Men and women in all-white croquet outfits gathered recently on a foggy, misty morning at the Estero Community Center. Dew covered the grass as they prepared to participate in the 2014 Florida International Senior Games and State Championships.
Naples residents Donald and Trish Rupprecht were two of the people in white. They started playing croquet in 2010 for one simple reason.
“We could do it together,” Trish said.
Their home court is at the Audubon Country Club, which has two croquet lawns. But on this Sunday they traveled up U.S. 41 to a Lee County public park to compete against players from around Florida.
“To go home with gold,” Trish said with a smile.
That’s just what they did, winning doubles in the 60-to-65 age group.
Croquet has replaced golf in Donald’s life.
“I had been playing golf for 10, 15 years and I wasn’t very good,” he said. “The best part of my game was putting.”
Well, that seemed to translate to croquet, which requires a skill for striking a ball a short distance but also demands accuracy.
“I had seen croquet played in Pinehurst in North Carolina,” Donald said. “So we decided, let’s investigate it and see it if it was a game we would enjoy. Obviously, we have.”
The Rupprechts found much to like about croquet.
“Golf is four hours out of your day,” Trish said.
A round of golf croquet can be played in perhaps an hour. Try playing 18 holes of golf in an hour.
The Rupprechts ironically play a form of the sport called golf croquet. That’s also the version played in the state games. On the Croquet America website, it is referred to as “the simplest form of the game.”
Other popular versions include nine wickets and six wickets.
But golf croquet was played at the Florida Senior Games.
Another advantage of croquet compared to golf can be found when it comes time to pay for equipment.
Don said mallets range in price from $100 to $400 and players need only one. It’s not like golf where every player needs a driver, putter and assortment of irons.
Don’t be fooled, though, into thinking golf croquet is like the version people may have played in grandma’s backyard when they were kids.
“It’s a totally different game,” Don said.
From www.croquetamerica.com: “Golf croquet is played between two sides – the blue and black balls versus the red and yellow balls. In singles each player plays two balls; in doubles each player plays the same ball throughout.”
The explanation goes on for another 10 paragraphs.
The sport has wide appeal in Florida. Victoria Albrecht, a player and the croquet director at the state games, said 41 croquet players signed up for the state games and that there are more than 62 croquet clubs around the stat.
And she said the sport is much more complex than it may appear to outsiders.
“This is like chess and polo,” said Albrecht said, who is also chairman of the Development Committee of the Croquet Foundation of America.
As things developed at Estero Community Center on that misty foggy morning, Donald and Trish Rupprecht returned to Naples with gold.