The Woolston Lawn Billiards
& Bat-and-Trap Society

Not so much an ancient game, more a state of mind


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Thoughts about skills and Techniques

Posted by woolstonlawnbilliards on April 30, 2013 at 5:05 PM Comments comments (0)

It’s been a long time since I’ve written, partly because endless match reports are really only of interest to those involved, and let’s be frank: Karl and I are both there, so what do we need with match reports? However lately certain things have been coming up regularly that warrants some comment.

I’ve mentioned skill levels before, but it’s interesting to see the effect of rising skill on the games. The main effect has been on the type of shots we aim for and the techniques we’ve developed for achieving them. Take for example the frequent situation of the trochus being side on to the lie of the ball. I don’t know who discovered it and I don’t know whether it was a conscious thing until we began to analyse what was happening. I had been trying to apply spin to the ball so that it turned sideways to pass through the trochus. That this wasn’t happening didn’t discourage me. I simply thought I needed to improve the technique. Then one day I managed a shot from that position and all I had done was to twist my wrist slightly in the direction the ball needed to travel. Bingo! It’s now a regular feature of gameplay.

Another technique is to favour one side or the other of the trochus when passing the ball through to turn the trochus in the desired direction. This changes the direction of travel and is great for scoring cannons when the lie is at an angle. The force and direction of the delivery are important here, not to mention the accuracy. The follow through, in the intended direction of travel is essential. Any deviation is like shifting a lever: the longer the distance between the ball and the target, the greater the effect.

So now Karl and I are putting the ball pretty consistently where we want to, strategies have begun to emerge. I try and keep my balls on opposite sides of the trochus to maximise my opportunities for cannons. I also try and avoid staying too close to the trochus so I have at least a cue length between the active ball and any other target balls. This challenges the opponent’s accuracy, forcing him to concentrate on scoring a ringer to keep up, while I position myself for cannons. Being caught on the same side of the trochus as all the other balls because a) I’m a dud shot or b) I’ve been put there slows the game a bit and interrupts the rhythm.

All in all, there almost a booklet of strategies and techniques coming out. When you consider that a typical game includes at least one ringer from the shoe and cannons a-plenty, plus the odd three pointer, it may not be too far off and that’s got to be for good of all.


The World Champions Forge Frightening Skills!

Posted by woolstonlawnbilliards on March 9, 2012 at 10:45 PM Comments comments (1)

Self-deprecation is a well worn mode of humour when playing Lawn Billiards, largely because, let's face it, we're rubbish at the game. Playing regularly would help and there again we've not been the best at that. However the ledger is falling into the plus side at long last and The Master of the Treasury and the acting President-for-Life have been getting skilled up in the right ways.

Last weekend for instance, high scoring shots were far more common than is the norm. Three point cannons were scored, as was that thriller from vanilla, the ringer from the shoe. Three chukkas, hard fought and closely matched had more excitement than we've experienced for a long time.

Now, all of this made us think about how far we've come. From taking on a game that hadn't been played anywhere for 35 years to making it an attractive and well-appointed game that not only gets attention but is challenging enough to keep people caming back time and again to keep pushing skills forward.

The old 'imagine if we were playing with lignum vitae balls' discussion came up. The difficulty with lignum vitae is that it is a tropical hardwood from Central and South America and the Caribbean. So it's in limited supply, has conservation values and is quite expensive to import to New Zealand. It appears in Schedule 2 of the Trade in Endangered Species Act 1989, so you need a certificate to import it. That costs, so the jolly old customer gets saddled with that. 

It was with pleasant surprise that I learned that Southern Rata is the second hardest wood in the world, at 1104kg/m3! Golly! It's a bit tricky to get hold of, but Our Man Bruce is coming to the party and Viv from Greytown is also having a look around. I think that the beginning of next season will have new and fun stuff to play with!

A Refreshing Blast

Posted by woolstonlawnbilliards on September 24, 2011 at 11:55 PM Comments comments (0)

A VA--A-A-ST turn out by Stalwart Wollstonian standards gathered at the park to play up a storm ahead of the forecast storm. We had spectators! We had players! Players QUEUEING up to play! In fact there was only one game of singles which was pretty much a warm up for the main event..

