W.W. Gill, who was responsible for the introduction and encouragement of many sporting activities at what has become known as Dulwich Sports Club, was Chairman of a Croquet Committee which was formed in 1909 and which led to two croquet lawns being laid in about 1912. They have served the Croquet Section well ever since. Indeed, with bowls ceasing to be played at the Club a few years ago, croquet players now have three lawns available, very useful when large numbers are playing in tournaments.
At the start, the long established game of Association Croquet was played by both men and women players. However, as membership grew, the time taken to play a full game of Association Croquet resulted in the shorter and less complex game of Golf Croquet taking off and this soon became and remained for many years the more popular of the two, particularly among the ladies who formed the large majority of the playing members.
However, with the arrival in the l980s of Stephen Badger and others, including the Section’s current President Simon Whiteley, Association Croquet not only enjoyed a renaissance but became the preferred version of the game for many. It was also sadly the fact that the number of ladies playing at the Club declined although one, Sue Best, not only became the Section’s highly efficient Secretary but also successfully took on the men on their own terms!
And now the pendulum has swung again. In during 2006 and 2007, the Section welcomed about twenty new members, both men and women, almost all of whom have begun by playing Golf Croquet. Several of them have been taking part in courses to enable them to play Association Croquet. Recruitment to the Section has been as a result of word of mouth recommendations, interest shown by members of other Sections and such attractions as the “mini-croquet” put on by the Section during summer Late Evenings at Dulwich College Picture Gallery. There are weekly Club Afternoons and Evenings featuring both versions of the game and established players are only too happy to welcome newcomers and develop their interest in the game. Indeed several new players have joined the Section since the beginning of this Season.
Dulwich not only holds Association and Golf Croquet Tournaments at the Club but plays matches – League and Friendly – against other local clubs such as Sydenham, Old College and Temple and those further afield such as Hurlingham, Parsons Green and Surbiton.
The Croquet Section is proud of its players, of whom five are numbered in the nation’s top 250 Association Croquet players and one who has recently played in the Golf Croquet World Championships for his country. And there are many more among the present 50 members of the Section who just enjoy their croquet and value the friendships this delightful game produces.