HAMMERED: Graeme Roberts practises his croquet at the Whakatane Croquet Club last weekend. A handful of members are allowed to practise on the lawns at the weekends in level three. Photo Troy Baker 9836-13

IT’S safe to say Carol Ainsworth was fairly excited when croquet clubs were allowed to let players on their lawns at level three.

That decision came last Monday with the move from alert level four to three.

The Whakatane Croquet Club has decided to allow members to book some time on the lawn, with the first half a dozen having a hit last weekend.

Ainsworth, an avid croquet player, was itching to get back on the lawn and jumped at the opportunity.

“It was only for about an hour and a half but I absolutely loved being able to get back out there and whack some balls with mallets and try and get them through the pins.

“It was really enjoyable and great to be out there.’’

After being invited by a friend to come and give the sport a go about three seasons ago, Ainsworth hasn’t looked back.

“I absolutely love it. I wish I had been introduced to it years ago.’’

She loves being able to go and practise, even if it is by herself.

“That is the joy of the sport. You don’t need other people there to practise with you.

“You can set something up yourself and hit balls with a mallet.

‘’If there are others on the lawn too, it’s a very easy sport to social distance in.’’

She’s already booked to go back on the lawn this weekend for more practise.

“There are some really good players at the club I would love to beat, so hopefully all this practise helps. The lawn is in fantastic condition, they have done so well.’’

Fellow club member Graeme Roberts is another who returned at the weekend.

“It was really good being able to get back out there and whack the balls round.

“Obviously, I couldn’t pick them up and had to use my feet, so my footwork is pretty good now, but it was still great to back out there.’’

He hopes they can return to playing fellow club members before long.

“Being able to play an opponent would be nice as by yourself, you always know you are going to win. So hopefully we can have a few club games soon, because it’s easy to keep your distance.’’

Roberts, who has been playing the sport for more than a decade, loves it and loves being part of the Whakatane club.

Grounds co-ordinator Steve Clarke said they would keep the number of members allowed to train to a minimum.

“We will only allow half-a-dozen players or so to have a hit. It’s still all about safety at level three and we will only be allowing them on the lawn during the weekends.

“All going well, level two won’t be too far away and then we can allow some more players on the lawn and possibly look at a few more things they can do with social distancing. But we will just have to wait for guidelines.’’

Clarke said members were jumping at the chance to get back on the turf.