Think of croquet and images spring to mind of a genteel game, played by the upper classes on manicured lawns.
But a new team in Sheffield is trying to change perceptions of the sport, promoting the idea of the game as a pastime anyone can enjoy.
The Sheffield Croquet Club has been set up by six founder members, and meets regularly at the Transport Sports Ground at Meadowhead.
It is the first of its kind in the city that is open to all, and they are actively looking for new members - particularly younger folk new to the sport.
Adrian Simmerson, the club’s chairman, said: “We are very keen to try and recruit younger members, such as students and schoolchildren, our aim is to get a few schools interested and help them run mini-leagues.
“We know this is going to be a challenge, as the average age of croquet players has typically been 60-something. But things are changing and quite a few of the top players are in their late teens or early 20s.
“Croquet isn’t the game it used to be, it’s not all crinolines & vicarage tea parties! Croquet is a game that everyone can enjoy. It can be played by all ages, and men and women can play on equal terms.”
The club won its first home friendly match against Bakewell last month, and has since lifted the trophy at its debut tournament at Beverley, near Hull.
The sport is played around the world in almost 20 countries, and in the UK there are more than 200 clubs. Croquet can be traced back to a set of rules registered by one Isaac Spratt in November 1856 with the Stationers’ Company in London.
In 1868, the first croquet all comers’ meeting was held at Moreton-in-the-Marsh, Gloucestershire, and in the same year the All England Croquet Club was formed at Wimbledon, London. Today, several variations of the game are currently played, each differing in the scoring systems, order of shots and layout, but each boils down to same basic principle - hitting plastic or wooden balls with a mallet through hoops.
There are a lexicon of terms shared among players, including a ‘tice’ - when a ball is sent to a location that entices an opponent to shoot at it but miss - and ‘wired’, which describes when a hoop or the peg impedes the path of a striker’s ball.
Explaining the game’s appeal, Adrian said it ‘offers something different’. “It’s a fresh air sport that doesn’t require extreme fitness, but co-ordination and thinking are important.
“You can enjoy the game at all levels, from club games to competitive league and tournament matches,” said the chairman, who lives in Dore.
“Croquet has sometimes been compared to a cross between golf, chess and snooker. It’s much more challenging than computer games.
“It’s a sport where players can continually improve their game as they get older and become more experienced.”
Adrian said three local schools have already shown interest in playing croquet, and courses for beginners are planned during the year.
“You don’t need any special equipment – the club has its own mallets for members to use,” he added.
“The club received tremendous support from Sport England, the Croquet Association and Sheffield Town Trust. Their help has enabled us to buy the equipment we needed to set up the club and start playing croquet.”
The club plays Monday, Thursday and Saturday afternoons and Wednesday evenings. Log on to www.sheffieldcroquetclub.org.uk, call Adrian on 07925 957 769 or membership secretary Mike White on 07917 298 228.