatable success? We think most players enjoyed their afternoon at Surbiton but was it so different from the normal games they play. There were many times, in fact most times, during the afternoon when it would have been difficult to tell that 'Speed Croquet' was the name of the game had it not been for the clock operator at the side of the lawn. There was certainly a lack of wrong balls being played and we think only two were recorded all day. If we take the stance that GC should be a fast flowing game that will attract the younger player, then our results at Surbiton are surely an indictment of players who are taking an hour plus to complete a 13 point game. Should we not be thinking about regular time limits to discourage slow and defensive play with sever penalties for uncompleted games. At present the jury is still out but we would suggest this event has possibly opened up a channel for much further debate.
Bill Arliss, John Spiers