Summer's family reunions are mined with dreaded run-ins with rogue relatives. You know, your pesky Aunt Harriet who insists on tweaking your cheeks as if you're still a toddler. Then there's obnoxious cousin Bob, who just can't seem to help reminding everyone of your past blunders. That's why we play croquet, a game of aggression and revenge, masquerading as a genteel lawn sport. You chase down Bob's ball and send it, even as you're imagining it as his head you're whacking. If you want to really give the ersatz Bob a wallop this summer, try the formidable John Jaques Sandringham Croquet set.
This eight-person set, created by John Jaques Ltd., a 208-year-old family-run company whose founder, John Jaques II, introduced the game to English patrons in 1851, is the ultimate for croquet enthusiasts. The kit comes with four square and four round mallets. The two-foot-long mallet handles are made of hickory sliced wood and the heads are made of African hardwood and lignum vitae. The mallets are large and heavy and pack real power when you hit a ball. Half the mallets have round heads and sport brass rings. The remainder have square mallet heads made of Tuftex, a hard plastic, and are often used on the championship croquet circuit for easier hoop shots. When tested, the narrower width of the square mallets allowed for a more precise shot than the round ones. The cast-iron hoops are hefty and take some time to insert (the company recommends that you water the lawn before inserting the hoops) and afford little margin for error when making a shot as the balls are only slightly narrower than the hoop width. But if you carefully imagine Bob's face, you'll be sure to make precise shots.
The set comes in a mahogany case and, in addition to the mallets and hoops, includes a wood masher, eight primary- and secondary-colored 16-ounce championship balls, clips, flags, winning posts and yard-line pegs. A book, which teaches the game, is also included. The Sandringham set retails for $3,675.