New golf croquet rules criticised

Trick shot . . . Waireka Ashburton player Bill Allnutt demonstrates a jump shot, a technique used to gain a hoop when it is obstructed by an opponent’s ball. PHOTOS: CONNOR HALEY

With unwelcome changes on the horizon, the last old-school handicap golf croquet tournament was held at the West End Croquet Club.

The handicap tournament has been a staple event for croquet in the region and took place earlier this month.

The two-day competition was open to players across South Canterbury and allowed players of all skill levels to fairly compete against each other, with even the potential chance of an upset.

Players participate in pairs and those who possess a higher handicap are given extra shots, the handicaps are divided by the highest and the lowest, then the difference is halved and that is how many extra shots are given.

With a directive from Croquet New Zealand, a new format will be introduced next year, much to the dismay of South Canterbury Croquet publicity officer and West End Croquet Club coach Carole Graham.

She said she thoroughly disapproved of the new system.

‘‘The older I get, the less reason I see for change. It seems this new format is just change for change’s sake. That certainly seems true for golf croquet anyway.’’

The new format will change the way the higher handicap players are assisted.

Instead of giving extra shots, players will now have the number of hoops they need to win adjusted, a change Graham thinks will hinder the game instead of help.

Lining up . . . A West End club pair (red) take on an Ashbury club pair (blue) in the doubles handicap tournament held at West End Croquet Club.

‘‘The current system favours the higher handicap players since they get the extra shot. The new system puts them at a disadvantage because a lower handicap player is more accurate and can get the hoops much faster, so the other player might not even get an opportunity to stop a ball going through a hoop.

‘‘It swings the pendulum too far,’’ she said

The club was told the new system was in place abroad but on further inspection it found the singles version of the new handicap tournament had already been scrapped as the games took too long.

Graham said she thought the changes would dissuade newer players from entering the tournament.

‘‘With newer players having a few extra shots, they feel as if they have a bit of an advantage.

‘‘A lot of them are nervous about participating in a competition to begin with and this won’t help that. It will make things frustrating as they just won’t be able to win.’’

West End Croquet Club member Gina Tackney thought the new format would not last.

‘‘It will just make the games longer, it won’t make things more interesting and it’s just dumbing things down. You don’t improve by losing or even winning all the time.’’

Graham said even now the club and croquet as a sport was starting to struggle.

‘‘Normally for this competition we have a full field which would be 16 doubles. This year we only have 14.

‘‘I think we struggle with a bit of a generational thing where people think it is just an old person’s sport, but it really isn’t.

‘‘The young ones who do play thoroughly enjoy it and it would be nice to have a few younger players.’’

Despite the impending changes she said they still had a wonderful tournament.

‘‘It is our first major tournament of the year after the winter break, so everyone is always enthusiastic and it is a great couple of social days for everyone.

‘‘We will just have to see how things go with the new system next year.’’