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Dr Ian Plummer

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Technical
Boundary Boards

Take aim .... fire!

Take aim ... fire!

Please submit reports, comments and photos of boundary 'boards' to Ian Plummer

Please note there is no endorsement of any method and clubs must assess their needs and liabilities when choosing boundary boards.

Boundary or stop boards lie outside the court and their purpose is to arrest balls which have left the lawn. They are optional but desirable since they stop long searches in the shrubbery for lost balls, prevent balls from one court affecting another and prevent damage to the balls, property and people lying outside the court.

Boundary boards need to be removable if they impede a player's stroke. The boards ideally need to be easily shifted so that they permit mowing and do not either kill the grass under them or encourage lush growth in their shelter.

The boundary board must be taller than the centre height of the ball (~2"), otherwise it will cause the ball to fly into the air! With cylindrical stop 'boards' the centre of the cylinder should be appreciably above the centre height of the ball otherwise a bouncing ball with treat them as a launch ramp.

A large amount of material is required to shield a lawn, e.g. allowing a 1 yard selvage outside the court: (2x30 + 2x37 =) 134yds.

Concerns have been raised as to which type of stop boards are best to stop high velocity balls leaving the lawn and causing serious injury and damage to property.

David Kibble wrote:

Inadequate and missing stop boards are a real problem and a genuine safety hazard.

The CA Equipment Committee should make some tests and recommendations before someone is hurt seriously or our insurance refuses to pay out on a dented car.

Topics illustrated


Wooden Boards

Ian Plummer writes:

The most common boundary boards are lengths of 2" x 2" softwood mounted on short cross braces (~10") of the same material, usually by a single nail. This allows the 'feet' to be rotated so they lie along the length for winter storage. Usual lengths are 8-10 feet long so they are easy to handle. The spans between feet are usually 5-8 foot; players do have a habit of standing on the boards so long unsupported lengths should be avoided. Being softwood (cheap) the boards should be treated off the lawn with a wood preservative and not used until totally dried as the preservative will kill the grass. In winter the boards should be stacked under cover off the lawns. 50mm x 50mm timber is currently in the order of £1/metre.

Boards with substantial feet perpendicular to the main board have been found to occasionally flip a ball into the air when a ball clips a foot.

Parkstone - Mk2 & Mk1 boundary boards.  Photo: John Pollard

Mark 2 and Mark 1 boundary boards at Parkstone. Photo: John Pollard.

John Pollard writes:

Here at Parkstone the problem was highlighted by a croquet ball rising to a height of about 3 feet and breaking a window in the croquet hut. There is a path running in front of our pavilion, bar, function room and picnic patio which needs protecting. A request was issued to see if we could improve on the traditional ball guards.

Being concerned with the club Health & Safety it fell to me to make suggestions, on which I elaborate as follows:-

Perceived problems:-

  1. Rough grass and short term variation in surface flatness promote ball bouncing, especially just outside the area of the lawn.
  2. The cross member feet act as a 'legup' enabling a ball to jump over the top rail.

If one can accommodate these 2 problems it will be an improvement. There is no proposal to accommodate deliberate jump shots – we expect players to take the appropriate care.

Specification:-

  • Need to be effective in stopping balls.
  • Use readily available materials.
  • Easy to make the required parts.
  • Easy and rapid to assemble.
  • Simple design (with as few specials as possible for corners etc.).
  • Preferably demountable.
  • Improved aesthetics.

Traditional ball guards consist of a 2”x2” top rail supported on two or three 2”x2” feet, making a total height of 4”.

Spiked ball guard Mark 1

  • By turning the feet so that they are parallel to the top rail we eliminate the legup.
  • By making the feet 3”x2”, with the 3” vertical, we increase the height to 5”.Retaining spike. Photo: John Pollard

Spiked ball guard Mark 2

  • By turning the feet so that they are parallel to the top rail we eliminate the legup.
  • Keeping the feet as 2”x2”.
  • By making the top rail 3”x2”, with the 3” vertical, we increase the height to 5”.

We have both in operation. The snag with the Mark 1 version is that the rails are not as straight as they ought to be, and more importantly the ground is less flat than the lawn. The odd gap appeared below the rail, sufficient to allow the penetration of a ball. Since people expected the ball guards to work, they hit hard and took less care. Nevertheless we have used the Mark 1 version successfully. One advantage is that it uses the same top rail material.

