Town's best-kept secret - croquet club seeking younger members

David Thirtle-Watts

David Thirtle-Watts playing at Hunstanton Croquet Club - Credit: Chris Bishop

David Thirtle-Watts slows his breathing right down. In, out, in, out, he swings back his mallet and 'thwock...!' - the black ball takes off over the red ball and flies clean through the hoop with a fraction of an inch either side to spare.

Players call it Hunstanton's best-kept secret. The town's croquet club, founded in 1911, has five lovingly-tended world-class greens around its clubhouse tucked away off the A149.

Hunstanton Croquet Club

Janet Kendal (centre, front) with members of Hunstanton Croquet Club - Credit: Chris Bishop

Those who lace up their flat-soled shoes to do battle on them tend to get hooked on a game whose quirks can make it addictive.

"It's challenging," said retired contracts manager Mr Thirtle-Watts, 72. "There are different levels of croquet, there's the level that is club play, then there's circuit play. I really enjoy the circuit play, you can be competing anywhere in the country."

Hunstanton Croquet Club

John Thirtle-Watts plays a perfect trick shot at Hunstanton Croquet Club, sending the white ball over the red and through the narrow hoop - Credit: Chris Bishop

Mr Thirtle-Watts has swung his mallet as far afield as Nottingham,  Devon and Sussex.

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At the weekend,  Hunstanton Croquet Club played host to the one of the sport's most prestigious events, the Croquet Association's 2021 Ascot Cup Final.

Hunstanton Croquet Club

Hunstanton Croquet Club has five world-class lawns - Credit: Chris Bishop

Sixteen of the country's top players converged on Hunny for two days of fierce competition.

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Teenager Jack Good fought his way the final where he was beaten by the legendary England player Stephen Mulliner.

Hunstanton Croquet Club

Janet Kendall takes aim at Hunstanton Croquet Club - Credit: Chis Bishop

HCC chair Janet Kendal said: "Five out of the 16 were youngsters, which was really nice to see. It is perceived as an older person's sport.

"We want to encourage more younger members, but a lot of people don't even know we're here."

Hunstanton Croquet Club

Hunstanton Croquet Club dates back to 1911. The sport can trace its origins back to 13th Century France - Credit: Chris Bishop

The club, whose logo shows a sun setting through a croquet hoop beneath St Edmund's crown, has around 80 members.

Retired florist Mrs Kendal, 73, reckoned the average age was 60, with the oldest member still knocking balls around the lawns after turning 90.

Hunstanton Croquet Club

John Thirtle-Watts hits the blue ball clean through the hoop at Hunstanton Croquet Club - Credit: Chris Bishop

She said the club welcomed anyone who wish to try the sport, with new members able to borrow a mallet to give it a go.

"All we ask people to do if they are going to try it is wear flat-soled shoes," she said.

Hunstanton Croquet Club

Anyone wishing to try croquet can borrow the equipment from Hunstanton Croquet Club - Credit: Chris Bishop

The club can be contacted via its website

Hunstanton Croquet Club

Croquet players say the sport is challenging and addictive - Credit: Chris Bishop

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