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Natural . . . Gus Patterson racks up the points in his clash at the Awamoa Gardens Club. PHOTO: SARAH MILLER

The Awamoa Gardens Croquet Club is holding a series of open days this month, with the aim of getting more people – young and old – involved in the sport. Oamaru Mail reporter Gus Patterson was invited to try it out.

For me, the word “croquet” has always conjured up images of English manors and stuffy white uniforms.

So when I was asked to try the sport, I thought it would be more about etiquette than entertainment.

That was out the window as soon as one of the club’s life members, Ethel Johnston, smashed her ball into that of club president Keith Robertson, sending it across the green and under a hedge.

“Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Keith,” Johnston beamed.

Game on, then.

If pool, lawn bowls and golf had a menage a trois, the result would be croquet.

The idea is to hit one of two balls through a series of hoops.

Once one player sends their ball through a hoop, everyone moves on to the next one.

Smashing your ball into your opposition’s, to put it in a disadvantageous position, is not only allowed, but encouraged.

Armed with Johnston and Robertson’s instructions, Oamaru Mail advertising consultant Sarah Miller and I took to the green to battle it out.

We were playing golf croquet – a popular adaptation of the traditional variety.

It is harder than it looks to control the mallet, but it did not take us long to play six hoops, and we quickly got a feel for the game.

There was plenty of room for innovation, and it was as much about tactics as it was skill.

The Awamoa Gardens Croquet Club is holding five open days this month with the aim of getting more people involved in the sport.

At present, the club has 55 members, and there is plenty of room for more, Johnston said.

“It is exciting and tactical. You keep having to think where your next ball is going.”

The open days are being held on August 19, 21, 24, 26 and 28 from 10am to 4pm at the Awamoa Gardens club in Awamoa Rd.