Hibiscus takes stock…

Hear it hit, see it miss’. Cliff Jones, a wiry wily octogenarian,  writes his  mantra  on the whiteboard in neat  caps.  His day course at  High Wycombe’s Chiltern Academy is called Perfecting  Stroke Play. Like any self respecting guru, he has a book on hand to  sell to his pupils.  Hold the mallet any way you like, but watch its head strike the ball. An eerie silence as it passes through a hoop without touching the sides?  Or frustration as wood snags on  metal? Cliff demonstrates the full range of strokes, emphasising his  preference for using  natural  drive ratios rather than  rolls to put  balls where they need to be. Practice and be  patient: winter is the time to make it all  work.

A week or so later, Dr Raouf Allim, resident coach at Chiltern, attracts  a similar  gang for Working  Towards a  4-ball Break. His course notes are disarmingly simple, illustrating how to manoeuvre the balls around the box – the central area within the hoops. No pioneers isolated  on  the perimeters. No pivots impeded by the peg. Shorter distances, less extreme angles, the essence of control. Errant balls mean breakdown: a bisque squandered, a turn lost. ‘If you lose them, you can’t use them’ might be the mantra here.

A month or so later, it’s time to put these skills to the test. High Wycombe (hwcroquetclub.com)  and  Hamptworth (07912 608733)  run AC and CG tournaments throughout the winter, but they don’t appear on the  CA website..  M.C.