CHATHAM – Swing by Chase Park on a given day and you might just be lucky enough to catch the Chase Park Croquet Club in action, its members clad in traditional white as they maneuver balls through a series of wickets in friendly competition. It is classic Cape Cod, and, as its members will tell you, a whole lot of fun.
Croquet, for those not in the know, is a sport in which players use wooden mallets to move colored balls around a court, sending them through wickets (wood or metal brackets inserted into the grass), starting and ending at specific stakes. It can be both a relaxing backyard activity or a fiercely competitive endeavor.
In Chatham, the Chase Park Croquet Club favors friendly gatherings and games where players have a good time while cheering each other on.
The club originally got its start when part-time resident Wayne Dimm, who was active in croquet in Palm Beach, wanted to bring the sport to Chatham. In the early 2000s the club was initially established at Chatham Bars Inn and was dubbed the Pleasant Bay Croquet Club.
For several years the club delighted in spirited matches at CBI before other plans for the space at the inn necessitated a change of venue. That venue was the Dimm home, which featured a wide lawn perfect for croquet that just happened to also overlook Chatham Harbor.
There, the club happily settled for regular croquet get-togethers until the family decided to do something else with the property, again prompting a location change. Club member Connie Loomis mentioned the search for a new venue to Chatham Parks and Recreation Commission Chair Meredith Fry, who also happens to be Loomis' daughter-in-law, and a plan was hatched.
With the support of Chatham Parks and Recreation and director Dan Tobin, as well as Fry, the club moved to Chase Park, which prompted a change in name to the Chase Park Croquet Club, enjoying matches on the lush lawn at the park.
At May's annual town meeting, voters approved $25,000 in community preservation funds to build an official croquet playing area with specially cut grass and an irrigation well that will benefit not only the croquet area, but also the park. The work will get underway this fall.
Loomis grew up playing garden style croquet and was brought into the fold of the Chase Park club by a friend.
“I was just caught up by the fun of it,” Loomis said. “I've played tennis, paddle tennis, and now it's croquet.”
It's an ideal sport for all ages, she said, but is especially enjoyable for older people given its low-impact nature.
“It's the greatest sport for anyone at any age, but particularly at this age,” Loomis said. “We're out here socializing, we're having fun. We're not sitting in a chair.”
Not only does croquet get people up and moving, it also strengthens one's hand-eye coordination.
“You're using your skills and that's exciting,” Loomis said.
“It's exercise. We're not running, but we are walking,” added Dan Brown, who helped create the original club with Dimm. “It keeps you sharp, and it's fun.”
Both Brown and Loomis said the biggest draw regarding the sport is in how it fosters connections between players. Socializing is a key aspect of croquet.
“It's a socializing thing for sure, and it's a thinking game,” said Brown.
While the club follows English tradition and dons all white attire for their matches, their gatherings are anything but stuffy.
“Some people call it elitist,” said Brown. “We call it fun.”
Though the club has enjoyed a strong group of dedicated members through the years, it is the hope of both Loomis and Brown that more people will consider joining.
“I hope that it will continue and increase in membership,” Loomis said.
Right now, play is friendly and social, and largely informal, though scores are kept using a wooden scoreboard. The prospect of an actual court, however, has club members contemplating casual tournaments, if only to welcome more players into the fold.
Brown emphasizes that the court at Chase Park is public, and that anyone is welcome to join the croquet club, which typically starts getting together for matches in June and competes weekly, often through October if the weather allows.
“We have a meeting at the beginning of the season to organize and choose days to play,” said Brown. “Then a club member, most recently Sally Stratman, creates a schedule. Then we just show up. It works out really well.”
“There's an elegance to it,” said Loomis. “And it's a lot of fun.”
Those interested in joining the Chase Park Croquet Club may contact Connie Loomis at 508-221-2104.