Our croquet tour begins in Hamburg
The city of Hamburg, in northern Germany with a population of 2,000,000, has three clubs with roughly 60 players who mainly prefer the game of Golf Croquet. At Rissener Sportsclub an old field hockey pitch has accommodated the Queen of Games since 2000, on two lawns. While some players have complained of the poor quality of the courts, others who have been able to execute many consecutive triple peels on them are less complaining. And those who have won tournaments have tended to complain least of all.
This is the club where Deutscher Krocket Bund featured their most recent Golf Croquet and International Open tournaments. The sportsclub's main activities are tennis, with 17 courts; and field hockey, for the 2nd German League. Since Hamburg is in the north of Germany, there's light to play all these sports until 11 PM in midsummer.
Many croquet lawns begin as hockey fields
The best maintained lawn in Hamburg is in the Stadie-Family-Clubs garden, manually cut with utmost precision by its owner and mastergardener Siegfried, who never forgets to tell you that it takes him weeks of preparation before a single shot is allowed to be played. On this greenest of lawns, well trained birds (all called with their personal names by the master) pick worms without damaging the lawn or subjecting them to pesticides. This is the home of the Igel-Cup (hedgehog-cup) the unofficial German Garden Croquet Championship. The lawn is not full size and has a "dog leg," which adds to the fun.
Further west, close to the naval port of Wilhelmshaven, the marshlands are so flat and green you can play croquet wherever you want! Local cows (and their farmers) will never understand why such glorious milk-cow-meadows are wasted on fancy strangers in white. However, since 1998 Frank and his wife Claudia have presided over a little Croquet paradise on their estate, with 2 ½ full-size lawns that play best after pouring rains! This lawn is where German croquet ace celebrity Rutger Beijderwellen, who lives nearby, first tried the sport. I remember Ron Welsh commenting to me in 2000, "Rutger will be a very good player one day."
Even closer to the Dutch border in the small town of Dalum a completely new private full size lawn was build in 2005 by Eberhardt and Sieglinde Zeh. Here they play with their friends, constantly improving their skills. The enterprising couple learned Association Croquet all on their own, from the books of Laws, without benefit of instruction!
An ideal mix of wine, food, scenery, and croquet
In the old Roman town of Bonn (former capitol of West Germany) the Bonner Krocketfreude take good care of the sport. They, too, occupy a former field hockey pitch. Only Golf Croquet is played on the two full-size lawns, enhanced by a well appointed clubhouse. The hospitality of Bonner Krocketfreude is famous throughout the German association.
Traveling further south, the Palatine Wine Area offers excellent croquet at the Buerklin-Wolf winery/Wachenheim, famous for their Riesling. The winery maintains two lawns, one full-size built newly in 2006 and a smaller practice court. The lawns are the centerpiece of an English garden, offering beautiful view over vineyards into the Rhine Valley, and overlooking Wachenheim Castle. Playing here on a Sunday morning, listening to the church bells from the wine villages down in the valley, is an unforgettable experience. Wachenheim hosted the German Association Croquet Championship in 2007. The quality of the wine and the food here rival the excellence of the croquet.
In Saxonia, between the cities of Dresden and Leipzig, some of the keenest and oldest croquet freaks survived socialist times. Near Grimma they have created a private croquet paradise with a half-size lawn and a pool, flood lights, BBQ and a spectacular view.
Croquet in Germany is in its infancy, with much to come in the future. Feel invited to play with us when you travel in Germany. If you speak German or want to brush up your language skills, see www.Krocket.de or contact me at Jvinnen@yahoo.de.
Anyone interested in finding out more about croquet in the countries affiliated with the European Croquet Federation may contact their national organizations directly.
Austria, www.croquet.at, firstname.lastname@example.org
A NOTE ON THE AUTHOR Joern Vinnen, 41, helped to found Deutscher Krocket Bund in 1997 and since then has remained chairman of the German association. He frequently manages national championships and international test matches in Germany. He has a handicap of eight and loves to play Golf Croquet. Joern - who's also into hunting, fishing, hiking, and cycling - lives with his family in Hamburg and plays croquet with his wife Priska and their two children. As an attorney, he specializes in family and probate law.
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