Croquet played the ‘wicket’ way

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 17, 2002

When Conrad and Marie Haas tell their family they’re off to play croquet, it’s not out in the back yard, and it’s certainly not the gentile game familiar to most of us.

In fact, not many people around Suffolk can say they have a cabinet filled with a variety of trophies for the sport. The Haas have plenty.

Today, Aug. 17, the couple is on the road again on their way to Confederate Hills Recreation Center in Highland Springs, to participate in the &uot;United States Croquet Association’s National Croquet Day.&uot;

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&uot;Clubs across the country will be participating in this event which is aimed at making people aware of the sport of croquet,&uot; said Conrad Haas. &uot;Marie and I are the only people in Suffolk who play with the association, and we would love to see others join in the sport and participate in the events.&uot;

Haas added that he was skeptical about his talents with the special mallets at first.

&uot;But, the first time I hit the ball through that wicket I was hooked,&uot; he said. &uot;I said, ‘Boy, this game is for me!’&uot;

Since that time, the 66-year old retired executive and his 65-year old wife have been to many tournaments and brought home numerous trophies.

&uot;She’s the best player in the family,&uot; Haas said of his wife. Of course, she’s the only other family living at home. However, the couple has four children and seven grandchildren that have their interest when they aren’t playing for the USCA.

Haas said the USCA has more than 250 registered clubs across the U.S. and Canada and the sport is catching on.

&uot;Croquet has been experiencing a resurgence over the past decade and the USCA is hoping people will come out to see what the sport is all about,&uot; Haas said. &uot;Croquet is a sport that people of all ages can play and compete in many levels of expertise. It’s relatively easy to learn but the more advanced level combines the strategy and tactics of a chess game.&uot;

Taking a look at the wickets and mallets used in &uot;real&uot; croquet brings about the realization that this is not your grandfather’s game.

The wickets are wicked! The heavy cast iron rectangular shaped type used by the Croquet Association is only one-sixteenth of an inch larger than the balls, which are finessed through the things!

&uot;You have to cut it straight through to make it through the wicket,&uot; said Marie Haas. &uot;You don’t hit all the balls straight through though. You have to sometimes go at an angle. Also, you do not hit your opponent off the court like you do with regular croquet.&uot;

And those mallets. Haas’ mallet is an elaborate $225 item with metal discs affixed to it that can be moved around or removed to adjust the weight and balance for a better shot.

Taking a shot at those balls is not much different than the regular backyard deal. Except for one thing. The association-sanctioned ball is a little larger and heavier than the ones grandmother gently putted across the lawn.

Another difference is the lawns. They are cut billiard table smooth to permit the ball to roll more easily.

Marie Haas said the only way to get good at playing the game is lots of practice and then some.

Conrad Haas added that their interest in the game has never waned since he first read an article about the sport.

&uot;I read about the croquet pro at Pinehurst Country Club,&uot; he added. &uot;Right there, near the golf course, is where they played. I later drove down to West Palm Beach and my family gave me a croquet mallet for my birthday. A good one is about $125, so it’s a serious sport.&uot;

Haas and his wife hope to hear from anyone interested in learning more about the sport of croquet. For details on croquet in Hampton Roads, contact Conrad and Marie Haas at 923-0095, or e-mail them at