Karl and Nic and Max were first on the scene and Max and Nic fought a close battle with Max comfortably winning 21-17. Newcomers Ari and Peter teamed up with Max and Karl respectively and some excellent shots were put away with Peter and Karl taking the chukka 21-11.

Heather and India joined the gathered throng and we were looking like a party! India and Max took on Ray and Robin and defeated them in a good show of teamwork 21-15.

Nic and Robin fell apart against Ari and Heather. Robin suspected the cue was at fault. Poor form really, when the opposition clearly had the better end of it, 21-16.

Visitors from last week, Cooper and Dayton returned to take on Nic and Robin and they acquitted themselves admirably in their 21-16 defeat. They avowed they would return and avenge this pasting. With the form they were showing it could well be on!

So all in all there were eleven players and four spectators. I think that is more than all the previous seasons combined! Not really, but I have the feeling critical mass is just around the corner.

With a Bang and a Splat

Posted by woolstonlawnbilliards on September 5, 2011 at 12:35 AM Comments comments (0)

It is one year since the terrific noise of the 4th of September 2010 woke us at 4:35 with a violence that made all in our house fear bombing or worse. The opening day of last season was meant to be the next day. As it turned out we had a lovely season with very pleasant weather, albeit an interrupted one with the horror that followed in February. As a rock geek during my childhood I knew something about earthquakes. I was also aware of how painfully slow geological time is by human standards and that therefore the likelihood of a serious event occurring in my lifetime was pretty slim. I say 'was' because of course now I can say I have survived the most rapid acceleration recorded anywhere in the world as the earth bucked on the 22nd of February. Stalwart Woolstonians we are indeed, because that wasn't the end of it, either. We were treated to a repeat performance of February and I got to watch yet more rocks thundering down the valley walls. Thankfully no-one was killed by them this time.

What a relief then, to begin this Lawn Billiards year with only a little liquefaction on the lawns to deal with. I'd been a bit crook the week before the opening day, so all I did to the pitch was to find the markings from previous years and mow them - hence the lumpy bits at the end of the pitch. We decided to ignore them and just play the ball where it lay as best we could without worrying about replacing it.

Turned out we were terrible. Nothing like half a year or so away from play to dull the skills. Didn't prevent the residual grey matter of the Master of the Treasury from ticking over though. He came up with a classic rule: all chukkas must be won on a cannon. I will be updating the rules shortly to include this wee gem.


Posted by woolstonlawnbilliards on August 19, 2011 at 12:35 AM Comments comments (0)

This looks like goo. It's meant to be go. Not goo. Really!

Anyway the Third Season Opening Day is also the First Anniversary of You-Know-What! So come and celebrate in style with a bit of lawn billiards thrown in.

A Revoltin' Development

Posted by woolstonlawnbilliards on January 14, 2011 at 9:34 PM Comments comments (0)


Well do I feel like a dunce. It's been said more than once that my assumptions get me into trouble and this one is a stonkeroo. Arthur of New Albion, mentioned as the man with the red hot poker in the previous post, got back to me via Bookface about the balls. They would be ready on Monday afternoon. As the HUGE membership drive (disguised as a bike ride) was to take place the day before, it was a slightly panicky Nic who couldn't get hold of Arthur for a while.


Finally the phone path merged.


"It's all done," said he, "$320 +GST"


This was a lot over what I'd thought, especially given that he'd told me it was to be a quick job and that GST often 'fell off'.


"I haven't got it," I said.


"I'll take a cheque," he replied.


I couldn't come up with that much without first talking about it with my wife, but I knew it wouldn't go well. We'd just forked out a lot to get the car up to warrant standard in advance of a trip to the North Island. Mortgage due, all that kind of carry-on.


Just adding a sting to this tale is the fact that I left the bloke the sole remaining cue, the base plate and the target ring because when I dropped the balls out to him he wanted to know how it was played and asked if he could keep the bits and pieces so he could have a go until they were finished.


So there we have it. No play until I can scrape up the dollars for the infernal poker-work. I'm very despondent because I had spent all my own money getting the equipment up to a good standard, spent countless hours on the phone and driving around looking for a nice place to play only to have let myself down by not asking the right questions at the right time. How long and how much should have leapt forth, but beguiled by Arthur's bon homie I allowed myself to think it may not cost anything at all, like so much of the rest of the work; the cue rings, the base plate, the target ring, the powder coating.


