Bottle Challenge

The Bottle Challenge is a one-day competition contested by seven of Ashby Croquet Club’s top golf croquet players plus an invited guest player.  The entrance fee is one bottle of wine, winner takes all.

The inaugural competition in 2003 was known as the Connoisseur’s Challenge.  After a year’s break it was reinstated in 2005 as the Bottle Challenge.

Previous winners:
2003 Nick Mounfield
2004 Competition not held
2005 Tim King
2006 Tim King
2007 Ray Mounfield
2008 Derek Old
2009 Will Gee
2010 Rachel Rowe
2011 Will Gee
2012 Will Gee
2013 Tim King
2014 Will Gee
2015 Nick Mounfield
2016 Will Gee
2017 Rachel Rowe
2018 Rachel Gee
2019 Harry Fisher
2020 Rachel Gee


Sun 11th Oct, Moira

Our guest player was Ellie Ross from New Zealand, recently relocated to the Midlands.

Rachel won the event with 7/7 having come back from 4-1 down in the last round against Will who finished as runner-up.

Ellie and Tim played well and shared 3rd place.

The lower ranked players had the luxury of watching the last two rounds played between the higher ranked players rather than slugging it out for the wooden spoon on lawn 3.

International players


Rachel and Mike


Sat 12th Oct, Moira Report by Mike

The 2019 Bottle Challenge was held on Saturday 12th Oct, a fine day during an otherwise unsettled period of weather.

The UK’s no. 7 ranked GC player Harry Fisher was our guest player, with Rachel, Will, Tim, Nick, Arthur, David and Paul from Ashby Croquet Club. A strong field with three -4 and two -3 handicaps.

An Ashby player had won the Bottle Challenge in each of the previous ten years, but Arthur beating an out of sorts Will 7-4 in the first round was a sign of things to come. I missed some of the mid-tournament games due to having to shop for the evening meal so will skip to the key game which was Harry v Will in the sixth round. Harry had not lost a game and Will had only lost one, so he could have won the tournament on who-beat-who. Harry won 7-4 and the tournament, a deserving and popular winner.

Rachel salvaged something for Ashby by beating Harry in the final round.

The Indoor Bottle Challenge was a limited affair due to time constraints after dinner. Only Harry and Will played and had twelve alternating shots each. Harry won after six successful shots as Will had by then accumulated enough penalties to have a score of minus one! Later in the evening there was a fitting end to the day when Nick smashed one of the bottles!


Sat 29th September  Report by Mike

Rachel and Ian both had six wins out of seven.
Rachel was the overall winner as she had the better hoop difference and also beat Ian 7-3 in their game.

Our guest player J-P Moberly, who was the highest ranked player, had five wins.

We have now had ten consecutive years of an Ashby player defeating the guest player.  Rachel has won three times and Will five times.

Mike and Rachel
Bottle Challenge competitors 2018


Sat 14th October  Report by Mike, Pictures by Judith

The Bottle Challenge was held on the middle Saturday of October in surprisingly warm and fine weather. The players this year were Rachel, Will, Nick, Tim, Arthur, Chris, Ray, Mike and Guest player Ian Burridge. This was probably the strongest field so far in this tournament. It was the usual all-play-all format with Chris and Mike sharing a place.

We have had some very high standards of play in the past but never in so many games as we experienced this year. Going into the last round the top five players each had five wins but only Rachel, Will, Tim and Ian could win due to hoop difference. The last round key results were Rachel beating Nick and Will beating Ian. Rachel won overall having a hoop difference of one over Will.

The Ashby players gave it everything in this tournament and we should be proud of them.

The Indoor Bottle Challenge in the evening was equally competitive with Nick beating Rachel and Will beating Tim in the semi-finals. Will was the overall winner beating Nick 8 – 6 to win the champagne. Mike rather foolishly challenged Will to a playoff for a magnum of champagne and lost. I suspect this is a challenge which is unlikely to be repeated next year.


Sat 1st October  Report by Mike

The 2016 Bottle Challenge was played in rather wet conditions but the key players fought it out to the end. A very strong field with Rachel, Nick, Will and our guest player Martin French all playing off a handicap of -3 and David -2.

As usual, the draw was “seeded” so the last couple of rounds would be critical and we went into the final round with Will and Martin both unbeaten with six wins each. Will won 7-4. His winnings so far amount to around forty bottles of wine!

In the evening we played a shortened version of The Indoor Bottle Challenge which Nick won by beating Frank 5-4 in the final. For the rest of the evening we were entertained by Nadia and Steve Marsh who gave a delightful classical guitar recital. They gave their time and professional expertise freely for the benefit of Ashby Croquet Club. We should also remember Fiona who isn’t even a member of the club but makes sure we are provided with excellent food along with Chris, Julie and the other willing helpers.


Sat 24th October

Lionel Tibble was this year’s guest player, but the clear winner of the main event was Nick Mounfield (pictured below right, receiving the trophy from Mick, photo by Arthur).

