Some amazing aerial photos of Ember taken by Cristian Teichner (https://cristianteichner.com). A very different perspective on our club!
Would you believe it!? We have had over seventy different people play croquet on our lawns this year! Not bad given we had a membership of just fourteen at the start of the season. We opened up the lawns to our neighbours and friends, and acquired six new members during the season!
We have played a lot more GC (golf croquet) this year, and this is the generally accepted route in to playing croquet these days. It’s a good fun game, but it can be as competitive and mentally challenging as AC. We entered a team into the SECF competitions and had a great time visiting several clubs including Wimbledon (at the All England Club). Our new members are playing GC and so are our guests. Tennis players must have wondered why there are so many people standing on the croquet lawn, and why are they all laughing and enjoying themselves? Drop your rackets, come on over and find out!
Simon Charrington was our most improved player, and he joins Steve Edney and Roger Stearn as 12 handicap AC players. Certainly the consistency of Roger and Simon led to us “retaining” the SECF B League (we won it in 2019, and of course the competition was cancelled in 2021).
We have received many compliments about the lawn. It certainly is looking nice and green, and it is playing quite well too. Thanks to income from grants and from guest events, we have spent a little bit more than usual on treatments and equipment. Our aim is to make our lawn faster so, instead of using brute strength, anyone can hit a ball from one boundary to another (if that’s the shot to play). We will not get to the standards of the richer Croquet clubs but its good to have this as a target.
Our target next year is to have even more fun, and to actively encourage local people and ESC members of other sports to come and give croquet a go. You are always welcome.
Here are some photos from the year:
For the second year running it’s not been possible to run all of the usual internal competitions. Two were competed for:
AC Singles Open Knockout, and
GC Singles (Handicap) Knockout.
The AC final was a tight well contested match. After a slow start by both players Roger slowly started to build a lead one or two hops at a time and took the score to 10 -3. Simon then started to fight back again largely with one or two hops at a time and with about 50 minutes left on the clock had reduced Roger’s lead to 13 -10. Roger tried to create a 4 ball break sending one ball to pivot and the other approaching Simon’s two balls but missed the subsequent roquet attempt. Simon was then able to create and sustain a 4 ball break taking control of the game at 18 -13 with time now running out. Roger was on the lawn 19 -14 down when time ran out and was trying to create a minimum 5 hoop break out of not much, finally ending with his yellow ball in the jaws of hoop 6 and the game was over. Simon was the winner at 19 -15. The one significant break in a tense and fairly even match had proved decisive.
The GC final was closely contested by Hugh and Roger S. Hugh won the toss. The first game started with some very quick hoop running and soon reached 5-3 to Hugh including a one hit hoop run on hoop 4. The remainder took a while longer with Hugh going on to win 7-5. The second game reached 5-3 to Roger, who then held on to win 7-5. The final game was even throughout, Roger won hoop 10 to square at 5-5, Hugh won hoop 11 for 6-5 and finished with his ball over halfway to hoop 12, Roger then ran hoop 12 with his first shot to take the match to the golden hoop, leaving both Hugh and Roger with an off-side ball. Hugh played an excellent shot from the penalty area into a hoop running position and with no interference coming from the next 3 balls proceeded to run the hoop and win the match.
For a full list of trophy winners, click on the Hall of Fame link
Our most senior Croquet member, in his ninetieth year, Pat Freeman has decided to hand over line painting duties to others from this month on. Thankfully, Pat will still be around to give advice, and also of course to play croquet. We hope he may also feel up to a bit of woodwork, replacing felt on the pavilion roof, painting sheds and everything else he has done for us over many years…
… and it has been many years that Pat has faithfully done all this and more, for which we thank him greatly!
Pat honed his line painting skills by watching the professionals at the All England Club, Wimbledon, where he stewarded, again for many years.
We are not sure how many years, but it has been many, many years!
Here are a few pictures of Pat’s final lines, which, I think you will agree, he never fluffed!
