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Taking Croquet to Extreme Measures

An unusual club makes light of sticky wickets

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In the video above, members of BU’s International Extreme Croquet Society sally forth, mallets in hand.

When the previous owner of Zack Kohn’s family home in Maryland died, she left behind a croquet set and a bottle of vodka. “She was an eccentric older woman,” says Kohn. “I was 12, and her son said I could have the croquet set.”

But when the Kohn family moved in, the set was gone. Kohn (COM’10) was so disappointed that his parents bought him a brand-new one — and he’s played ever since.

“It got a little out of hand,” he says. “I remodeled the backyard to make my own secret garden. Then I expanded the course to include the neighbors’ backyards and the street.”

He introduced the sport to his roommate three years ago. “We set up torches and played until dark,” Kohn recalls. “Later he suggested that I start a club: BU’s International Extreme Croquet Society.”

A variation of the traditional British game, extreme croquet is distinguished by creative lack of conventional geography. “The main rule is there are no rules,” Kohn says. “The boundaries are set by your imagination.”

The game can be played almost anywhere, from the BU Beach and the College of Communication lawn to the Esplanade and the Boston Common — where the game was banned in the 1890s because of its association with drinking and gambling.

Members play in any weather — rain, snow, sleet, hail — demonstrating their dedication on a blustery afternoon two Saturdays ago when the temperature hovered around 30 degrees.

Before each match, players choose a country to represent. On that cold Saturday, the theme was microcountries, “countries too small for people to care about,” according to Ami Motomochi (CAS’12), who played for Vatican City. 

Nine members gathered on a bridge overlooking Storrow Drive, where they knocked their balls onto the Esplanade, making their way through eights sets of wickets and ending at the sailing docks.

Weather permitting, players dress up in tweed jackets and top hats. “We like to keep it classy,” Motomochi says. “It’s our way of paying tribute to this awesome sport.”

After each tournament, players gather for tea and “crumpets,” which can be anything from shortbread cookies to donuts. If funds are limited, Kohn buys a single cup of tea and one croissant from Starbucks. “We break the bread and pass around the tea,” he says. “It’s very ritualistic.”

Kohn wishes the woman whose croquet set started it all could realize the legacy she left. “Maybe she does know,” he says. “I think she haunts our house.” 

Vicky Waltz can be reached at vwaltz@bu.edu; follow her on Twitter at @vickywaltz. Nicolae Ciorogan can be reached at ciorogan@bu.edu.

1 Comments

One Comment on Taking Croquet to Extreme Measures

  • Anonymous on 04.05.2010 at 9:38 am

    Haha Jeff looks like a wallflower…Nice rejoinder Jake!

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