Mike hosted a party and Indoor Bottle Challenge the same evening, with over 30 members and guests taking part, many of them new to this carpet challenge. George was the star player, playing consistently throughout, and beating Tim in the final.


Sat 4th October

The 2014 Bottle Challenge was played to a slightly different format involving nine players due to the late withdrawal of Nick Mounfield. He was replaced by Chris and Mike playing alternative games but effectively still maintaining the “eight” player all-play-all format. The guest player was Ryan Cabble.

The weather in the morning was rain, followed by warm sunshine in the afternoon. Play was competitive as usual, the first and only prize now being nine bottles of entry fee wine.

Will was the overall winner having not dropped a game, Rachel second having only lost to Will, and Ryan and Chris/Mike joint third with three wins.


Mon 26th August

This year’s Bottle Challenge, held at Moira on bank holiday Monday, featured seven of Ashby’s top GC players competing along with guest player James Death from Nottingham who is at number 7 in the UK golf croquet rankings.  Tim King was the overall winner of the competition.


Sat 13th October

Will Gee won the Bottle Challenge for the second consecutive year, a competition contested by the club’s elite Golf Croquet players and this year’s guest player Howard Cheyne.

An “après-croquet” event hosted by Mike raised a grand total of £139.50 for the club’s development fund.


Twenty-seven players contested the inaugural Indoor Bottle Challenge. In essence the challenge was to run croquet balls between two wine bottles without knocking either of them over. The playing surface was carpet, the balls were played from seven yards away from the bottles, and it provided a test of the player’s ability to control direction and pace.  All players initially had six shots, with Martin, Andrew, Mike and Sarah (Howard’s partner) all progressing through to the semi-finals with six points each. The final was hard-fought between Andrew and Mike with the bottles having to be moved closer together to bring it to a conclusion. Andrew demonstrated his ability to be a consistently accurate player under pressure and was a worthy winner.  Tim did a great job as compere/manager, particularly as he had no prior knowledge as to what was going to take place.  Some of the players did a great job in emptying wine bottles in preparation for future events.


Sat 20th August  Report by Ray

This was our eighth annual one-day Golf Croquet “Bottle Challenge”.   The event, initiated and developed by Mike O’Brian, involves each player contributing a bottle of wine, which then constitutes the prize for the tournament winner, together with a unique “bottle” trophy designed by Mike.  Sadly, Mike’s wife, Margaret, had passed away three days earlier following a stroke.  Naturally the thoughts of the players were very much with Mike and before play commenced they observed a minute’s silence in memory of Margaret.

The competition involved seven of Ashby’s top GC players (handicap range 0-3), together with this year’s guest player Stephen Mulliner.  Early rounds saw the top four seeds (Stephen, Will Gee, Rachel Rowe and Tim King) winning each of their games, but in round four Ray Mounfield had a surprise win over Stephen.  Nonetheless in the final round of play the top seeds, Stephen and Will, played in the game from which the tournament winner would inevitably emerge.  Will was in “Juggernaut” mode and played some of the best croquet seen on the Ashby courts.  He was unstoppable, even by the wily Stephen.  Will won the game 7-2.

This completed a day in which Will had outclassed all seven of his opponents and was thus a worthy winner of the tournament.  Stephen was runner-up with Rachel third (both on five wins), Chris Mounfield finished fourth with four wins.  The weather had been kind, the company convivial and the day very enjoyable.


Sat 11th Sept

The Bottle Challenge, held on the Saturday of our Lawn 3 Opening Weekend, featured the world number one Reg Bamford competing with seven top-level Ashby golf croquet players.  Rachel Rowe was the winner of the wine with 6 wins out of 7.  Reg was runner-up, also with 6 wins, but just losing to Rachel in an exciting game which was effectively decided by an outstanding long-distance takeout by Rachel at hoop 13, particularly as her other ball was initially wired behind hoop 12.


The 2009 Bottle challenge was held on 3rd October with a full compliment of eight players with handicaps ranging from three to zero. The guest player this year was Roy Ware. The 2008 winner, Derek Old, unfortunately had other commitments. The Ashby players were Chris, Ray, Arthur, Derek, Will, Tim and Mike. Conditions were challenging due to fast lawns and high wind. The final round decided the winner. Roy and Will both had five wins with Roy having beaten Will. Therefore, in the final round Will had to beat Ray to stay in the running, which he did, and Roy had to beat Tim to be the overall winner, which he didn’t, leaving Will the winner with six out of seven wins. He must have anticipated winning. The giveaway was the haircut ready for the presentation photo shoot.

The other results were Mike on five wins, Chris on four, Arthur and Ray on three, Tim and Derek on one. The most important event of the day only became apparent the following day: Yours Truly moving from a handicap of two down to one after the final game.



The 2008 Bottle Challenge was held on a very pleasant October day and Eileen, Chris, Rachel, Arthur, Ray, Will, Derek Old and myself fought for the privilege of taking home the trophy, and more important, the eight bottles of wine to celebrate with.

