National Croquet Championship to be held in Venice this weekend

Croquet is a popular sport played at backyard garden parties, but it also has a competitive side. The Sarasota County Croquet Club has hosted competitions in the area for more than 20 years, and the United States Croquet Association’s National Championship takes place on the lawns this weekend.

Club president Hans Peterson says the organization came about thanks to the Venetian couple Jackie and Fred Jones, whose passion for the sport helped the club.

“In 2004 we got the Joneses to partner with Wellfield Park in Venice, where we built three croquet lawns,” says Peterson. “Since then we have grown steadily and in 2016 we added three more lawns at this location.” Peterson has been playing croquet for 40 years and was once a national collegiate champion when he played at UC Berkley in the 1980s.

This weekend the US Croquet Association National Championship takes place in Wellfield Park and Boca Grande. The event kicks off on Saturday with a question-and-answer session with representatives from the Croquet Association and the tournament manager, along with this year’s youngest entrant, a 14-year-old from California.

From Sunday 11 April, a maximum of 48 participants is expected to be played and spectators are allowed to come and watch. The event will feature two non-profit organizations that support youth through croquet programs: The WareHouse of Venice and Jiminy Wicket. This will be the first tournament hosted by the Sarasota club since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“After the lockdown last year, we were able to open our club almost immediately,” says Peterson. “Because croquet is outdoors, it’s socially distancing, and we need masks, people could still come out and play.” Five days a week, the Venice Club offers a variety of youth and adult programs.

Croquet is played on flat, short grass like you find on the green of a golf course. The boundaries of the playing field are demarcated with stakes. Other equipment includes hammers, balls and wickets – the hoops through which the balls are struck.

A competitive playing field typically measures 105 feet by 84 feet. This is an internationally recognized standard for the type of croquet known as ‘association croquet’.

“Association croquet is a bit more complicated and involves four balls and six wickets,” says Peterson. “All wickets are played twice in order. You start. Each turn has one shot, and if you make the next wicket in order, you get another shot.

A simpler version taught to beginners is called golf croquet. It involves each player taking one stroke at a time and attempting to pass a ball through the same wicket. If you’re looking for a more relaxed version of the game, you can also try backyard croquet.

Peterson says a good tip for beginners is to develop a good shot, similar to a good swing in golf. He tells you to turn your shoulders when you swing and keep your head down to look at the ball and keep going.

If you’re a beginner, you can borrow mallets from the Sarasota club, or buy your own mallets for $100-$500 each. Dawson balls, a worldwide sports standard, are also used. They cost over $100 a ball, but “last a lifetime,” says Peterson.

In 2024, the Sarasota County Croquet Club will host the Under 21 Golf Croquet World Championship. The World Croquet Federation chose Venice as the venue for the international tournament.

“We’ve partnered with youth programs like WareHouse for 15 years, providing summer programs to local high school students and youth,” says Peterson. “So it’s a great honor to support them and host the world event for which they will qualify soon.”

The American Croquet Association National Championship kicks off on Saturday, April 10 at 12:30 PM at Wellfield Park, 1400 Lucaya Ave., Venice. For more information about the Sarasota County Croquet Club, click here.

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