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  Letters from our Readers

 1. American minuses must be returned to zeros
      * The USCA Handicap Chairman replies
 2. Interpreting the women's world ranking list
 3. "Backyard" and International Rules events: a recipe for chaos
 4. Mallet give-away finalists
 5. "Advanced" variation of golf croquet


As my mind has been thinking about strange things recently, I have discovered an inconsistency. Page 51 of the [USCA] rulebook states: "For a handicap to be lowered, a player must defeat a player of lower handicap at least once during the tracking period." Once upon a time, (the beginning of the handicap system), Johnny Osborn, Bill Berne, Mik Mehas, Jerry Stark, John Taves, Jim Hughes and Wayne Rodoni were all zeroes. I can guarantee you that none of them ever beat a player of lower handicap because there WERE no players of lower handicap. By law, they should all be returned to zeroes.

My suggestion: We should eliminate that paragraph from the rule book - perhaps after sending these players a letter next April Fools Day informing them their handicaps are being returned to zero.

Mike Weimerskirsch
Director of Croquet, USCA National

Mike sent the above E-Mail to Fred Jones, chairman of the USCA handicap committee, and copied it to the USCA Website, which updates the handicap list monthly. In the same letter he also asked a question about the current "hot wings, spicy wings, buffalo wings" craze which we offer here only as further insight into the psychology of this native Minnesotan: Mike wants to know, "What do they do with the rest of the chicken?" We'd rather not know, Mike, and we don't want to think about it.


I believe the rule that you have to defeat someone lower than you should remain. Otherwise a person with a 5 could defeat 5's and 6's and lower his handicap. If anything is changed it should be an addition that nullifies the rule below a certain level - possibly 0.5 or 1.0 - not only because there may be no-one lower, but because of location it may not be possible or practical for such a player to compete against a lower handicap. Also there is always the disclaimer that the Handicap Committee has the right to adjust handicaps outside of the set rules.

As always, I am interested in members' comments concerning the rules and needed changes.

Fred Jones
USCA Handicap Committee

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Where you cite the women's world ranking ["Williams Ranks the Top 95 Women in the World" in LETTERS & OPINION] you make the observation that many more women from New Zealand and Australia are included than from the United Kingdom. This of course is purely from the computer and represents the fact that more women in NZ and AUS play in greater than 10 open games.

However it may be that the figures are distorted, I do not know what date range is included, it could be:

  • previous 12 months (I don't think so)
  • 1997 calendar year
  • since October 96

In the third case there will be more events included from Down Under (as a full season would be tallied). You might want to check up on this. In the other cases it is fairly balanced.

You have rightly spotted that there are not very many competitive women in the open circuit in Britain. If we look at the UK handicap range of players in the rankings (i.e. 10 or more open games a year) then it will include no one over about handicap 8 and very few players in the range 4-8. The sad fact is that there are not very many UK women with handicaps below this range. I imagine that the same is true in NZ and AUS but I suspect that the range of players included (although the handicaps are different) will go to a much higher handicap as the level of competition is weaker. Also I believe that there are more dedicated women's open events in NZ and AUS, where the standard can be very low.

So when you say "top 95 women," you are giving the whole list. There are only 95 open ranked women in the world.

Richard Hilditch
London, England

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Dear CWOL:

The article about the divergent points of view concerning 9-wicket croquet and its implications ["Backyard Croquet," by Bob Kroeger and Bob Alman] goes right to the heart of the "problem" with croquet in the United States - and, in particular, the very slow growth in recent years of the United States Croquet Association, the sport's largest and most influential organization.

At the USCA's founding in the early 1970's, its (arguably still in many quarters) greatest contribution to croquet in the U.S. was a codified set of rules (American 6-wicket). The "organization" also expounded a desirable court size, wicket and ball specifications, etiquette, tournament dress, courtside accessaries, etc. Lo and behold, the "sport" of American 6-wicket took off! It rightfully became designated as "America's fastest growing sport," with the numbers to prove it. It grew from a few clubs to nearly 5000 members in less than a decade. It spawned courts, equipment and a new social milieu. It even attracted sponsors like Jaguar, Rolex, Estee Lauder, Schweppes and other prestigious corporate icons who saw benefits in an affiliation with a more mature, "sport-category" version of the game.

Where did this growth come from? Mostly from people who had played 9-wicket backyard croquet, in many instances most of their lives. They had finally found a serious version of their game - in fact a legitimate, adult, mentally and physically challenging sport, easily the equal of more serious tennis, golf, bowling, sailing, whatever. And it was recognized as such by legitimate media, often quelling the poo-bahs of friends and relatives who clung to their long-held perceptions of what croquet meant to them - the familiar footshots, lots of players and balls, and random, indolent races around random, bumpy, obstacle-ridden course layouts. The USCA somehow lost its way - or its 
nerve - about the time the founder moved on from day-to-day management 
of the organization.

