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This is your club--
in words and pictures

words by Bob Alman
photos by Zach Kominar
with thanks to Zach and Merthyr Croquet Club

Merthyr Croquet Club, for private bookings
Merthyr Croquet Club, for croquet players
The Merthyr Croquet Club--up close and specific

Zach Kominar provides much of the spark that has led to this club's revival through his energy and inspiration, but it was his photos, processed with a simple app called Prism, that caught our attention. The app gives you a choice of textures and effects which somehow transform faithfully recorded images into something a lot more painterly--as if you wanted to highlight some particular common experience or universal insight for a broad audience. Which is exactly what we're doing, because this club, special though it may be, is no more unique than mine, or yours. That's the thesis anyway, which is illustrated below.

The post-processing of these photos

The photos were processed using a simple mobile application called Prisma. Simply upload a photo to the app from your phone and select an artistic portrait from the styles available, and a visual marvel will be returned after a few moments of processing the image. You can vary the intensity of the filter effect from 0-100% depending on how well you like the final result. You can "create" brush strokes or incline towards a watercolor effect. It could be the closest you'll ever come to being Vincent van Gogh. - Zach Kominar

Sometimes it starts with a bunch of guys who like to go out to a public park with a cooler of beer and sandwiches and play very hard, all day long, through nine wickets. One of them might decide to improve the grass in his backyard and have the games there. The other guys say they'll help with maintenance and management. They begin to have meetings around the barby. The women join in. Then one of them may discover a national or state organization, and....

Or a private residence club may notice that not everyone wants to play any kind of golf or tennis and thinks some members might take to a social game requiring much less space, so they put out a feeler to members, and when there's a huge response, they call the national association, and...

However it happens, when there's a group of people who really want to play, things happen, space is found, meetings are held, and a croquet club is formed.

Space can often be found in a local park, and the club is big enough to merit a clubhouse.

Some of the guys are fanatics, and they meet often to play doubles or singles.

Serious players are willing to play in the rain.

Others in the clubhouse wait until the sprinkling stops, having heated conversations about anything except politics or religion.

One of the members shows the others how he does his jump shot.

A game of consequence might be closely observed by the gallery.

Double-blocked by blue and yellow, black must now jump over red to score the hoop.

When will the meeting begin?

Coaching on tactics and strategy is a staple of the club calendar.

The holiday party is best done outside at night, when it's cool, between the clubhouse and the courts.

You don't need to recognize the faces of this paid group. They're learning about croquet and contributing to the financial survival of the club. Some of them may become members.

Shifting the courts to allow the rabbit-runs to grow in requires lots of people to get the alignment just right.

When the lawns are deserted, it's a good time to go out and practice your shot-making.

The passing public have a standing invitation to inquire and make an appointment to give it a go, and when you join, you can play either Golf Croquet or Association Croquet.

The Merthyr Club, up close and specific

It's in a city park in Queensland, Australia,with a clubhouse overlooking two courts, leased from the City of Brisbane. Long ago, there was twice as much playing space, but when the club declined in numbers and activity, half the space was taken for the building of community tennis courts. The membership is growing again, now numbering more than 30, and though croquet is the main activity, the club is authorized to rent out the clubhouse and the lawns for groups--which it does regularly, to help justify the expense of maintenance. The members pitch in a lot with maintenance.

Perhaps as a hold-over from the common practice of more than a century ago, when croquet in Australia was done mostly by women as an adjunct to the lawn bowls practiced by the men on the same lawn or an adjacent one, the organized "playing days" of the croquet club are limited to Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturday mornings, but members may come and set up one of the two lawns for games on any day not otherwise scheduled.

Overview of the Merthyr Croquet Club, the clubhouse, and one of courts in play.

The "season" for croquet in Australia is not wholly determined by weather--which is dry and moderate most of the year. Typically, though, everyone takes January off in Queensland, at the peak of the hot season. But play is year-round, and the dress for casual play and club events is mostly dependent upon what the weather requires. Heat management and comfort are the most important factors--which makes perfect sense for the non-members who show up for "come out and try it" events.

The same issues dominate the life of the club here as everywhere in the world: old-timers are upset by the dramatic rise in the play of Golf Croquet and the equivalent decline in the play of Association Croquet, the traditional and far more complex game. As it happens, our photographer first became a pretty good Golf Croquet player and then became the darling of veteran players by taking up Association Croquet as well.

Nevertheless, we assume that Golf Croquet will increase its dominance in Queensland, as local clubs do whatever they do to ensure that Association Croquet maintains a place in the croquet calendar--exactly the same as the issue is being managed throughout the world: by local clubs.

Most local clubs encourage visits of croquet players from other states and countries. If you want a game in New Farm, Queensland, chances are you can either fit in to a scheduled event or play independently with a club member. Maybe you can play with Zach, shown here playing with Greg Bury, a visiting national champion who is doing some very impressive jump shots. When you contact the club at their website to arrange it, just say what your handicap is and which game you'd like to play. And tell them Zach sent you.

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