A CROQUET club is basking in the sunshine amid a growth in popularity during the global pandemic.

While competitive sport only got the green light to resume this week, albeit behind closed doors, the Sussex County Croquet Club in Southwick has been going strong since mid-May.

Members came flooding back when lockdown guidelines allowed certain sports to return and the club is now ready to open its doors to the public to have a go.

Chairman Clive Hayton said: “We’ve now had time to make sure our booking system, social distancing protocols and equipment sanitising arrangements are working well and can now offer a free introductory session, followed by three further coaching sessions, to anyone interested in learning more about our challenging and tactical sport.”

The Croquet Association has seen a 120 per cent increase in sales of equipment, John Lewis an increase of 600 per cent on the same period last year and many online retailers are out of stock.

Interest in the traditional sport has never been higher at the club, which is most commonly known as Southwick Croquet Club and has close to 180 members.

Member Linda Gavigan said: “The day we were told we could resume we were all ready to go.

“We already had our Covid precautions set up. We have an online booking system so members could make sure they could get lawns and were not left hanging about.

“It has been absolutely marvellous. The lawns have been busy all day, every day since our return.

“People have been taking it up in their gardens but we’re very keen to encourage people who have done that to try the actual sport as it is a different kettle of fish from the garden game.

“We tend to be overlooked as a sport because people have this outdated image of it from garden croquet. It is actually a really gripping, intellectually challenging sport. You have to think about the tactics and strategy – it’s not whacking a ball about a lawn, there is a lot more to it than that.

“We are often misrepresented in the press so we are pleased we are getting serious interest.”

And players do not have to worry about social distancing.

Linda, who juggles the catering with press duties, revealed: “We are one of the biggest clubs in the country. We have 11 lawns and are on a five-acre site. A croquet lawn is twice the size of a tennis court, so two people on a lawn is not a problem. And you have the perfect tool to social distance.”

The club hosted the 2019 Golf Croquet World Championships.