Unfortunately, the USCA somehow lost its way - or its nerve - about the time the organization's founder moved on from day-to-day management of the USCA. The organization went into cruise control - and stopped promoting the unique and appealing American 6-wicket rules game. It tried to be all things to all people. Association (International) Rules play gained USCA sanctions; Kroeger and his band started 9-wicket croquet events, purportedly to promote the USCA, but in reality to line their own pockets (with entry fees) through the very obvious popularity (or familiarity) of 9-wicket croquet. (The tournaments in Boston were inevitably won by serious 6-wicket players who had an advanced knowledge of break play or, if they didn't win, were subject to the vagaries of the erratic playing surface and/or arbitrary time limits.)

The fundamental idea for the USCA...has been 
diluted, convoluted, corrupted, and perhaps lost, because, as Alman and 
Kroeger both proclaim, there are

So today the image of "croquet" in the U.S. is as confusing as it always was after the British codified their rules in the middle-to-late 1800's and "we" played whatever suited our individual fancies in our own backyards. Too bad! The underlying, fundamental idea for the USCA - 6-wicket croquet - has been diluted, convoluted, corrupted, and perhaps lost because, as Alman and Kroeger both proclaim, there are "other croquets." Yes, there are. But the USCA should stand for something (like "The Croquet Association" whose proponents play by its codified rules elsewhere in the world).

It's high time the USCA asserted itself again. It must re-assume its role - which is to provide the inspiration and guidance to the millions of American backyard (9-wicket) croquet fanatics to take up "serious," far more challenging and advanced, American 6-wicket croquet. Otherwise, the chaos you and Bob obviously embrace will return the game - and sport - back to the autonomous anarchy of its early history in the U.S.

Bert Myer
Hampstead, New Hampshire

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We had a lot of fun finding the answers for the mallet giveaway. I hope there will be more contests like this in the future. We are curious to see if our answers were correct and whether we were in the final 36 drawing. Thank you.

- Jeff Mapes

You were, indeed, among the finalists, and It turns out there were 39 -not 36, as originally announced - who used the magazine's search engine to come up with correct answers to all the questions and thus be eligible for the drawing at the USCA International Rules National Championship, won by Eileen Kupstas in North Carolina.

Dan Mahoney drew the name of the winner of the Brighton Mallet from Oakley Woods out of a hat containing the names of these 39 finalists.

Jean Acheson
Peter Alcorn
Mary Jo Berman
Roger Buddle
John Carter
Patricia Carter
Maureen Clancy
Allison Coley
Greg Coley
Julie Craddick
Georg Dej
Brian Dominy
Linda Ellis
Jing Ge
Bonnie Hall
Pegeen Hanrahan
Richard Hilditch
Alan Hodges
Doug Hornbeck
Jeffrey Mapes
Susan Marynowski
Stephen Meatheringham
Harold Menzel
Eugene Nathanson
David Pais
Heather Powell
Jonathan Powell
Padgett Powell
Anne Frost Robinson
Keith Simpson
Eileen Kupstas Soo
Jerry Stark
Scott Stein
Clarence L Thomas
James Traicoff
Sidney Wade
Simon Watkins
Cheryl Weinstein
Jay Weinstein

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Although I do not play Golf Croquet very often, I have found it very good practice for gauging accuracy in length and direction. It has its own tactics and like Association Croquet one can get stuck on a hoop for too long.

Recently we have a fun day and introduced a variation which borrowed some of the rules of Association Croquet while maintaining the essence of golf, each hoop in sequence. The play is still in the colour sequence once the order of play has been established, but additional rules being:

While this has none of the shots associated with the croquet set pieces, one can develop cannons (as in billiards) and other tactics to win a hoop or despoil one's opponent's chances.

Tony Miller
[reproduced from the CROQUET GAZETTE, September issue, 1997}

We think Tony has an interesting idea here. However, in our trial, we found that these rules require some adjustment to make it more difficult for a player to get control and run away with the game. We suggest readers try out this game using the established Association Golf Croquet Rules or the American Golf Croquet Rules, with this final adjustment:

* No point may be scored on a continuation stroke.

This variation allows for an interesting game with many aspects of billiards, putting a premium on hit-in ability, and allowing for sophisticated tactics. The most delicate calculations are required to get good results from the cut rushes you must engineer to successfully attack the opponent's balls. Try it out. Let us know what you think. Organizers around the world are looking for the ideal "hybrid" game to popularize through the mass media. Could this be it?


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