Step onto the public croquet lawn behind a row of hedges on Parkside Avenue and take in a unique Buffalo summer experience: British, competitive style croquet on a well-manicured, public lawn at Delaware Park.
The close-cut grass feels like a soft carpet on bare feet. The field is smooth, so croquet balls roll straight toward the wickets. It is one of the few places in the country with a public park area set aside for croquet. More unusual are the lights that let players continue after sunset.
Curious? Stop by for an evening game hosted by the Buffalo Croquet Club. Watch teams play golf croquet. Borrow a long-handled mallet and hit the ball on the course with tree-lined horizon views, part of the park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted.
A sunset during evening play with Buffalo Croquet Club members at Delaware Park.
(Photo courtesy Buffalo Croquet Club)
“You watch these beautiful pink-and-orange sunsets and you realize how lucky we are to have croquet in Buffalo,” said Ryan Thompson, tournament director of the Buffalo Croquet Club’s Annual 6-Wicket Invitational, which will be held at the park Aug.18-21.
Take in a game from a field bench with a cool drink from the new summer satellite bar by the local downtown brewery Resurgence, newly opened in the Parkside Lodge at the end of the croquet lawn and golf course.
“Croquet keeps becoming more popular,” said Bob Gannon, president of the Buffalo Croquet Club, which he founded in 1999 with his friend Bill Rupp. “It’s really morphed from a bunch of guys having silly fun and making up our own game to becoming a great recreational sport.”
The club reserves the croquet field on a few evenings starting at 7 p.m. Mondays are the informal time when newbies can borrow mallets and try the sport, which has more dimension than the old-fashioned backyard game. On Thursdays, people can watch league teams play croquet golf on the lawn, cultivated with the same care as the golf course grass.
Top: Friends gather to play and chat at the croquet field along Parkside Avenue in Delaware Park.
(Photo courtesy Michelle Kearns)
“It’s one of our greatest assets,” said Natalie Giaccio, Olmsted Parks business development manager. “I know Central Park also has a croquet league and croquet courts. It’s definitely comparable.”
Thompson, a Buffalo native, agrees. He was living in New York City and playing croquet with a club in Central Park before he moved back home a decade ago. He was surprised, and delighted, to discover that the playing field once used for lawn bowling had been transformed by the Buffalo Croquet Club.
To him, croquet’s appeal lies in its strategy, inclusiveness, and how the summer games are a reprieve from everyday routine. “It’s an extremely mental sport,” he said. “A lot of people compare it to chess on the lawn.” All ages can play each other without competitive disadvantage. “You can have a 12-year-old boy playing against a 90-year-old woman,” said Thompson. “Equity. That’s one of the unique aspects.”
A few years ago, in 2016, he helped launch the Annual 6-Wicket Invitational tournament, which has drawn players from as far away as Bermuda, California and Florida. During the third week of August, spectators can watch about 30 players compete.
Thompson keeps the 19th-century tradition of wearing white as a tournament rule. “It’s kind of fun to watch people in white hitting the balls around,” Thompson said. That nod to history has helped pique the interest of potential players.
“Many more people have found croquet, and found this sport, in Buffalo,” he said. He puts himself in that category. “I didn’t really think that I was going to be able to continue to play croquet when I moved back to Buffalo.”
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For more information:
Write firstname.lastname@example.org for details about golf croquet leagues, membership and club play on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings.
To learn about renting the entire field directly from the park for $35 an hour during the week and $50 an hour on Saturdays and Sundays, call (716) 838-1249, ext. 11, or email email@example.com.
Follow the Buffalo Croquet Club on Instagram.