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Croquet on display in Lewiston

Sat, Sep 15th 2018 12:15 pm
Last Saturday, golf croquet enthusiasts gathered at the Lewiston "White Gates" home of Bill and Barbara Vrooman for an afternoon "tournament of friends."
Golf croquet? What's that?
Many people remember the game of backyard croquet they played when they were kids. It included a croquet set that had nine wide and rounded wickets with a small ball, short mallets and two stakes.
That game remains, but a different version of the game - called golf croquet - has caught the public's attention in many parts of the country. This game includes six wickets, one stake and a ball that weighs one pound and must be hit through a metal, non-rounded stake that has inside dimensions that provide a margin of error of only 1/16th of an inch to put the ball through the wicket. In fact, in serious international competitions, that margin of error is reduced to 1/32nd of an inch.
In most instances, golf croquet is a social activity that can be played in backyards, country clubs and community greens by people of all ages. It can also be quite competitive for the more serious player. It is one of the very few games that can be played on an equal basis by men and women, as well as people of all ages - from under 10 years old to players well into their 90s.
Bill Vrooman, who coached the players on Saturday, said, "Good eyes, judgment, teamwork, camaraderie, sense of humor and a friendly competitive spirit are all that are needed for an enjoyable game of golf croquet."
He said the game has not reached Western New York to any great extent, but noted he believes people "just don't know about this version of the game, and that is a shame because it is such an enjoyable and social activity."
A favorable aspect of the game is that it can be completed within 30 to 45 minutes. This allows for a social round-robin event and catering to a variety of ability groups within the same event. This makes golf croquet appealing to those wanting to make the game more of a social event than a competition.
Golf croquet is played between two sides: the blue and black balls versus the red and yellow balls. The order of play is blue, red, black then yellow. In singles play, each player plays two balls: blue and black versus red and yellow. In doubles play - blue and black versus red and yellow - each player plays the same colored ball throughout the game. Blue and black always play together, and red and yellow do likewise. The object of the game is to be the first side to go through four or seven wickets, depending upon whether one is playing a seven- or 13-wicket game.
Bill Vrooman said, "If I had known about this game at an earlier age, I would have become a croquet player much earlier in my life."
In his cursory research about croquet, he learned the game is more than 100 years old.
An additional aspect of the game is the preferred dress is white attire, although that is sometimes an option in informal matches. Most tournament croquet, however, requires the wearing of white clothes. Bill Vrooman said the dress code adds to the fun.
In some parts of the country, golf croquet events have been used as successful fundraisers for various not-for-profit organizations. In addition, large or small corporations have used the game as a fun, team-building event. Several colleges, including the U.S. Naval Academy, St. John's College and the University of Virginia, as well as a few high schools have croquet teams and play a schedule during the academic year.
Bill Vrooman said he hopes Lewiston will have a croquet facility someday, as it would add to the community's quality of life and recreation programs in a significant way.
Friends of the Vrooman family, including Bill and Rita Geiben, pictured, joined together last Saturday for lawn croquet.

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