This year the draw was partially seeded so the lower handicap players would meet in rounds 3, 6 & 7 and there would be all to play for in the final two rounds. It was all play all as usual. As a player and manager the only game I observed other than my own (modesty forbids any comment on those) was between Will and Derek. Will was leading 6 – 5 but peeled Derek’s ball through hoop 12 leaving him first approach to hoop 13 and game over. The re-match next year will be interesting.

Derek Old was the clear winner with seven wins, Will second with five wins (on who beat who) and myself third with five wins.

Post Tournament Party

We have now hosted two croquet parties, the first resulting in red wine on the walls and ceiling, the second with red wine on the carpet. We are seriously considering having the house redecorated with a burgundy red theme before the next one. At least on this occasion guests showed some initiative by not letting red wine linger too long in spillable containers.

One guest later had to be dissuaded from attempting a jump shot on the dining room table!

The Bottle Challenge has evolved and matured to the point where the club needs to consider how best to take it forward, hopefully onto three lawns in the future. Innovators rarely make good administrators.



The Bottle Challenge had a smaller field this year, with the other eligible members (Golf Croquet handicap of zero or less) and potential visitors all being unavailable. Therefore Chris, Ray, Tim, Arthur and Mike fought for the privilege of taking home the trophy and, far more important, the five bottles of wine required as entrance fees.

There was perhaps a slight end-of-term feel about the play. Arthur and Ray led the pack with three wins each, Ray winning overall on the who-beat-who rule, leaving Arthur as runner-up but having conceded the least number of hoops.

One of the problems I have is the tendency to see everything around whilst taking a shot. Whenever I was lining up facing the Welfare building I had flashbacks of the last committee meeting. Does anyone know if I will suffer permanent damage or is there a cure?



For the benefit of new members and others who cannot remember for whatever reason, the Bottle Challenge is for golf croquet players with a handicap of zero or less.  The entrance fee is one bottle of wine, winner takes all.

By tradition the match report should inform, entertain and offend in equal measure.  This years entrants were:

Tim King – winner of the Italian open. Apparently the Italians didn’t put up much of a fight, but at least they got the tournament running on time.

Tom Brandt – what a polite, well mannered young man. Reminds me of myself at his age.

Chris and Ray Mounfield – when they play as a doubles team the tactical harmony is an example to us all.

Richard Thompson – his technique of placing the mallet on the ground and walking away to line up the shot is frustratingly difficult to master with round mallets.  Obviously extra coaching is needed.

Yours Truly – a player that recognises that it’s bad form for the manager to win his own tournament.

Nothing of any interest happened during the tournament. Tim won, Ray second.

The entrants’ choice of wine was far more interesting.  Too cheap, tight fisted.  Too expensive………., I think you all get the point.

I’ve found soaking the label off a decent wine and sticking it onto a bottle of cheap plonk is best. The winner will never notice the difference.

Mike (The Manager)


The 2005 BOTTLE CHALLENGE (a.k.a. Connoisseur’s Cup)

The Bottle Challenge is a level play golf croquet competition for players with a handicap of 0 or less. This year the players were Tim -3, Mike -2, Ray -1 & Chris, Barrie & Derek on 0. The other eligible player, Nick -2, was not available. It was all-play-all 13-point games without time limit, starting at 9.45am, break for lunch at the Lakeside, & finished approx. 5pm. All the games were long & hard-fought, hardly surprising as the entrance was one bottle of wine, winner takes all. The most memorable moment was Chris beating Tim 7-5. Chris, Tim & Mike all had 4 wins out of 5 with Tim winning on hoop difference. Chris was runner up and scored the most hoops.

The Darker Side of Serious Croquet
One rather disturbing incident happened as I was watching the slow rythmic swinging of a player’s mallet and found myself drifting into a trance. I suddenly realised what was happening. He was not taking aim, his aim was to hypnotise the opponent! I decided the only way to combat this unscrupulous behavior was to close my eyes before the swinging started. On past experience I thought there was ample time for a little snooze before the ball was finally struck but he obviously sensed something amiss (some chance!), struck the ball on the first swing & shouted yes before I had chance to open my eyes. I was quite impressed with his ability to move effortlessly from one dubious tactic to another. As usual, there were nit-picking claims yours truly had played the wrong balls. I was playing the right balls, but not necessarily in the right order. Surprising how players always notice opponents’ faults, rarely their own. There was even a complaint about me stopping & picking up a moving ball during a game. I was only examining the ball for defects as requested by the committee, but with hindsight perhaps at the wrong moment.
(Report by Mike)


Update May 2016: Mike has unearthed the photograph below of the first Bottle Challenge with a date of 2003 on the reverse. He recalls:

The report was headed The Bottle Challenge but that was an “unofficial” title given by me.

After the first event we realised we had something that was worth pursuing and there was a discussion about what it should be called.

The three options were:
– The Bottle Challenge
– The Connoisseurs Cup
– The Bottles Open

There were differing opinions and as I instigated the competition I was asked to decide on the name.  As apostrophes are not my strong point and I would be writing the reports, I decided The Bottle Challenge was the safe option. (I just made that up but the rest is true to the best of my recollection).