Croquet History

Historical Background of the Game of Croquet

The sport of croquet was born in the British Isles in the mid-19th century and soon migrated to most other English-speaking countries. In the United States, manufacturers popularized a version of the sport that could be played on rough turf with lightweight, inexpensive equipment. It is this lightweight, scaled-down, toy version of croquet that most Americans have either seen or played.Americans rarely saw the more sophisticated sport of six-wicket croquet, requiring heavier equipment, good lawns, and a more intense sporting attitude, though widely played in England and most Commonwealth countries, until the late 1970's.A much-publicized challenge match between the Westhampton Mallet Club on Long Island and London's Hurlingham Club in 1960 is credited with sparking the resurgence of the sport of croquet in America.

Jack Osborn organized the United States Croquet Association in 1977 with a nucleus of six East Coast clubs. Osborn hammered out a codified set of rules for a uniquely American variety of six-wicket croquet and tirelessly promoted formation of local clubs and tournaments throughout the country. Today, as many as 10,000 men and women play this elegant and exacting sport on more than 600 greens in the U.S. and Canada.

As a new generation of players have learned to play six-wicket croquet with good equipment and on properly manicured greens, the standards of American play have risen to near the level of the traditional masters of the game in the British Commonwealth countries of Great Britain, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. The top American players have become adept not just in the American Rules sport but in International Rules as well. Americans are now competing successfully internationally, having finished as high as second and third in recent years in the World Croquet Federation Championship and in the equally prestigious World Croquet Championship at Sonoma-Cutrer.

The American Croquet Association was organized in 1987 in Phoenix to promote interest in "Association" or International Rules croquet, currently sanctioning four or five tournaments a year, mostly in the West. Most of the several hundred members are high-ranking players who also are members of the USCA. The USCA itself now promotes and sanctions most of the International Rules events in this country, many of which serve to qualify American teams to compete overseas.

Foundation of Croquet at the Bald Head Island Club

 The game’s arrival on Bald Head Island can be traced to Morgan Kenney, a long-time friend of the Mitchell Family who developed Bald Head Island.  After a visit to Pinehurst in 1984, Kenney introduced the idea of developing a croquet court on Bald Head Island to Kent and Mark Mitchell, who agreed to develop the first croquet court in 1986 on the Bald Head Island Club grounds.  Even then they understood the significance of the sport for the future of the island.

The Bald Head Island Croquet Club was officially organized on July 26, 1986.  Dr. Bill Berne was elected President and Kent Mitchell, BHI Limited, was elected Vice President.  The BHI Croquet Club By-Laws also were adopted.  Jackie Watkins designed the BHI Croquet Club logo, which was subsequently used to develop a BHI Croquet Club pin.  The pin is given to all new members when they join the Croquet Club, as well as to all participants in the annual Bald Head Island Invitational (with alternate background colors.) A small core group, consisting of Bill and Billie Jean Berne, Morgan Kenney, Kent Mitchell, Harper and Plunkett Peterson, Bob and Polly Fish, and others, played that fall and the following spring.   In its first year, the Croquet Club had 33 members.  The croquet socials became an important element of membership.  In the early days, the hood of a four-wheel drive vehicle was parked beside the court and used as the serving table.  A small grill was used for food preparation. During this first year, members decided to practice a tournament atmosphere each month by organizing a Scrambler for croquet players.  Wednesday Wickets was also established as a designated time to practice the game in a learning environment.  It was also agreed that a monthly party, preferably in members’ homes, be linked to each Scrambler in order to foster friendships and camaraderie beyond the croquet courts.  This tradition successfully continues to the present day.As the sport began to gain interest among island property owners, a second court was built in 1989.  At that time these two courts, resembling oversized golf greens, were officially referred to as greenswards.  The Bald Head Island Club had the honor to be selected as the venue for the first-ever North Carolina State Championship in that same year.  Bald Head Island’s own Bill Berne finished in second place to croquet professional Mac Penwell.By the year 2000, there were three full-sized greenswards.  In 2009, the fourth full-sized greensward was constructed to be used for large tournaments and other BHI Club activities for families and special events.