The Mark 2 version is the same height, but there no room on our lawns for a ball to duck underneath. The 3”x2” also seems to be less prone to vertical distortion.

The bit I have yet to mention is how to keep the ball guards upright.

My solution is to fit vertical steel spikes in the feet, which are then simply pushed into the ground.

Prototypes of both have been built and tested, observations:-

  • Both versions stop the balls well.
  • The Mark 2 is better, makes less noise.
  • The Mark 1 sometime becomes lifted when a ball tries to duck and becomes wedged, thereby lifting the rail.
  • The holes gradually become a bit loose, but the ball guard can always be moved sideways if necessary – ours have been OK for months.

Spiked ball guard Mark 3

This would consist of a 3”x2” rail sitting on top of 3”x2” feet. Intended for flat lawns where a bit more height is deemed to be necessary. None built so far.  Probably not required by us.

Sleeper, plate, magnet and ball guard. Photo: John Pollard

Sleeper with metal plate plus ball guard and magnet. Photo: John Pollard.

Samir Patel writes:

[Parkstone has wooden boards standing on small wooden feet parallel to the main board. Some have magnets on their base. These mate with steel plates below the grass.]

Pros - nothing for a ball to catch and jump from, easily moved, look nice

Cons - could slide off the magnets and then fall over.

John Pollard wrote:

MAGNETIC ACHORED Wooden Ball Guards

Background:-
These, like the spiked ball guards, are intended to be static, that is, they have a place rather than be higgledy piggledy. At EDLTCC (Parkstone) we have wooden sleepers separating some of the lawns. These are to inhibit soil movement near the edges where we previously had ramps. They also allow more sideways latitude with respect to placing the lawn on the available grass. Incidentally, and this is the crux of the proposal, the sleepers provide a wooden top surface to which ball guards can be attached.

The thinking behind going magnetic is several fold:-

Brief Design Ideas:-

  • Fit Longitudinal feet like those for the spiked ball guards.
  • Mount a magnet under each of the end feet.
  • On the sleepers affix a steel plate under each magnet.
  • (Choose a coated plate so as to obviate rusting at least on the uncut surfaces.)
  • Sit the finished ball guard on the metal plates – CLICK!

Results:-
The size of the magnet chosen is important. It needs to be big enough to provide sufficient holding force for 2 reasons:-

  1. The ball guard is held laterally by stiction (static friction).
  2. On contact the ball tries to tilt the ball guard, and the shock loading is the best way to separate a magnetic joint. The height of the feet is also important. If the rail is too high, the ball acts as a wedge to lift the ball guard.

So far we have had 2 prototypes installed for months. The one shown below, with the larger magnets functions just as well as a conventional ball guard. The latest modification is to affix a small strip of wood alongside the metal plate, so as to inhibit sideways sliding.

Magnetic anchorage on sleeper.  Photo: John Pollard

Snags:-

  • These magnets cost money and come from Europe.
  • They include a handling charge, so buying in bulk would be beneficial.
  • I am looking for a cheap source of suitable magnets.  Possibly recovering them from old computer floppy or hard disk drives.
  • Where might we procure them?

History:-

Nigel knew I was interested in magnets and gave me some plastic magnetic sheet, formerly used for attaching signs to a car roof. The first attempt used this material.  Finding a source eluded me. However the neodymium magnets are very powerful and merited a try. That is what you see. It is all very simple, but development continues.

Ideas for improvement are always welcome.

Jim Houser Jr writes:

In Leamington Spa, playing in the GCWC on the beautiful bowling lawns where the boards were a significant distance from the court if I recall, a ball-boy took a nasty shot to the groin from a cross-court shot into a corner that caromed off of the North boundary boards and then the West boundary boards (the ball-boy having been warned to move by the striker!).   The flex pipes (below) absorb the force of the shot and have the added advantage of not having to be placed perpendicular to prevent launching.

Ian Plummer notes:

Roehampton stopboardsRoehampton have 4 3/4" boards with inset feet resulting in a 7" high barrier.



Drainage Pipes

Drainage pipes, 2008 World Championships, photo: Samir PatelJim Houser Jr writes:

The National Croquet Center in Florida uses 4" flex corrugated drainage pipe.  It's lightweight, so very portable, and easy to stake using large nails.

Michael Wright writes:

In New Zealand a length of plastic drainage pipe is often used. I don't know the technical name, but it is a lightweight corrugated pipe about 4.5 inches wide, with lots of holes in it. These pipes are stapled to the lawn with stakes or thick wire. They are extremely effective, stopping balls dead by providing a most inelastic collision. Also, they are durable and light enough that a person can move them without effort.

