It’s likely that Ellie Griffith never saw herself having a croquet-themed wedding before she met her husband, Matt. The two met through an online dating website and Ellie recalls looking at his profile and asking herself, “Who the heck plays croquet?!”
But their first date was on the croquet court in Matt’s backyard, which is where they later hosted their own wedding four years later, complete with a 10-ft croquet wicket/wedding altar that Matt built out of PVC pipe. They both now live in the house in front of the court at Kactus Creek Croquet Club — their home and business.
Yes, Kactus Creek Croquet Club in Parkville is actually in Matt and Ellie’s backyard. Every Tuesday, when the couple hosts their open night, people come to play croquet on the short hybrid Bermuda grass in their backyard and sit on their back porch, which can be seen through the couple’s kitchen window. Families, couples, and groups of friends come to play croquet at $5 a person — a fun, inexpensive night out that’s increasingly rare these days.
Clearly, Matt and Ellie are very much into croquet. But the game they play might look a little different from the one many of us grew up playing in our grandparents’ backyards. At Kactus Creek, they teach a variation of what is called golf croquet, which they call “fun golf croquet,” which is simpler and without the penalties of regular golf croquet, and simpler than 9-wicket backyard croquet (the version most people are familiar with).
“Almost everybody goes, ‘I didn't know croquet could be this much fun,’ because they've not played this game,” says Matt. “The other game’s not as much fun because it's a lot more complicated. That's really our goal. We're going to try to get it promoted throughout the country because I want kids and families to start playing croquet again and this game, our little fun game, [fun golf croquet,] is the easiest way to get people to play because it doesn't take very long.”
Matt and Ellie actually compete, playing golf croquet professionally. Matt has played internationally in the Golf Croquet World Championship multiple times since 2015 and Ellie is a national doubles champion in her division and will be trying out for this year’s world championship in Australia, which Matt will be competing in.
But Matt and Ellie’s passion lies in introducing people to their favorite sport and trying to revive the pastime that they believe is sort of fading away.
“There are tons of people across the country that still play croquet — you don't hear about it because it's mostly just family,” says Matt. “You know, some family groups, they only know the backyard version. They don't know that there are actually three other games besides the backyard game.”
Matt and Ellie say anyone can play golf croquet, which they liken to a combination of pool and chess. They usually recommend the starting age to be 8 years old but love that it can be played by much older people and people of different physical abilities and body types.
“The nice thing is you don't have to be an athlete,” says Matt. “You can be heavy, skinny, short, tall. It doesn't matter.”
And while it’s a sport, Ellie and Matt both keep coming back to the game because it’s not just about one’s athletic skill, but it’s also a mental game that requires a lot of thinking ahead.
“It’s more of a mind game — strategy,” says Ellie. “Execution, of course, is important. But the person a lot of times that wins in this game is the better strategist.”
“It being a strategy game is why I stayed with it so long,” adds Matt. “I like it so much because I like the mental part of the game.”
If you’re interested in learning to play croquet, you can go to Kactus Creek Croquet Club every Tuesday between late May and October. The court is open from 7-10 p.m. and it’s $5/person to play. The Griffiths recommend not bringing huge groups to their open night, and four people can play a game at a time. You can also rent out Kactus Creek Croquet Club for private events.
13312 NW 76th Street, Parkville, MO