06:15 September 22, 2021
David Thirtle-Watts slows his breathing. In, out, in, out, he swings his hammer back and ‘knock…!’ – the black ball rises over the red ball and flies cleanly through the ring with a fraction of an inch left on either side.
Players call it Hunstanton’s best kept secret. Established in 1911, the town’s croquet club has five lovingly maintained world-class greens surrounding the clubhouse, tucked away off the A149.
Those who lace up their flat-soled shoes to fight it often become addicted to a game whose quirks can make it addictive.
“It’s a challenge,” says retired contract manager Mr. Thirtle-Watts, 72. “There are different levels of croquet, there’s the level that’s club play, then there’s track play. I really enjoy track play, you can join all over the country.”
Mr Thirtle-Watts has hammered his hammer as far as Nottingham, Devon and Sussex.
Over the weekend, the Hunstanton Croquet Club played host to one of the sport’s most prestigious events, the 2021 Croquet Association Ascot Cup Final.
Sixteen of the country’s best players came together on Hunny for two days of fierce competition.
Teenager Jack Good fought his way to the final where he was defeated by legendary England player Stephen Mulliner.
HCC Chair Janet Kendal said: “Five out of 16 were young people, which was really nice to watch. It’s seen as an older person’s sport.
“We want to encourage more younger members, but a lot of people don’t even know we’re here.”
The club, whose logo depicts a sun setting through a croquet ring under St Edmund’s crown, has about 80 members.
Retired florist Mrs. Kendal, 73, estimated that the average age was 60, with the oldest member still knocking balls around the lawns after turning 90.
She said the club welcomed anyone who wanted to try the sport, and new members could borrow a hammer to try it.
“All we ask people to do if they want to try it is wear flat-soled shoes,” she said.
You can contact the club through its website http://hunstantoncroquetclub.co.uk.