A Wicket Good Time: Competitive Croquet 

Croquet players from across the country are reuniting in Maine this week. This year’s Lobster Invitational is happening along the coast. It was doubles play at the Claremont Hotel in Southwest Harbor Wednesday.

They call it ‘chess on the lawn’.

“It’s hard to describe why a sunset is beautiful. You got the colors of the balls, you got the nice flat green grass, you got the solid feel of the mallet when you hit the ball,” said Larry Stettner, associate director of the Big Lobster Croquet Tournament.

It only happens every other year and draws a crowd from across the country.

The defending champion, Stephen Morgan, grew up playing in Florida but moved to Rhode Island for a teaching job – in croquet.

“Nobody ever thought that I could actually ever make a profession out of it. That was one of those things that people were like, ‘good luck with croquet,'” said Morgan.

And while croquet is portrayed as a rich man’s sport, folks at the tournament said that unlike other sports like golf – you only invest in one stick.

“I’m fortunate enough that I have a special mallet. and that’s based on preference. This mallet’s special because on the shaft here, it splits, and I can see through to the ball,” said Morgan.

The game of croquet is very complex with heavy strategy involved, but the goal is really quite simple: hit the ball through the wicket. Croquet players say it’s both a physical and mental challenge.

Stettner said the sports is impossible to describe. It’s just you, the ball, and the grass.

“Not that many people take croquet seriously as a sport, so even when you’re playing against your opponent, you have something in common. You’re both taking croquet seriously as a sport and you’re both loving it,” said Stettner.

“Croquet’s great because it’ll always be there for me. I can always come back to it,” said Morgan.

The Big Lobster winner will be announced on Sunday at the Woodlawn Museum in Ellsworth.