I think in the main it's disappointing for Karl as well as me. We had a regular thing going, meeting every Sunday, playing the wonderful game, building skills and catching up. The children will miss it too. But as much as I hate to admit it, no-one else will miss it, if the readership of this site is anything to by. Darn that dream.

Pokerwork on the balls and Plotting

Posted by woolstonlawnbilliards on January 3, 2011 at 5:51 PM Comments comments (0)

For those of you who haven't noticed, it's a new year, and inevitably that brings me to the topic of Lawn Billiards. I polished the balls a few weeks back, causing the Master of the Treasury to whine that they all looked the same. Not being one to shy away from a challenge I have taken the balls by the horns and galloped off to Ohoka, where Arthur of New Albion has worked his magic on them. You'd be a goose to confuse them now. Come along on Sunday the 9th of January and you will see.

I have also come up with a cunning plan to widen and deepen the membership. I have invented a Tweed Run and have invited people from all over the shop to take part. This run will start on Sunday the 16th of January at 11am at Armagh St gates and follow a path more wandery than direct ending up at Woolston Park. The event promises games... get the idea? Good.

Now, I'd like to see more than seven people there. I think that's doable and then Lawn Billiards and Bat-and-Trap can be played for the enjoyment of all. Cunning, no?

javascript:mox(); That's the map by the way

Rules - the fewer the better

Posted by woolstonlawnbilliards on November 27, 2010 at 4:13 PM Comments comments (0)

Last week's chukkas brought a couple of things to light. One was the excellence of the brew at Cassels and Sons. Keeping it local, these fine lads do their thing in a wood fired kettle using organic ingredients - the dinkel in particular is a testament to that. Very full, malty taste. The brewery is at the old Woolston Tannery on the corner of Garlands Rd and Cumnor Tce and there are plans for a pub, restaurant and garden. A certain brewer said he was twisting the arm of Cassel Snr to include a billiards pitch included in the garden design. I thought, hang on! A pub? A garden? A restaurant? a purpose built pitch??? I know this is flying in the face of tradition, but there could be something in this proposal! Still in the arm-twisting and planning stage though, so watch this space, or one very much like it, and I will keep you posted.

The other belighted thing was an experiment with the rules. A few weeks back the Master of the Treasury and I decided a cannon was not a cannon unless you passed your ball through the ring either before or subsequent to striking another ball. That made things difficult at first, which is a good outcome, but a bit of a conundrum developed. The strategy of remaining as close to the ring as possible became employed to maximise scoring opportunities. However after observing this tendency for a while it began to irk me that here was this big pitch that was scarcely being used. Once again the old gaffers at the Freemasons Arms proved wise. To score a cannon the two balls must start at least a cue's length apart.A skilful player should be able to manage this without difficulty, however the risk element is increased, which in competition adds to the things in consideration when choosing a shot. Sometimes a simple ringer to keep one within coo-ee of an adversary could be a preferred option over the risk of going for a cannon, not scoring at all and having the gap widened subsequently.

Stuff to ponder!

Season Opener 2010-11 Ooh-aargh!

Posted by woolstonlawnbilliards on September 19, 2010 at 5:13 PM Comments comments (0)

The day dawned sunny and bright as the much-anticipated new season dawned with it. Hang me for a coward and a ninny, but I hadn't actually been down to the grounds to check out shifting after the earthquakes. Last season I got up early and went and mowed the pitch too short in the frost and the grass was very yellow looking and there were clumps of cut grass strewn all over the shop. Not a great look, really. This year I had a trip to the tip to manage, but purely on a whim swung by the recycled clothing warehouse first.

Hanging beguilingly in the men's trousie section were three pairs of brand spanking new whites with button flies! I bought the buggers straight off, found a white polo to present to the heel dragging Master of the Treasury, a bag to carry equipment, and with a wallet only ten dollars lighter I scurried back.

Because I'd been such a coward there was no setting up in advance done, so all the wherewithal to mark the pitch and mow it had to be brought along. Wonders! Not only were the McCombs Memorial Lawns flat and intact, but I could see the remains of last years pitch still vaguely visible! I suppose when one section of grass has been kept consistently flat it doesn't keep up with the rest over the winter. Made marking out a doddle.