There have been instances where a lost ball has been located inside a pipe....

Samir Patel writes:

... but that was only one ball, and I did retrieve it after only a short delay…

Those pipes were good, if a bit cumbersome (but light) to move due to their length.  Other stop boards I’ve liked (oh dear, what’s happened to me?) were in Adelaide 2012 (I think at Brighton) and the new ones at Parkstone (magnetic-held wooden stop boards).  The nets at Nailsea are good too, but look more expensive.

Corrugated drainage pipe.  Photo courtesy of www.burdens.co.ukSteve Wardle adds:

In New Zealand they are called novaflow pipes... that is also the brand name. I think in the UK they might be called French drains but don't quote me on it.

Martin French writes:

These are often called 'Land drainage' pipe, such as http://www.plastics-express.co.uk/land-drainage?gclid=CLrbjszuq7gCFY_KtAod8BUApA.  You need 100mm or larger to make fairly sure the balls hit below centre. 

We were told that some people in NZ in the past had managed to obtain “seconds” land drainage pipe at very good prices.  Of course, pipe like any low solution won’t solve the problem of GC 'exocets' that are already airborne.

Stephen Jones adds:

Agricultural pipe is very different to ordinary plumbing pipe. The latter would indeed assist in a ball-rocket launch but agricultural pipe is thin, bendy and squidgy and just "gives" when a ball hits it, at whatever height.

Ian Plummer writes:

4" Aggy Pipes.  Photo: Rudy RencoretThese drainage pipes are flexible and can be coiled. The standard colour is black but they are (rarely) available in green! Standard sizes are 160mm (6.25", ~£3.30/m), 100mm (4", ~£1.70/m), 80mm (3.14", ~£1.10/m), although see the post below. 100mm/4" diameter is popular. Assuming that standard lengths would need to be bought (100+25+25m) it would cost ~£250 to protect a lawn with 100mm pipe.

Rudy Rencoret writes:

At Chatswood we use 'Aggy Pipes' (agricultural drainage pipes), that I saw for the first time in Wellington NZ. We use 100mm (4") nominal diameter.

 


Tubes

Ball-stop tube, Adelaide, photo: Samir PatelSamir Patel writes:

Another stop board, this time from Adelaide 2012 (photo right)

Pros - light, easy to move, nothing for a ball to catch and jump

Cons - nothing from a player's perspective.  No idea what they cost.

Allen Morris writes:

The trouble with piping (as we discovered at the Belgian Indoor Open) is that if the ball hits it even slightly above centre it make a very efficient launching ramp and balls fly head high.  Usually it works well but, if the ball is already a low-flying missile, piping will boost it up to dangerous heights.

Ian Plummer writes:

The Canberra Club (Australia) uses PVC pipes around 4" diameter and have 3 wooden feet attached. In the middle and top of each pipe is handle, possibly a kitchen cupboard handle) to allow lifting and complete removal of pipe for mowing. It is reported that all members can easily move the pipe by hand, foot or even mallet to play shot close to the boundary. Strength is needed to lift the entire pipe. No details of the thickness of the pipes is given. The yellow gas pipes used in the UK would certainly be robust (~8mm wall thickness) and heavy.

Hamptworth (UK) had square white house 'down pipes' with the ends blocked with a wood stop, and to give some weight sand had been inserted. The grounds man intended to add 2" feet so that he could spin-trim under the lawn side without moving them (long grass lies outside the boundary). These were not in use when Hamptworth was visited recently.

Richard Stevens adds:

In the early days Hamptworth used square rain water down pipes. We half-filled them with sand. This made them unwieldy, as the sand rushed to one end when lifted. They also marked the lawns as they laid flat on the grass. I suppose we could have put feet on them. They finally became brittle and so were abandoned. They did look very smart.

Anthony Miller writes:

I believe the council provided unwanted street light posts to Ramsgate back in the 1990’s which made quite a loud noise after a controlled hoop!!!

They were effective in stopping the balls, but did tend to move upon impact.

