Club Croquet
A surprising way to exercise both body and mind

Are you looking for a way to build some gentle exercise into your life while having fun? Have you ever thought of croquet? Far from being a nostalgic childhood game played only in the back garden on a summer’s afternoon, croquet can be a competitive game full of intrigue, strategy and excitement plus it offers a sneaky amount of exercise. If you play regularly, you could stay fit and healthy well into retirement and beyond.

Club Croquet is a sporting activity that both Diana Wilson and her husband Andrew, embraced enthusiastically as recently as April 2021 – as major pandemic restrictions were lifting – in an effort to supplement their daily walk. In a relatively short time, they are now both advanced enough to compete for their club and are loving every minute of it. You could too, as age and current fitness levels are not a barrier. Read on to find out more.

Croquet provides non-strenuous exercise and an effective low-intensity workout. While the game can be played by both adults and children, it’s a sociable activity that is suitable for all ages, combing both mental and physical skills. Diana Wilson, lead physiotherapist and proprietor at Physio on the River has been a keen player for the last 14 months and recalls that she bought four lessons each for both herself and her husband, just as a trial. As they currently live near to the Roehampton Club (a multi-sport venue in South West London) it has meant they could practise regularly. Their technique improved rapidly as they both became avid players. “We started playing Golf Croquet first and were then approached by the captain and asked if we would like to learn to play Association Croquet which, tactically, is more akin to snooker and significantly more difficult to excel at.”
“During the pandemic I was walking a lot but not really doing any other exercise. Croquet gets me out and about. It requires precision, an ability to gauge pace of the ball, strength and co-ordination” continues Diana. And then there is the mental aspect too. Croquet exercises both mind and body. “What motivates me to play is simply the love of the game and the fact that I seem to have some level of skill at it. I love, too, the social side of being part of a team.” Previously a keen tennis player, Diana had to give this up when both ankles fused in her 40’s. Playing croquet has brought back all the benefits playing tennis offered, albeit in a slightly less energetic and much more forgiving way.
“Andrew and I are very similar in our standard and handicap, so we have driven each other on to improve with a great rivalry” continues Diana with a mischievous smile. We have, for the last seven months, been mentored by a very good player at the Roehampton Club … which means increased motivation as I don’t want to let him down.” Club Croquet (which includes both Golf Croquet and Association Croquet) is one of the only games that is mixed-gender, ie. there are no exclusively men or women leagues. The handicap system ensures you can compete against highly rated players. “In a recent One Ball Final competition, I played against a -5 in the final and I’m a 14 handicap. He beat me by only 3 hoops” says a delighted Diana “there are good players in their teens and twenties as well as players in their 60’s and 70’s. One member carried on playing until he was 101!” Because croquet is low impact, playing isn’t harmful to your joints.
The couple recently competed in their first Association match for the Roehampton Club and won their first two matches each, giving an overall win of 5-2 over their opposition, Merton Croquet Club. Then Diana went on to play in the National final of the ‘Charity One Ball Tournament’ at Surbiton, to raise money for the charity Mind. “We raised over £8k and I reached the final, only to be beaten by a young lad. I still won a prize though and I was so chuffed” says Diana. “It really is a game for any age.” [Below centre pic, Diana Wilson on left holding trophy with James Galpin].