The Bald Head Island Club's Gala in White and Invitational

In 1986, Kent and Donna Mitchell of Bald Head Island Limited, held a private party at Captain Charlie’s to celebrate their first wedding anniversary.  They called it a “White Party,” similar to the party Kent’s parents had held at the opening of the season at the Woodlands Club in Texas.  In 1987, Mitchell decided to offer the White Party (now named the “Gala in White”) at the Bald Head Island Club.  The event was held around the pool, as the Clubhouse had not yet been built.  Mitchell also asked the Croquet Club to sponsor a croquet tournament in conjunction with the White Party event.  The Croquet Club happily complied and thus established their first Invitational to croquet players across the United States and Canada.  Following the Grand Opening of the Bald Head Island Clubhouse in 1990, the affair became known as the Gala in White. The BHI Croquet Invitational is always held during the week of Memorial Day, with the Gala in White held the Saturday following Memorial Day.

The Bald Head Island Croquet Club Receives Numerous Honors

Bill Berne’s rapidly developing expertise and championship wins soon ranked him No. 3 in the nation.  Not only a skillful player, Berne also served as president of the United States Croquet Association, President of the World Croquet Federation and as National Referee Examiner.  Billie Jean Berne served as the National Handicapping Chairman and as a Regional Referee and Certified Instructor.  In a matter of two years, Bill Berne had certified 14 club referees on Bald Head Island.  For many years, the BHI Croquet Club held the distinction of having the largest number of referees in one club in the Nation. 

In 2003 Bill and Billie Jean Berne were both inducted into the United States Croquet Association’s Hall of Fame in recognition for their outstanding achievement and contribution to the sport of Croquet across the USA.  This beautiful bronze plaque is displayed in the hallway outside of the Bald Head Island Club’s Pro Shop.
Over the years the Bald Head Island Club’s Croquet Club has received The Award of Excellence by the USCA, repeatedly won the National Club Team Lyons trophy, and held both the State and National Club Teams’ titles.  The BHI Club has hosted the NC States Singles Tournament since 2010, The Solomon’s International Rules Tournament in 2012, and the North Carolina Open in 2015.The BHI Croquet Club’s Enthusiasm for Instruction

The Bald Head Island Club’s Croquet Club is an important part of the life on Bald Head Island.  The participants continue to look for more ways to include all members of the BHI Club, recruit new members to the Croquet Club, and improve current members’ knowledge and skill in the various games of croquet:  Association, Six-Wicket and Golf Croquet.

Invitation to Bald Head Island Club Members 
 

  • Golf Croquet instruction and play is offered to all Club members on Sundays at 10:30 a.m.
  • Jeff Soo, an International Croquet Pro who teaches method and strategy six times during the year.
  • As part of the BHI Club website, there is a Croquet link to inform all members of events and various opportunities for all.
  • Croquet Club members are always willing to introduce the game of croquet to any interested BHI Club member who makes a request at the Pro Shop.


Support for Members of the Bald Head Island Croquet Club
 

  • An extensive croquet instructional manual is provided to all new members.
  • Activities throughout the week are provided to assist members at all levels for the improvement of their game:  Monday Mentoring, Wednesday Wickets, Shot-making instruction, Men’s Croquet on Thursday evenings, and Ladies Croquet on Friday mornings.
  • Rules workshops and referee training/certification opportunities.
  • Croquet lessons from Jeff Soo, International Croquet Pro.

FOUNDATION OF CROQUET AT THE BALD HEAD ISLAND CLUB

The game’s arrival on Bald Head Island can be traced to Morgan Kenney, a long-time friend of the Mitchell Family who developed Bald Head Island.  After a visit to Pinehurst in 1984, Kenney introduced the idea of developing a croquet court on Bald Head Island to Kent and Mark Mitchell, who agreed to develop the first croquet court in 1986 on the Bald Head Island Club grounds.  Even then they understood the significance of the sport for the future of the island.

