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The Game
  A game for all seasons
text and photos by Larry Stettner
edited by Bob Alman
Posted January 14, 2002
 RELATED LINKS
 • Golfer's Croquet for the Putting Green
 • American Golf Croquet Rules
 • Official World Rules for Golf Croquet


A wicket game was played by the native Indians on the beaches of New England in the 18th Century. In the Great Frozen North, croquet is sometimes played on ice with flat-bottomed pucks instead of round balls. Proponents of "Alpine Croquet" and "Overland Croquet" will roquet over mountain ranges and across deep canyons. Xtremists play anywhere, so long as there is an ample supply of consumable alcohol. But the slap-happy oldsters in our story fit none of those categories: They're "serious" croquet players playing a serious game under "substandard court conditions" who simply refuse to wait another four months for the May thaw to reveal a newly greened lawn. "Serious?" Yes. Because they have a noble purpose - to prove that Golf Croquet is a game for all seasons. We may deplore their court settings, but we must celebrate their spirit.

Golf Croquet is gaining popularity almost everywhere. More tournaments are being scheduled - even tournaments with cash purses attached. And more organizers are embracing it as the ideal game to introduce new players to the six-wicket sport.

Eleven-year-old Steve Pierce aims for a sure thing.
One December day in Maine, the president of the Mount Desert Island Croquet Club looked out the window at the wickets frozen into the ground on his court and realized that Golf Croquet was also the ideal version of the game to play in the winter. Obliteration of boundary lines by snow, the difficulty of controlling any kind of croquet shot, the pain of deadness when you clang a six-inch wicket shot off an unyielding post....none of these things really matter in Golf Croquet.

Furthermore, Golf Croquet keeps your body in motion. Since everyone has only one shot each turn, no one has to sit and freeze while someone else is running a break. Your turn comes every few seconds. You only have to take your gloves off and put down your hot cocoa briefly to shoot - and only then if you're a stickler for touch control.

So the first annual Winter Golf Croquet Festival was born on Mount Desert Island in the brain of that club president, Larry Stettner, and in the fullness of time it came to pass.

The finalists, cool and confident after beating all the men.

The island's events calendar was not so packed as to present a problem. Almost every croquet player on the island came to the event, on Saturday, January 5, 2002. These nine players attracted the attention of some 20-odd bemused spectators around the snow-covered regulation court adjacent to the home of Larry and Fran Stettner. (The event would turn out to be stop-the-presses front-page news in the local weekly Bar Harbor Times the following Tuesday.)
Till Harkins boldly shoots for the jaws of an angled wicket.

No warm-up was necessary. The first strokes were surprisingly good. The balls rolled well over a thin layer of crusty snow. Increasingly, they would be impeded by boot prints. No matter, everybody was on the same level playing field, metaphorically speaking.

The players warmed themselves from a large kettle of hot cider, while onlookers ate and drank and cheered from the shelter of the Stettners' dining room.

Let's skip over the the nail-biting play-by-play, shall we?

First place honors were garnered by Fay Lawson and Fran Martin, who defeated Marcia Chapman and Mary Gould in the final match as darkness approached at four in the afternoon. Marcia and Mary were delighted to win second place in their first-ever tournament. They'll be using their new court in Brooksville, Maine to help the Mount Desert Island Club stage it's big annual in-season event - a return of the Big Lobster tournament in September 2002.

Sometimes the fun is intense.
The other players were Larry Stettner, Till Harkins, Roger and Steve Pierce and first-time croquet player Nichols Fox, who exclaimed, "I never dreamed a mere physical experience could be so stimulating!"....or an equivalent effusion.

The local author (her expose of the food industry, "Spoiled", was published in l996 and her new book "Against the Machine" will come out in 2002) was informed that if she thought this was fun, think how much fun it would be when her toes were not frozen, the grass was flat and green, and it was warm enough to be drinking lemonade or chilled white wine.

Here's the bottom line, in anyone's book: All the participants in the first Winter Golf Croquet Festival highly recommend this version of the sport for those confined to Northern Climes in the winter.

Editor's Note: For the opposite extreme in style and climate, check out the Fifth Golf Croquet World Championship at the National Croquet Center in West Palm Beach, February 9-17, 2002.


 
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