Archie Peck

Hall of Fame
Archie Peck

Born: 1935
Died: 2012
Inducted: 2008

John Archibald McNeil (“Archie”) Peck was an all-round American sportsman who took up croquet in the 1960s and remained devoted to the game for the rest of his life.  Blessed with film-star good looks and a relaxed and affable personality, he became the “glamour boy” of the United States Croquet Association as its founder, Jack Osborn, successfully attracted the East Coast jet set to the charms of the game.  Archie was a natural athlete who played croquet with style, grace and skill and did much to put croquet on the map in America in the 1970s and 1980s.

Archie, who also played tennis and golf among other sports, was the USCA’s leading player for several years.  He won the USCA National Singles Championships in 1977, 1979, 1980 and 1982 and the National Doubles Championships in 1977 and 1979.  He was also the Southern Regional singles champion in 1982, 1983 and 1984, the year he was inducted into the USCA Hall of Fame.

He also played International Rules, as Association Croquet is known in the USA.  Archie enjoyed an international success by winning the Silver Jubilee Cup at the Hurlingham Club open tournament in London in August 1996 and showed that, even at the age of 72, he had not lost his touch by winning the USCA International Rules doubles championship with Steward Jackson in 2007.

After a successful career in West Palm Beach real estate, Archie decided to devote what most people would regard as their retirement years to ensuring that the newly-built 12 lawn National Croquet Center in Florida Mango Drive in West Palm Beach would be a success.  He was appointed Director of Croquet in 2001 at the age of 66 and thereafter gave what seemed to be 100 per cent of his time, talent and energy to ensure the success of the Center and promote the enjoyment of croquet.

He was usually to be found at the Center day and night either working on the lawns or being available to teach, help and encourage other players and newcomers.  He had a gift for understanding how to inspire players and correct their weaknesses with great encouragement.  He made the game fun and always encouraged good sportsmanship.

[Updated August 2017]

Keith Wylie

Hall of Fame
Keith Wylie

Born: 1945
Died: 1999
Inducted: 2008


Keith Francis Wylie grew up in Cambridge, the eldest son of an academic family, and was educated at Winchester and at King's College, Cambridge, where he read mathematics.  It was at Cambridge in the mid-1960s that he began playing croquet, one of a long series of players who took up the game while undergraduates, encouraged by Mrs. Heley, who entertained the university club on her private lawn.  Many of the Cambridge players in the annual Varsity matches against Oxford, a fixture revived in 1961, eventually achieved the highest honours in the game, but Wylie stood out as the most brilliant of them all.

Within five years he had won the three major titles in British croquet, the President's Cup in 1967, the Men's Championship in 1968 and the Open Championship in 1970 where he beat Nigel Aspinall in the final.  Defending the last of these titles in 1971, again facing the formidable Aspinall, he completed a sextuple peel in the second game of the final to complete his victory.  This manoeuvre had never before been achieved in such an important game and it established Wylie as one of the game's greats.  But, by turning down the possibility of selection for the Great Britain MacRobertson Shield team which went to Australia in 1969, he had already demonstrated his reluctance to take croquet too seriously – or, as some would say, seriously enough.

After leaving Cambridge as an undergraduate, he decided to become a barrister and returned to Cambridge in 1975-6 to read Law.  He represented the University in a match against Colchester and was responsible for inspiring Stephen Mulliner to take up croquet seriously.  Keith completed his studies for the Bar in London and joined a set of chambers in Southampton where he spent the rest of his career.  While establishing himself as a barrister he played little during the 1970s but, in 1974, he did play in two Test matches in England and then, in 1977, he again won the President's Cup.  In 1982 he felt able to join the British MacRobertson Shield team which was due to tour Australia.  This was to be his final appearance as a top-ranked player and, in the third Test Match against Australia, he produced another performance to rank with his 1971 triumph.

Australia and Great Britain entered the third and final round of Test Matches with two wins apiece against a New Zealand team weakened by the absence of Bob Jackson and with one victory and one loss to each other.  The destiny of the Shield would be therefore decided by the result of their final Test.  Having led 4-2 after two days, British prospects turned gloomy when they lost the first two matches on the final day and Keith, who had lost to the formidable Neil Spooner by comfortable margins in their first two encounters, also lost the first game of what soon became the deciding match. However, despite having by now lost five consecutive games to Spooner, Keith lifted his perfomance on a most challenging court and took the next two games to win the match and so achieve victory in the Test and in the Series.

Most of his best performances owed much to his coolness under pressure, which in turn appeared to result from his apparent reluctance to take winning, or the game itself, too earnestly. While others could be overwhelmed by the importance of winning or the occasion, he claimed to be more interested in the intellectual challenge that the game's tactics provide. While this attitude may sometimes have lost him games he might have won, it may also have provided the detachment and calmness needed to prevail on the really big occasions.

