A five round Swiss Handicap doubles event is many croquet players idea of self-imposed torment, but apart from the heat, provided by a relentless sun throughout the weekend, there was little to complain of and much to enjoy for all comers. Handicaps among the twelve pairs involved ranged across the spectrum from a couple of minus players up to some relative beginners of 20+. Several of the high handicappers had just returned from the Summer school held at Southwick and were eager to show off their grasp of the Five Principles of Croquet (quiz question for minus players - what are these principles?).
After the first rounds of the Swiss several pairs stood out as contenders - in particular the highest handicap pair, playing off a combined 36, of Peter Wightman and Marilyn Murray and the lowest handicap pair, off 8½, of Roy Ware and David Dray. Both in their different methods looked very dangerous. The former used their bisques steadily to build up a lead and then held on for the end of the game, the latter employing the "lets hit in and go round" approach. In an early game between these two, the high handicappers won narrowly and players on neighbouring courts were startled by the loud cheer when David finally ran hoop one shortly before time was called but the lead was by then too great to overcome.
At the end of the first day only one pair emerged unbeaten, Dennis Shaw and Jo Frankish, six others were tied for second place with two wins out of three.
Sunday morning saw Dennis and Jo score a close victory against the bisques held by Peter and Marilyn to give them 4 wins out of 4 and only Roy/David and John Ruddock and Joyce Slawson could then catch them in the final round. John and Joyce had sneaked up through the pack with some good shooting and tidy wins but in the final round failed to gain the victory that would have given them a chance of the title and given the manager a sizeable headache since he would have faced some form of playoff.
In the event the tournament result came down to the match between Dennis/Jo and Roy/David. If Dennis/Jo won they would have completed the tournament with 5 wins out of 5, if Roy/David won they would take the spoils on the "who beat who" rule. Very early on David hit in and went round to penultimate flawlessly, Dennis eyeing his bisques decided one opponent was better than two, went round performed the double peal and using his last bisque missed the peg out! However on the next turn he hit in and redeemed the situation - this left Roy on hoop 1 against 3 and peg. He proceeded to compile a series of long hit ins on semi-wired balls followed by long hoop running and ran out the easy winner. Lesson for us all think carefully before pegging out against an opponent so proficient at golf croquet.
Thus the manager and his partner won but their solid play will surely result in their handicaps falling over the year ahead and the combined handicap limit of 8 will prevent them from combining next year.
The only sadness of the weekend was the paucity of visiting players - the large majority of entrants were from Ramsgate and neighbouring clubs. This is an excellent opportunity to play in an unusual format. The lawns are particularly good being flat and moderately fast, the catering and bar are excellent and the opposition suitably varied. I would encourage many more visitors to enter.