Every match was won 2-1 in games. Roger S was the most dependable, and managed some big wins in the singles, as did Simon, though the one singles he did lose (to an extremely good player), Roger D and Steve managed to sneak a close victory in the doubles at Merton. It is with no doubt we won because Simon and Roger S have improved faster than their handicaps. We may not have that luxury next year as the B League rules stipulate the aggregated total of the four players’ handicaps must be 48 or more: Roger D on 9 (and rising); Steve on 12 (and rising!); Roger S and Simon both on 14 (plummeting rapidly). Let’s hope Tom, Bob and perhaps Hugh or a new player (George?) can play more next year. Perhaps we should try for the A League!!!!????
The same four players competed in the SECF’s Golf Croquet Handicap League East for the first time and performed very well, winning two and losing two matches. Here is the long table of results. As with the AC league, we only play a small selection of the teams competing, and this changes year on year.
Roger D had inherited a low handicap of 5 so it was tricky for him to compete in the singles matches but I think he thoroughly enjoyed himself and was very pleased the club could manage so well at a version of the game not traditionally played with any seriousness (up until now). Roger S, Steve and Simon all played off 7, which we reckon is about fair for our ability and knowledge of the game thus far. Roger S claims its helped him improve his AC game with improved hit-ins, hoop running and rushes (in GC, that’s getting the opponents ball away as far as possible), whereas Steve states otherwise! A knack of prodding at the ball to leave it in the jaws of the hoop rather than “silky smooth” and through to win the point!
Above all, Golf croquet is far more sociable and was played in great spirit against some lovely people from other clubs. Far less competitive and less needle than AC! It makes a refreshing contrast but AC is still the game for the purist (in my opinion anyway!)
I leave you with the B League trophy glistening in the warm September evening sun.
We had a most enjoyable outing to the delightful Merton Croquet Club on Friday 13th August.
Roger D and Steve played a doubles match in the morning against Carolyn and Lavinia. As the higher handicapper, Lavinia got started first using several bisques and made good progress. Then Steve had a chance and set up a four ball break with some great positional shots then proceeded round to Two-back without much problem, save a couple of blobs at hoops, remedied with bisques. Carolyn and Roger also made good progress, and the game was extremely close in scores. Steve tensed up and played Roger’s ball by mistake but Merton could not capitalise. He then nervously tried to use the remaining half bisque, in order to separate Merton’s balls, but missed a sitter! The Edney jab was back… grrrrrrr… Roger did a marvellous three ball break to get round to 4-back, and Carolyn displayed some canny hoop running to move to Rover. Finally, at 19-18 to Ember, Steve had the chance to make the game safe having returned to form to set up a hoop run at Penultimate only for the “jab” to return as he took on the hoop. Luckily, Lavinia had too much to do to achieve the equalising hoop after the time bell rang, and Ember were one-up. 19-18 it remained.
We then had a jolly good lunch under a Gazebo next to the lawn.
In the afternoon, Simon (14 handicap) played Julie (9), and Roger S (14) played Colin (12). As the author of this post left well before the conclusion of either game, here are the first-hand accounts of the players themselves:
Simon wrote: “My opponent, Julie, nine handicap, knew what she was doing: ran 10 hoops using one of her 3 bisques. I ran 11 hoops using 4 of my eight. She then ran 12 hoops using her remaining 2 bisques. I then ran 12 hoops using my remaining four bisques. I fluffed a shot which gave her a chance to run the remaining 2 hoops with yellow and then peg out, which she almost did, but fluffed the pegging. So I again had a chance but my split roll from corner four wasn’t quite good enough to secure the necessary hit-in for me to finish off the remaining 3 points required. So Julie then had a simple peg out to secure her victory. We had 30 minutes left on the clock.”
Roger S told me: “I used 2 bisques in my first turn to get to rover and split the balls up into the 4 corners. Colin just joined up and kept the innings declining to use any bisque and playing safe and cleverly to make progress 1 or 2 hoops at a time. He used the odd bisque to get out of trouble. During this time I made 2 attempts at making another big break but both failed leaving me on 9 with only 2 left and Colin with 4 or 5. I decided to be cautious and make him work to catch up and hopefully use his bisques in the process. Eventually he had a small break to take his brown to peg but finished his bisques in doing so and left the balls in playable positions. This gave me the confidence and opportunity to go for peg using a bisque to set up. Using my other bisque I was also able to peel my other ball through rover also. Blocked by the hoop from safely pegging out and with all the balls in the centre of the lawn I was able to clear his green and peg out his brown to make it very difficult for him to catch up and leaving me set up to peg out assuming he didn’t hit in – which he didn’t. Game over with about 15 mins to spare.”
