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Ready to shoot . . . Oamaru Mail reporter Tyson Young lines up a shot during his first game of croquet. PHOTO: HAMISH MACLEAN

There are dozens of sporting options these days, but have you considered croquet? The Oamaru Mail sent reporter Tyson Young – perhaps not quite in the target demographic for the sport – to have a game at the Awamoa Gardens Croquet Club.

Before playing my first game of croquet recently, I had to admit I wasn’t really sure what the sport was about.

I knew that it involved hitting balls on a green with a mallet, but my knowledge beyond that was limited, and it wasn’t until having a go that I realised there was a bit more to the sport than whacking balls through some hoops.

About 30 minutes before my game, I scoured the internet looking at tips and tricks that might help me.

I headed to the club to meet president Jim Hopley and life member Ethel Johnstone and, to my surprise, I learned I’d be facing off in a handicap double against Hopley.

Before starting the game, I took a few practice shots. With tips I learned from the internet, and a five minute pot-shot session, I put my new-found knowledge to the test.

Fortunately for me, Johnstone volunteered to be my croquet coach.

I looked at the ball on the ground in front of me. The croquet hoop was several metres away, directly in my line of sight.

“Give it a good hit,” Hopley said to me.

I walked over to the ball, straightened my back, bent my knees and swung the mallet.

My first shot was tragic, to say the least. I barely managed to shoot the ball halfway to the hoop – I wasn’t even close.

“That’s all right – have another go,” Hopley reassured me.

This time, I put a bit more power into my swing.

With a loud smack, the ball shot off across the green, and it stopped just a metre before the hoop.

Hopley tried to catch up to me, but fortunately I managed to score before he got the chance.

As the game went on, each ball became easier and easier to shoot.

A highlight for me came when I hit the ball through a hoop that seemed like miles away. After striking the ball, I watched eagerly as it rolled graciously into the hoop.

“What an impressive shot,” I thought to myself. Both club members were also thrilled with my marksmanship.

I ended up winning the game 7-2 – I was chuffed with that, even if I wondered if Hopley was going easy on me.

Looking back, I got more enjoyment out of croquet than I thought I would.

It’s not just the sport – it’s also the club members, who seem a friendly bunch.

For those wanting to have a go at the sport, the club regularly hosts have-a-go days. You might just get hooked.