Chase Park Croquet Club keeps timeless tradition alive

CHATHAM – Swing by Chase Park on any given day and you might be lucky enough to see the Chase Park Croquet Club in action, the members are dressed in traditional white as they maneuver balls through a series of wickets in friendly competition. It’s classic Cape Cod and, as the members will tell you, loads of fun.

Croquet, for those uninformed, is a sport in which players use mallets to move colored balls around a lane, passing them through wickets (wooden or metal stirrups inserted into the grass), starting and ending with specific bets . It can be a relaxing backyard activity as well as a fiercely competitive endeavor.

In Chatham, the Chase Park Croquet Club favors sociable gatherings and games where players have fun while cheering each other on.

The club originally started when part-time resident Wayne Dimm, who was active in croquet in Palm Beach, wanted to bring the sport to Chatham. In the early 2000s, the club was initially founded at Chatham Bars Inn and was called the Pleasant Bay Croquet Club.

For a number of years, the club loved lively matches at CBI before other plans for the inn space required a change of location. That location was Dimm’s house, with a wide lawn perfect for croquet and coincidentally also overlooking Chatham Harbor.

There, the club settled for regular croquet gatherings until the family decided to do something different with the property, which again led to a change of location. Club member Connie Loomis called the search for a new location against Meredith Fry, chairman of the Chatham Parks and Recreation Commission, who also happens to be Loomis’ daughter-in-law, and a plan was hatched.

With the support of Chatham Parks and Recreation and director Dan Tobin, as well as Fry, the club moved to Chase Park, which led to a name change to the Chase Park Croquet Club, which allowed games to be enjoyed on the park’s lush lawn.

At the annual city meeting in May, voters approved $25,000 in community conservation funds to build an official croquet playground with specially mowed grass and an irrigation well that will benefit not only the croquet area but the park as well. Work will start this fall.

Loomis grew up playing garden style croquet and was brought into the Chase Park club by a friend.

“I was just overtaken by the fun of it,” said Loomis. “I’ve played tennis, paddle tennis and now it’s croquet.”

It’s an ideal sport for all ages, she said, but it’s especially fun for older people because of its low impact.

“It’s the best sport for anyone at any age, but especially at this age,” Loomis said. “We’re socializing here, we’re having fun. We’re not sitting in a chair.”

Croquet not only gets people moving, it also strengthens hand-eye coordination.

“You’re using your skills and that’s exciting,” Loomis said.

“It’s exercise. We don’t run, but we walk,” added Dan Brown, who co-founded the original club with Dimm. “It keeps you sharp and it’s fun.”

Both Brown and Loomis said the sport’s greatest appeal lies in the way it fosters connections between players. Coziness is an important aspect of croquet.

“It’s definitely a socializing thing, and it’s a mind game,” Brown said.

While the club follows the English tradition of dressing in all white for their matches, their meetings are anything but stuffy.

“Some people call it elitist,” Brown said. “We call it fun.”

While the club has had a strong group of dedicated members over the years, both Loomis and Brown hope more people will consider joining.

“I hope it will continue and the membership will increase,” Loomis said.

At present, the game is friendly and sociable, and largely informal, although scores are kept using a wooden scoreboard. However, the prospect of a real court is making club members consider playing informal tournaments, if only to welcome more players.

Brown emphasizes that the course at Chase Park is open to the public and that anyone is welcome to join the croquet club, which usually meets in June for matches and competes weekly, often until October, weather permitting.

“We have a meeting at the beginning of the season to organize and choose match days,” said Brown. “Then a club member, most recently Sally Stratman, makes a schedule. Then we’ll just drop by. It works out really well.”

“There’s something elegant about it,” Loomis said. “And it’s a lot of fun.”

Those interested in joining the Chase Park Croquet Club can contact Connie Loomis at 508-221-2104.

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