The Bald Head Island Croquet Club was officially organized on July 26, 1986.  Dr. Bill Berne was elected President and Kent Mitchell, BHI Limited, was elected Vice President.  The BHI Croquet Club By-Laws also were adopted.  Jackie Watkins designed the BHI Croquet Club logo, which was subsequently used to develop a BHI Croquet Club pin.  The pin is given to all new members when they join the Croquet Club, as well as to all participants in the annual Bald Head Island Invitational (with alternate background colors.)
 
A small core group, consisting of Bill and Billie Jean Berne, Morgan Kenney, Kent Mitchell, Harper and Plunkett Peterson, Bob and Polly Fish, and others, played that fall and the following spring.   In its first year, the Croquet Club had 33 members.  The croquet socials became an important element of membership.  In the early days, the hood of a four-wheel drive vehicle was parked beside the court and used as the serving table.  A small grill was used for food preparation. 

During this first year, members decided to practice a tournament atmosphere each month by organizing a Scrambler for croquet players.  Wednesday Wickets was also established as a designated time to practice the game in a learning environment.  It was also agreed that a monthly party, preferably in members’ homes, be linked to each Scrambler in order to foster friendships and camaraderie beyond the croquet courts.  This tradition successfully continues to the present day.

As the sport began to gain interest among island property owners, a second court was built in 1989.  At that time these two courts, resembling oversized golf greens, were officially referred to as greenswards.  The Bald Head Island Club had the honor to be selected as the venue for the first-ever North Carolina State Championship in that same year.  Bald Head Island’s own Bill Berne finished in second place to croquet professional Mac Penwell.

By the year 2000, there were three full-sized greenswards.  In 2009, the fourth full-sized greensward was constructed to be used for large tournaments and other BHI Club activities for families and special events.
 

THE BHI CROQUET CLUB'S ENTHUSIASM FOR INSTRUCTION

The Bald Head Island Club’s Croquet Club is an important part of the life on Bald Head Island.  The participants continue to look for more ways to include all members of the BHI Club, recruit new members to the Croquet Club, and improve current members’ knowledge and skill in the various games of croquet:  Association, Six-Wicket and Golf Croquet.
 

Invitation to Bald Head Island Club Members

  • Golf Croquet instruction and play is offered to all Club members on Sundays at 10:30 a.m.
  • Jeff Soo, an International Croquet Pro who teaches method and strategy six times during the year.
  • As part of the BHI Club website, there is a Croquet link to inform all members of events and various opportunities for all.
  • Croquet Club members are always willing to introduce the game of croquet to any interested BHI Club member who makes a request at the Pro Shop.
  •  

Support for Members of the Bald Head Island Croquet Club

  • An extensive croquet instructional manual is provided to all new members.
  • Activities throughout the week are provided to assist members at all levels for the improvement of their game:  Monday Mentoring, Wednesday Wickets, Shot-making instruction, Men’s Croquet on Thursday evenings, and Ladies Croquet on Friday mornings.
  • Rules workshops and referee training/certification opportunities.Croquet lessons from Jeff Soo, International Croquet Pro.

BALD HEAD ISLAND INVITATIONAL TOURNAMENT TROPHIES

Bald Head Island Invitational Tournament Trophies


Championship Flight Trophy – A crystal sculpture donated by the Christians, Weldons and Mullicans in 2002 in honor of Bill and Billie Jean Berne.



 
First Flight Winner – The Brown Bowl donated in 1996 by Mrs. Joseph Brown to honor her husband Joe; base rebuilt by Dana Quanstrom.
 

 
Doubles Winners – Trophy donated in 1987; base rebuilt by Dana Quanstrom.
 


BHI USCA Sanctioned Singles Tournament Trophies


Championship Flight Singles Trophy – Base rebuilt by Dana Quanstrom.
 


First Flight Singles Winner – The Old Baldy Trophy designed and carved by Dana Quanstrom.

 

 

BHI Doubles Tournament


Championship Flight Doubles Trophy – Large cup with base rebuilt by Dana Quanstrom.  First won in 1987 by Harper Peterson and Kent Mitchell.




BHI Golf Croquet Tournament

Engraved Pewter Cups


 

BHI Association Rules Tournament

Engraved Pewter Cups