Keith Wylie coaching Jim Bast at the Nottingham test match in 1985

What is certain is that at his best he was one of the greatest exponents of the game ever seen, and that the ideas so lucidly and entertainingly expressed in his book "Expert Croquet Tactics" (1985) will remain the basis of intelligent thought and discussion of Association Croquet for years to come.

Wylie died in 1999 aged 54.  With his death, croquet lost its then most innovative thinker and the player who did most to confirm it as a game of intelligence and tactics in the latter half of the 20th century.  Keith Wylie truly played "chess on grass".

Bob Jackson

Hall of Fame
Bob Jackson

Born: 23 July 1931
Inducted: 2008
Died: 22 January 2023


Bob Jackson took up croquet in his late thirties after a career representing New Zealand at international table tennis.  He brought a professional attitude to practice that was almost unknown in croquet in the late 1960s and helped him to rise rapidly to the top of the sport.  He became particularly famous for his accurate shooting which was based on a remorseless practice routine.

Bob regarded a 10 yard roquet as a near-certainty at a time when almost every other player regarded it as a long shot.  This ability allowed him to adopt a tactical approach that was as intimidating to his opponents as it was effective.  Woe betide the player who laid up in a corner less than 14 yards from one of Bob’s balls – the roquet would be taken without hesitation and usually hit and a break extracted.  Bob’s method of picking up breaks was both novel and apparently adventurous.  If faced with an angled two yard hoop 1 off an enemy ball, most players of the time would retire to join partner.  Bob would bang the ball through the hoop up to the north boundary, turn round and hit the hoop 2 pioneer to the south boundary and then split that ball to hoop 3 while getting a lengthy rush on the erstwhile hoop 1 pioneer.  He would hit that somewhere in the direction of hoop 2, approach with his trademark crouch roll stroke and leave himself another two yard hoop.  This would also be banged through at high speed but, with the boundary only seven yards away, he had a break once again.

Bob made full use of his single-ball accuracy to help with the completion of peeling turns.  Most players would play split peels to ensure that they could obtain a short rush on the escape ball.  This kept the break going but the pull created by the split shot was liable to jaws the peel or worse and so endanger the completion of the triple.  The Jackson approach used a straight stop-shot to take pull out of the equation and he simply hit whatever roquet was needed afterwards.  This approach was so successful in his hands that he was soon an acknowledged expert at sextuple peels and became the first player to achieve an octuple peel.  He actually completed two consecutive octuples and almost completed a third on the same day.

Bob Jackson won 14 New Zealand Open Championships between 1975 and 2003 and was the runner-up on many other occasions in that period.  He also won 12 New Zealand Men’s Championships between 1977 and 2005 and 11 Senior Invitation Events between 1972 and 2004.  He also won ten New Zealand Open Doubles Championships (nine with Joe Hogan) between 1973 and 1990.

Bob represented New Zealand in the MacRobertson Shield on six occasions (1974, 1979, 1986, 1990, 1993 and 2000).  He was regarded as the best player in the world by many in the period from 1979 to 1986 but what stands out is the longevity of his career at the top of both Association Croquet and Golf Croquet.

He made his last appearance in the 2008 Association Croquet World Championship at the age of 76.  He came second in his block and produced an extraordinary one-ball finish to defeat Jonathan Kirby, a 28-year-old Great Britain MacRobertson Shield player, in the first round of the knock-out stage.  It was an amazing display of skill for someone in his eighth decade.

Two years earlier, Bob had reached the quarter-final of the 2006 Golf Croquet World Championship and, at the 2015 Golf Croquet World Championship, when aged 83, lost a play-off game 7-6 and so just failed to qualify for the knock-out stage.  He is the first player to demonstrate that it is possible to play genuinely top-class Association and Golf Croquet when well over 65.

Bob was also known as an equipment maker for both table tennis and croquet for many years.  In the late 1970s, he began making mallets which had an excellent reputation for robustness and good value and they soon began making their appearance in England and Australia.  He was one of the pioneers of what has since become a worldwide cottage industry.

Bob died in January 2023 and will be sadly missed by his family, friends and croquet players around the world.

Humphrey Hicks

Hall of Fame
Humphrey Hicks

Born: 1904
Died: 1986
Inducted: 2008

Humphrey Hicks was one of three players, the others being Patrick Cotter and John Solomon. who straddled the English game like colossi in the twenty-five years after the Second World War.  They were croquet’s equivalent of golf’s “Great Triumvirate”.

Hicks played with an upright side style and was well-known for the shrewd, defensive tactics that he liked to employ.  Early in his career he had been a skilled triple peeler but he later decided that there were safer and surer tactics available that were more appropriate to the lawn conditions and opponents that he faced.  He displayed great touch and control allied to infinite patience.

John Solomon regarded him as the greatest player who had ever played and enjoyed telling the story of when he and Hicks were touring Australia giving exhibition matches after the 1950-51 MacRobertson Shield tour.  Solomon asked Hicks why he never did triple peels, so Hicks demonstrated that it was nothing to do with inability by reeling off several in succession!

