My Quest for the Perfect Mallet
by Ford Fay · 02/01/2016
Few of us are born with a natural swing. If you do not swing straight, make square contact with the mallet and center of the ball you will miss your target. Anyone who is serious about the game of croquet learns quickly there is a check list for hitting your ball straight i.e. grip, stalk, stance, alignment, and swing. All this can be intimidating. Your mallet also has an effect on your game. Jack Osborn said, “Your mallet should be a pleasure to hold, swing, and look at, to fully enjoy the sport.”
Your first mallet most likely came from a six ball set with plastic caps. Once you become addicted to croquet, the mallet becomes one of your most personal possessions. Many of us seldom consider the importance of the mallet until we see a better player making more of their shots and wonder if it has anything to do with their mallet. Everyone loves to talk about their mallet, it’s weight, balance, feel, and how it sounds on contact with the ball. Some of us own several mallets and we are all looking for the perfect mallet.
In 2010, I began playing serious croquet and went on line purchasing four mallets. The mallet heads were 9 inches made of high density brown polyethylene with a removable standard 36-inch handle and each weighted 2# 12oz. Shortly after, on another website, I purchase a single mallet made of phenolic laminated plastic with a 36-inch fixed handle that weighted 3# 1oz. I used the Solomon grip and someone told me that I should have a longer handle. I met a local mallet maker and began working with him to test his mallets. We tested different handle shapes, flex in the shaft, end caps, length and weight. In the meantime, I purchased two more mallets, from New Zealand, with removable EVA handles. Then, I ordered a custom made mallet with a low profile 2”H x 2 5/8 W, 11 1/2-inch long black polyethylene head, with a 40-inch ash handle and it weighted 3# 2oz. I called it my “black beauty”. Had I found my perfect mallet?
The Search Continues
One of our better players, who is a deadly straight ball shooter, broke his handle and came to play with what we now call his “caveman mallet”.
I had been trying to upgrade him to one of the new mallets I was testing but he was perfectly happy with his mallet. That was when I took notice of his grip, it was an Irish grip. I began playing with the Irish grip and found I had better control in my follow through swing. In a bold move, I drilled out my beautiful ash handle from my “black beauty” and retro fitted it with one of my removable EVA handles which I had cut down to 34 inches and drilled four holes in the sides to get my ideal weight down to 2# 14oz. I now had a new hybrid mallet. This mallet looks somewhat like the Airrow mallet.
The day Bob Kroeger and Reid Fleming came to our court to practice for an upcoming 9 Wicket National Tournament my search for the perfect mallet was about to change. The mallet maker came to watch and brought with him a revolutionary new mallet design. Frankly, the prototype was ugly. And I’m sure we all thought he was crazy.
Five months later, I was taking the first test model of the AirHeart mallet to the NCC with its wishbone handle and full open center. I came back home with positive feedback and suggestions from some top players. I began playing with the AirHeart mallet
I can honestly say the AirHeart mallet has been a game changer for me and has improved my accuracy to where I am not afraid to take shots other player might not. This mallet is my perfect mallet and yes, Jack, it is a pleasure to hold, look at, swing and it makes my game more enjoyable.