croquet 23

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We tend to think that all genteel pastimes are the domain of the English
aristocracy but croquet was actually invented in Ireland in 1830. The
sport evolved from golf and was introduced to England in the 1850s in the
best country houses and became popular later in outposts of the British
Empire, namely Canada, the USA and Australia. The French also took it up
with enthusiasm.

The sport was officially included in the 1900 Summer Olympic Games for
the first and only time. Today, it is most popular in England and the
most famous club is the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, which
is responsible for running the Wimbledon Tennis Championships. There are
many international matches and world championships, where Great Britain,
the United States, New Zealand and Australia dominate.

For most people however, hitting a wooden or plastic ball through a hoop
with a mallet is a pleasant way of spending a sunny afternoon. There are
numerous versions of croquet with different methods of keeping score and
court layout. The two main games, Association Croquet and Golf Croquet
each have a set of rules that international competitions abide by. Egypt
is the most successful participant in Golf Croquet, which is said to be a
simpler game and easier to play.

Other versions exist, including American Six-Wicket Croquet, the most
popular game in America and one that is generally considered to be very
challenging. Bicycle Croquet was developed in Austria and is popular
with cyclists. The sport has also become extreme with players enjoying
the game in the woods, across rivers and in mud or sand! Even more
bizarre, is the game of Mondo Croquet. This follows the rules and
traditional layout but on a much larger scale. Sledgehammers and bowling
balls are used and the annual World Championship takes place in Portland,
Oregon. All this is done with players dressed up as the Mad Hatter from
Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland story, which contains a passage where
characters are playing the game. Carroll describes a game using a
hedgehog for the ball, playing cards for the hoops and a poor flamingo
for the mallet.

Other writers and artists have included the game. Many landscape
paintings show the game being played in pastoral settings, in pictures by
Edouard Manet, Winslow Homer, Pierre Bonnard and Norman Rockwell. TV
shows have also shown the game, as in Star Trek Voyager, The Simpsons and
Knots Landing.