Hicks joined the Croquet Association in 1919 and rapidly became a first-class player, winning his CA Silver Medal in 1928.  Having won the Champion Cup (the predecessor of the President’s Cup) and the Men’s Championship in 1930 and the Open Championship and the Men’s Championship in 1932, he disappeared from croquet until 1939 when he won the Open Championship again.  After the War, he was described as a pike among minnows and, in the period from 1947 to 1952, won the Open Championship a further five times and the Men’s Championship and the President’s Cup three times each.

In addition to his seven wins in the Open Championship, Hicks was also runner-up on seven occasions, the latest being in 1967.  He won a total of nine Men’s Championships between 1930 and 1966 and six President’s Cup between 1930 and 1961.  He also won eight Open Doubles Championships between 1948 and 1973, three Mixed Doubles Championships and the New Zealand Doubles Championship in 1951 with the young John Solomon.  His win in 1973 with John Soutter was an astonishing 43 years after winning his first major CA title, an interval that remains unsurpassed.  Hicks amassed a total of 34 major titles which was headed only by John Solomon and D.D. Steel for the rest of the twentieth century and has only been outdone since by the prolific Robert Fulford.

Hicks represented England in the MacRobertson Shield series in 1950-1 in New Zealand, 1956 in England and 1963 in New Zealand again.

Unlike some top players who lost their enthusiasm when their powers began to wane, Hicks continued to play in tournaments with evident enjoyment into his eighties and was always ready to reminisce about croquet in the 1920s and 1930s.  He reputation as one of the greatest players in the history of croquet remains secure.

Jean Armstrong

Hall of Fame
Jean Armstrong

Born: 1913
Died: 2013
Inducted: 2008

Jean made a very substantial contribution to croquet over a very long period of time.  Her principal strength was to get new players to begin playing and then to continue to play the game.  She was tenacious and players came under her spell and became determined to do well guided by her expert tuition.  Although a stroke in her nineties meant that she could no longer play or coach, she remained a fount of knowledge of the game until the end of her life.

Jean had an enviable record of success stories with the people she coached.  Altogether, twelve people who had their first game with her went on to become State players.  She and husband Tom spent two years of their lives teaching croquet in colleges and Centres of Adult Education hoping to develop players that would be able to beat England in the MacRobertson Shield.  However, only two first class players emerged in the shape of Neil Spooner and Robert Bartholomaeus.

Between 1969 and 1971, Jean taught croquet five days a week in six colleges.  Saturday matches were organised and the mothers liked this because the croquet court became a social meeting place.  Competitions were arranged at the South Australian Croquet Association Headquarters with as many as 48 turning out on a Saturday morning.

Jean started at Westminster School in 1969.  Six of the boys became croquet players and joined Brighton Croquet Club.  They played in the Pennants and won the Pennant for Brighton but there wasn’t a Pennant for the school.  At SACA headquarters hands went up in horror at the thought of two pennants!  So Barrie Chambers gave one to the school and history was made – a pennant for the Club and a pennant for the School.

Although Jean worked very hard in schools and colleges, she found that it was not a great source of croquet players.  It seemed that the younger a player starts croquet, the earlier they leave the game!  Possibly one reason was that the girls found the clothing restrictions irksome.  One girl was criticized because she went without a hat!

Recruiting new club members was the area where Jean had an amazing record and it is believed that there were about 300 who became registered croquet players through her efforts.  In Jean’s words, “I think the main thing is that once we’ve got them, we haven’t lost them!”

Marion Croquet Club was one of Jean’s crowning glories in recruiting.  The five lawns were first used in February 1983.  Within about nine months, there was a membership of forty, almost thirty of them new to croquet.  At its peak Marion had over 100 members.  First new members were a trickle and then became a flood.  It proved that new players are the best recruiters.  Jean’s first strategic aim was to make the new players enthusiastic.  She did this by playing Golf Croquet until they were hooked and then devoted time to making them knowledgeable in the game.

She had another recruitment triumph in Rockhampton.  She stayed there for six weeks and recruited twelve fully paid-up members who had never thought of playing croquet.  The Club President arranged for her to be interviewed on TV and this certainly helped – as four of the recruits were from the TV station!

Jean had more success at Barmera which was also started from nothing.  The courts were laid, croquet gear was lent to them and soon there were twenty-seven players.

For many years, Jean liaised with what was then known as the National Fitness Council (now Recreation and Sport).  She participated in their Recreation for Housewives Scheme, mostly in the city of Brisbane but, on one occasion, a three-day visit to Barmera was arranged.  There a most enthusiastic group was coached on the Oval and, when the irrigation programme drove them off, Jean persuaded a nearby hotel to lend a piece of ground where a two court complex was laid out.

Jean Armstrong is one of those rare individuals who combined the development of excellence in sport combined with the encouragement of the ‘also rans'.  She did not discriminate between a potential state or international player and a person who had difficulty in walking.  She simply loved Croquet and her enthusiasm was infectious and enduring.

Revised August 2017