Thank you John McEnroe, thanks Sue… well done Novak, but we will take it from here! The event of the year was finally upon us, a friendly fixture versus All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet, at croquet!
Okay, so we didn’t play on the hallowed turf of Centre Court, not even Court One. Alright, so it wasn’t even an outside court but it was a converted tennis court… two in fact.
How did this all come about? Well, like it or not, it pays to have connections and Simon’s daughter works at the AELTC. So a big thank you to Kate for organising this for us!
We played six games of doubles in the morning. Ember won 4-2 overall. Their team included a former UK number one tennis player, a former MP and a recently retired TV commentator.
Once we’d got that out of the way, we trundled over to HQ and sat down for silver service lunch. The Beef Stroganoff was to die for, darling! Anyway, once that was done, off we trotted round Centre Court, pitch side and up close to the Royal Box. Pictures of us next to the main trophies (so didn’t get to take it home with you, Novak?) Fabulous!
It was equally fabulous to have much needed support for the team. Malcolm and Jenny Baird provided the photos and the oohs and aahs respectively. Also, it was great to welcome back Jenny Kirkman, social member and widow of the late Roger Kirkman, who helped start Croquet at Ember back in 1989. Thank you so much for coming along!
We talked about a return match at Ember sometime soon… followed by a tour of our resplendent Croquet Pavilion, steeped in history and myth. Hoorah!
A hot muggy July 1st, as Ember Croquet Club played host to Woking CC in an SECF golf handicap league match. Woking player Alan had requested to play his three games as quickly as possible so he could get away quick. Therefore, we started at 9.30am and the pitch was a little slow to start. Steve took him on first with the benefit of four extra shots. Steve took a 3-1 lead then gifted Alan two hoops. After that Steve pulled away to win 7-3 with some smart play using his bisques.
Following closely behind the two Ember Rogers played against Maggie and Gill. At 4-4, Roger S managed to run hoop 9, leaving his ball just through the hoop. When it came round to his turn again, hitting through hoop 9, Roger S directed the ball through hoop 10 (21 yard shot!). One more hoop, and victory was secured 7-4 for Ember.
Alan managed to finish a quick cuppa before he was off again, this time a doubles with Sandra against the home team’s Simon and Steve. Alan played some wonderful shots but Steve and Simon stayed with Woking all the way, and perhaps should have won. Steve called his a foul shot on penultimate which allowed Woking to get back to 5-6, leaving the Ember balls still stuck in the hoop so Woking went and drew level. Woking clinched the golden hoop.
Roger S then played Maggie who gave him 4 bisques. Roger did not need them all to win 7-3.
Alan was back on for his final game next, with Gill against Ember’s Roger D and Simon. Although Gill and Alan are low handicappers (2 and 3 respectively), the Ember lads managed to clinch a 7-6 win. They had a little bit (read: massive amount) of good fortune on the golden hoop. From hoop 12, Roger D put his red ball in the jaws of the golden hoop (i.e. from the wrong side), then, after black and yellow played their approaches, Alan’s approach with blue conveniently pushed the red through, setting it up for Roger to run from the right side, which he executed with aplomb.
Steve took on Woking’s Sandra, and all this activity was before lunch! Steve scoffed another Jaffa cake, downed his fifth tea of the morning and buzzed round, winning 7-2.
Following lunch and the departure of the busy Alan, the three remaining singles games were played rather more sedately. Simon had an easy win versus Maggie, again benefitting from four extra shots. Roger D went neck and neck with Sandra but eventually won on a golden hoop with a ricochet off Sandra’s ball while trying to clear it from in front of the hoop from an awkward angle. The tensest game was probably Roger S for Ember against Gill of Woking, who finally got their second victory 7-5, after some great long range hit-ins and tactical play, which cancelled out Roger’s use of his 5 bisques.
Then there was cake!
Ember won the match 7-2.