Added to the fun of the proceedings was the coincidence of International Talk Like A Pirate Day. No-one dressed up particularly, but we cursed each other's scurvy tactics, declared certain shots the leavings of squawking popinjays etc. GROG was also served to good effect.

To the pain!

Acting President for Life Nic Farra took on the Master of the Treasury Karl Hitchcock in two mighty singles tussles. These fell in favour of the Principle Despot, 21-4 & 21-15.

The real treat of the day was the two juniors' doubles matches. Max and Zulfiah paired up against Robin and Ena and both games were hair's-breadth close and involving all kinds of tricky drop cannon shots and strategic enmity. Max and Zulf took out both matches 21-20 and 21-17. Watch out for these young guns!

End of the Season and Uniforms

Posted by woolstonlawnbilliards on May 7, 2010 at 8:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Well, I call it successful. Before last September no-one played Lawn Billiards. Now not only do we have keen players, but we also have a pretty good handle on the subtleties of the game and have seen skill matched against skill with measurable results. This, I think, is what truly matters in a game if it is to be considered a worthwhile pursuit; without a certain level of skill the game remains a game of chance, which unless there's money riding on it, becomes pretty darn boring pretty darn quickly.

That brings me to a note of principle. One of the reasons I put these efforts in to ensure this wonderful game is still played is the inherent amateurism of it. As far as I have been able to ascertain there has never been any professionalism in the game and over the last few years I have come to utterly despise professional and shamateur sport. Not that I ever believe Lawn Billiards will ever come within cooee of being a pro sport, it's just that professionalism ruins an otherwise dandy pastime. It takes all that's good about playing games and reduces them to spectacle. It takes it out of the hands of the people and reserves it for a highly paid elite. The stakes involved in entering that elite are so high that players and sponsors alike are willing to make any kind of compact, be it with dodgy corporations or with injected substances. But the Devil will have his due and now in my country, rugby players are subjected to ludicrous expectations by the public, for example 'role modelling' - what 'role' may I ask? And who are they modelling for? Certainly not youth, who stand very little chance of entering the elite. Nor the spectators either, who have been reduced to the status of consumers and statistics for television ratings or pay-per-view sales figures.

Arrest me in mid-flight! I looked at various ways to raise money to get things like equipment, uniforms, publicity materials and found myself in the Bill and Ted Conundrum:

Bill: Ted, while I agree that, in time, our band will be most triumphant. The truth is, Wyld Stallyns will never be a super band until we have Eddie Van Halen on guitar.

Ted: Yes, Bill. But, I do not believe we will get Eddie Van Halen until we have a triumphant video.

Bill: Ted, it's pointless to have a triumphant video before we even have decent instruments.

Ted: Well, how can we have decent instruments when we don't really even know how to play?

Bill: That is why we NEED Eddie Van Halen!

Ted: And THAT is why we need a triumphant video.


Now while I do not think it completely necessary to have Eddie Van Halen on guitar to make Lawn Billiards a popular sport, having the money for niceties like more equipment, uniforms, publicity materials and the like would be quite nice and the standard ways of raising that money look decidedly wobbly. Pub Charity? The leavings of the hopeless addicted, the subsidy of the people who can ill-afford to lose things like grocery money, the mortgage, their self-respect. The City Council? We're not actually an incorporated society yet. Indeed we only exist through the indulgence of the three friends I have managed to con into making up the four best players in the world, and so far vigorous promotion amongst other fiends and contacts has yielded exactly zip. So even the modest requirement of fifteen members and perhaps one witness to incorporate the society is a fence to high for this old war-horse.

I did a job for an agent I know in return for alcohol. After all, I innocently reasoned, it may attract people to a game when there's free grog. Said servant of Satan has yet to make good on his thus far empty promise, so I thought I might put the moral squeeze on him for some payment in kind and have him design a promotional campaign for us.

In the mean time I have spoken to a cossie designer about blazers and to a uniform supplier about trousies and w'isco'ts and by hokey, they're more do-able than I supposed, if the folk are willing that is. Black trou with burgundy and gold piping down the outside seams come at around $70. flat skull caps in burgundy and black with gold piping are $18:00. Moreover, Tete a Tete in Shand's Emporium on Hereford St have pith helmets for $35:00.

When I have pictures of the blazers I will post them. Until then, goodnight.