John Hobbs Croquet Mallets

A bit about John Hobbs

Some people have asked if I have a shop, or whether they can come and visit the factory! Anyone is welcome to visit my garage/workshop, which is a model of untidiness!  I design the mallets using a spreadsheet with all the weights and necessary calculations built in. My career before I retired was in operational research and then marketing computer services, which came in useful in refining the program.

 

I started making mallets in 1994 when I repaired a wooden handled mallet and found that the replacement hickory handle felt better when lying with the longer axis from side to side in my hand. But I found that I had to fix it about 15° away from an exact right angle. I played with it for a year and my hitting-in improved no end. But to produce mallets for sale the head would have to be rotatable, but be locked firmly once a player had found their individual offset angle. This is presumably why no-one else has suggested having the grip turned through 90°.

 

I solved that problem by using a nylon rod, (given me by Cliff Jones) to join the aluminium handle shaft to the head with a tight fit, so that it would stay in position without being screwed tight. You can then twist the handle round while holding the head between your feet. Then, when you have found the ideal offset, you can tighten up a screw to stop the handle rotating in the head. You can set up your mallet with your most comfortable grip and it can always be made to point straight ahead. I now use a tapered fit between the nylon and the head, so any handle fits any head, but new handles do not fit old heads. I can however modify old heads to take new handles.

 

I decided also that the handle ought to be as light as possible so that weight is concentrated in the head. I achieved this by having the shaft padded out with balsa wood. The bottom grip was originally also made with balsa but is now made of Duplon, which is even lighter. Using carbon fibre has meant a further reduction in weight and an increase in stiffness.

 

Having made one example I was asked by a club member to make him one and then I made one for a Spaniard, Fernando Ansorena, and he showed it to a visiting American from California and then I was in business on both sides of the Atlantic. Most sales come from players seeing my mallets being used in their club or in a tournament. In 1996 I met Digby Bridges from Palm Beach, who liked the mallets, bought four and decided to become my agent in the USA. That arrangement lasted until late 2002, when Archie Peck started selling the mallets in the NCC shop at West Palm Beach. I now deal directly with each country, which so far has meant Spain, Belgium, Ireland, Germany, Italy, South Africa, France, Canada, Japan and Australia.

 

It's fun running your own business and it supplements my pension to keep us in wine and holidays!

 

I’m willing to make unusual shapes and sizes of mallet, especially in winter when I can’t play any croquet. So far the oddest had a head only 6 inches long and 1.25 inches wide and was totally useless, because it was too easy to twist. The longest was 15”, but that was too long, so that player cut back to 13.5”.  I also collaborate with Alan Pidcock of Manor House mallets, so that we make a Hobbcock (my handle, his head) and a one off, so far, with his handle and my head (a Pidhobb?)

 

The grand total of mallets made is now over 2,000  (Nov 2014).