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Culture Watch : Croquet a Hit With Older Set

June 28, 1993|THE WASHINGTON POST

Croquet is quietly emerging as a serious sport of senior citizens. Today, 5,000 players are members of the U.S. Croquet Assn., nearly a quarter of them 60 and older.

The association, formed in 1977, has seen the number of croquet clubs climb steadily, with one new club forming every week. More than 300 clubs currently are listed.

For the serious player, the croquet played at clubs is far different from the back-yard game. Much like golf, there are handicaps. Skillful players count each stroke, and less experienced players may deduct points based on previous performances.

White clothes, including shoes, are a must. The sport can be played in singles or doubles. And most players prefer to buy their own mallet, paying $200 to $250.

Court time costs about $10 a day per person. Although there are public courts (Beverly Hills has one), most croquet courts are found at tony resorts and private country clubs or golf courses.

Skill, not athletic ability, is required to hit the ball through the six cast-iron wickets positioned on the court. Walking and stretching are the most strenuous activities involved.

"We call it a life-extending sport," said Jack Osborn, founder of the U.S. Croquet Assn. "When a man starts losing yards on his golf drive, or a tennis player has an elbow that pains too much, croquet makes a wonderful alternative."

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