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Sandringham Croquet Club

October 01, 2015

In 1911 when the Sandringham Croquet Club opened a lawn in Abbott St, Sandringham was in the Shire of Moorabbin and artists like Arthur Boyd and Tom Roberts were trudging around the beach and foreshore capturing in oil and watercolour the ever-changing play of light over Port Phillip Bay.

By 1912 the then ladies-only club croquet club had had a falling out with the gentlemen of the Sandringham Bowling Club – with whom they shared space at the Mechanics’ Institute – and had joined the artists on the foreshore at Picnic Point.

And here the club has remained for 103 years, surviving wildfires and attempts by state government agencies to remove it from the foreshore reserve.

The game of croquet came to Victoria with the early settlers. Like lawn bowls it was popular in England and Ireland in the 1800s, though its origins can be traced to the 16th century.

Long-standing member Ken Schilling, 83, said the croquet lawns and clubhouse at Picnic Point were Sandringham’s best-kept secret.

Schilling said the game appealed to people who had played tennis, golf or cricket.

“People call it chess on a grass court and outdoor billiards. It’s skillful and you are always thinking about your next shot. It’s a tactical game where you try to manoeuvre the croquet balls to make points while restricting your opponent’s chances. If you make a mistake the play passes to your opponent.”

And it’s not just ex-tennis players, golfers and cricketers who enjoy the game.

In 2013 20-year-old Victorian Robert Fletcher, from a farming community near Mortlake, became the world champion croquet player, defeating the world’s best in a Croquet Association tournament in London.

The Sandringham Croquet Club has 65 members and encourages Bayside residents and school groups to learn the game and
use the Beach Rd facilities.

The club offers four lessons for $20 and supplies all equipment.

It has a limited liquor licence and in the lead up to Christmas generally hosts several end-of-year staff parties for businesses in the area.

Former Sandringham mayor Lesley Falloon, who supported the club in the 1970s and 1980s when there was pressure on it to move off the foreshore, said the club was an important part of the history and social fabric of the area.

Committee member Harley Johnstone said the club’s natural setting – the area is much as the Heidelberg School artists saw it – made playing there a delight and a unique experience in Melbourne.

The croquet club is opposite Abbott St and served by a public car park (B10). Its original location in Abbott St was on the Bayside police complex site.

The club’s email is sandycroquet@gmail.com and its phone number is 0457 384896.

Media Contact: Murray Thompson (03) 9598 2688