Croquet Gone Wild!

It's not just for rich, old, white people any more!

If Ernest Hemingway and Dorothy Parker were alive today, they might meet up for drinks with Mr. Wicket at the Gulfstream Hotel's poolside bar, get completely hobnobbed, and go play a few rounds of malletball. The sport was invented by Wicket (real name: Bob Alman), a 65-year-old self-described "intellectual outlaw" and lifelong croquet madman. He and his friends invented guerrilla croquet in San Francisco in the '70s, when they would dress in white, jump the fences of military bases, and trespass at mansions, all in pursuit of deliciously off-limits places to smack some balls around.

Alman moved to West Palm Beach to help establish the National Croquet Center, the world's biggest facility of its kind. It may be true that if you build it, they will come... but if you deliver croquet to those lazy-asses like takeout, your sport has a way better chance of being embraced. So when Alman heard of an Indiana family who had invented a variation of the game -- Toequet, which requires participants to kick soccer-sized balls through giant wickets -- he brought it out to test with friends. He started experimenting, eventually used his mallet on the soccer ball, and -- voilà! -- he had invented malletball.

Now, Alman presents free malletball sessions every Wednesday evening. The rules can be learned in five minutes. Should you get bored, there's also X-treme Malletball (an anarchist version that can be played in woods and swamps) and Top Gun Toequet (when you feel the need for speed). The games, he says, are social: "It's not by accident that I do singles events." He also promotes his sports among event planners ("Not everybody grooves on rock climbing") and on three croquet websites. Still, converting America is taking awhile. "We need Tiger Woods to give up golf and take up croquet," Alman says. "Or if you want to bring Serena up here, I'll give you lunch." -- Deirdra Funcheon

 
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