TEGA CAY – A lot of people enjoy playing croquet, but perhaps not like this.
Unlike the backyard or lawn version played at home, the competitive level of play at the regulation court next to the Tega Cay Golf Course requires a number of practiced skills. They take the sport seriously here, and soon the Tega Cay Croquet Club will host some of the best players in the region for a qualifying event that’s part of a national championship tournament.
Teams from North and South Carolina, Georgia and Florida will converge at the Tega Cay Croquet Club facility at 15083 Molokai Drive June 8-9 for the States Shield Southeast Regional Quad qualifier. The event is sponsored by the Croquet Network.
The public is invited to come out and watch these top players compete in the six wicket version of the sport.
Combining elements of golf, billiards, chess and more, croquet is played on a low cut grass surface not unlike a golf green or a lawn tennis court. Strategy can include blocking opponents from scoring – or even keeping them off the court for long periods – and experienced players can develop techniques for precise shots and ball placement.
“A lot of the game plays like match play in golf,” explains Damon Bidencope, a U.S. Croquet Association Hall of Fame player and one of the people who helped bring a regulation court to Tega Cay about 10 years ago.
“If you’re in front, you want to put pressure on the person behind” and visa versa.
Terry Hunt, president of the Tega Cay Croquet Club, explained that the sport originated in France in the 17th century, migrated to England, where it became a favorite among royalty, and eventually gained popularity in the English colonies around the world.
“We’re playing six-wicket croquet, also known as American Rules croquet,” he said.
Among the various styles, “golf croquet, you can pick that up pretty fast. But six wicket, you may never get it all,” he laughed.
One of the fun aspects, Hunt said, “is like in billiards, you can do some trick shots. For example, if someone’s ball is in front of yours, you can jump their ball, get ahead of them and score.”
A typical game takes about an hour to play, Hunt said.
This is the first year the Southeast region is participating in the national tournament. The team that wins the Southeast qualifier goes on to compete in the National Shield Championship Aug. 16-19 in the Minneapolis area.
Outside of Tega Cay, the closest clubs are in Pinehurst, Linville, Blowing Rock and Lexington, N.C., over 80 miles away.
Tega Cay’s court is owned by the City of Tega Cay and is located at the Tega Cay Golf Club. Founded in 2008, the Tega Cay Croquet Club operates the croquet facilities and has over 100 adult and junior members. The court is available to the public for a nominal fee.
Want to go?
Anyone interested in seeing the nation’s best players compete is invited to come on out to the Tega Cay court, 15083 Molokai Drive June 8-9. Play begins at 9 a.m. both days. Bring a chair. Refreshments are available for sale at the golf course clubhouse, but spectators can bring their own as well.