Tubes at Canberra. Photo: Bob Gingold

Bob Gingold writes:

Pipes at Canberra.  Photo: Bob GingoldPeter Freer suggested I send you photos (above) of the lawn dividers/stopboards made by John Harris, a member of the club here in Canberra. They are made of ~10cm (4") PVC sewerage pipes around 2mm thick. The wooden feet are cut on a curve to fit snugly around the pipe, with a bolt through the pipe from the top and then with a recessed sunken nut (locked) below the wooden feet.  The wood is preservative-treated pine making it is easy to cut the curve. There are 4 feet on each pipe, each being about 7m long.  There is a handle with a cut-away to allow an easy grip (but we now think the cut-away is not necessary). These dividers seem a lot more robust than earlier ones which used metal clips to attach the feet to the pipe.

Balls rarely go over the dividers even if hit very hard. The feet barely protrude which helps with that.

Their main disadvantage is that they may have to be lifted when room is needed to swing a mallet near them. They can easily be pushed sideways by foot or mallet but sometimes they roll over if pushed too hard.  It's fairly easy to right them afterwards with another kick - sometimes I even go as far as bending over to use the handle.


Nets

Martin French writes:

We investigated these [land drainage tubes] for the 2011 GCWC and U21s although in the end we used sports netting from, I think, http://www.tildenet.co.uk/?gclid=CPaUuazvq7gCFfMbtAod2nYAIQ.

For the U21s at Hunstanton and the GCWC in SW London in 2011, the risk assessment led to acquiring metre-high netting for the venues, as the renowned hard-hitting Egyptians were coming.  And it was very effective.

Kathy Wallace (Nailsea) writes:

Rob Royffe, our netting maintenance man. He buys 8ft wide garden netting, by the metre. Until recently, it was readily available in places like B&Q but plastic has now taken over and the fabric stuff has become more specialist. One of our members is going to buy some for us at Trego Mills (Devon, I think) when he is en route for a League Match. Having acquired the netting, he cuts it into strips about 15inches wide and sews strips together to make up the lengths for the boundaries. The next step is to insert cord along the top and bottom. They are moving from nylon cord to steel but some of the mowers prefer the nylon as the steel can be a bit springy and have a mind of its own. The cords then have a leather bit to attach to the main supports. Welding takes place at some point. A spanner is used to tighten the cords.

Of course, I thought all this happened by magic and had no idea that Rob was a seamstress or that he had been out in the bitterly cold weather at the end of March attaching all the bits together.

We have 4 lawns in a large square-ish  plot at Nailsea.  We only have the nets along the central divides and conventional stop boards around the outside. I think the nets were devised to make life easier for the mowers. They don’t need to move the outside stop boards as often and never need to move them far. However, we are considering acquiring more nets in an effort to protect cars from balls. It is only recently that we have been able to allow cars inside on an every-day basis.

Nets at Nailsea.  Photo: Kathy Wallace

Nets at Nailsea

See here for construction details, courtesy of Geoff Hughes.


Meshes

Ian Plummer writes:

Mesh boundaries at Hurlingham.  Photo: Samir PatelThe Hurlingham club (UK) has stout galvanised mesh panels around their lawns. They are ~1 yard x 5" high with a welded 3/8" frame including eyes at the ends. A mesh is welded within. The panels are linked together with metal stakes passing through the eyes. Whilst these are decorative and effective, they are not readily movable by the players and must be tedious to move for mowing. Obviously the selvage does not need mowing as often as the court. We do not know where these can be sourced.



Fences

Bob Alman writes:

Fence at Palm Beach Croquet Club.  Photo: Bob AlmanAt the Palm Beach International Polo Club, there's a picket fence on three sides, but early on it was seen that the balls can get through the fence, and besides, do damage.  So two-foot-high polo field barriers were used, but faced away from the court so the support "feet" would not provide a launching ramp for a perfectly aimed ball, enabling it to fly over the barrier. 

 

Ian Plummer adds:

See also the fence illustrated below right.


Sunken Lawns

Ian Plummer writes:

Sunken lawn and mesh fences.  Photo: Nick CheyneAlthough not an option on existing lawns, some lawns are surrounded by a bank of earth. These are often converted bowls lawns where earth banks are popular.

The picture opposite is from Cairo where the lawn is modestly sunken, but spectators are protected by a substantial metal fence.

Bob Alman writes:

Sunken lawn. Photo: Croquet World OnlineMost of Canada's croquet clubs play on bowling lawns, where the government encourages the two sports to cooperate in sharing and financing surfaces compatible for both. Left is a picture from Croquet World Online showing the boundary adjacent to the gutter and backboard on the shared green of the Toronto Cricket, Skating & Curling Club.

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Updated 28.i.16
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