Lawn Games, Ranked By How Much I Want to Play Them
My spring accessory report: croquet mallets, badminton racquets, and SPF.
Hi, hello. Welcome back to Amateur Hours! I took last week off to spend more time with my family in California but now I’m back in Brooklyn, where it finally feels like spring. Floppy daffodils peek up from park strips, outdoor dining set-ups sprawl across sidewalks, and I’m stoked to talk about the wealth of spring activities at our fingertips. More specifically: lawn games.
Blame Alice (in Wonderland) wielding a flamingo like a croquet mallet, but playing lawn games always seems cinematic. The combination of sunshine + leisure sports + a cold drink (probably booze) makes me feel well-tanned and carefree, even when my shoulders are slowly burning. I think we could all use some of that energy right now. I don’t have a lawn, so catch me heading to the park with a stocked cooler once the forecast hits 70 degrees. The game is extremely TBD, but here are the current contenders:
Would croquet be ranked #1 if I had never seen deeply iconic, fairly disturbed 1989 cult classic Heathers? Probably not. But the scrunchies! The plaid skirt suits! The opportunity to gossip—or if you’re Winona Ryder, negotiate the complex dynamics of murder’s impact on high school social hierarchy—while lazily taking turns thwacking balls through hoops!
I can’t help but have a soft spot for any sport with this level of opportunity for accessorizing and stretching with a mallet behind your shoulders. (If you’ve never seen this movie, get yourself to a streaming platform ASAP—or at least watch this clip.) Realistically, I won’t be buying a croquet set anytime soon. But if you have one in Brooklyn and want to teach me what a wicket is, I’ll bring the scrunchies.
I’ve wanted to try this Swedish lawn game ever since I read Maxine Builder’s Strategist article on its popularity in France. I’m not a manic Francophile; it just sounds really fun. Builder describes it as “a cross between lawn bowling, blackjack, and billiards,” where you arrange a dozen numbered wooden pins into a diamond then knock ‘em down with an adorably named “throwing skittle.” The scoring is too complicated to regurgitate here, but it’s based on the numbers on said pins and doesn’t actually seem that hard. As Christopher from Amazon attests: “What better way is there to enjoy the outdoors than to throw a heavy piece of wood at other wooden pins set up across the yard?” Bonus points for the umlaut.
If you pass through Prospect Park on literally any sunny afternoon, you’ll spot an excited group of bros clustering around a mini trampoline. Their cheers are great advertising for Spikeball—this game looks extremely messy and thus very fun. It’s basically a cross between my two favorite middle school P.E. games, foursquare and volleyball, where you hit the ball with any available body part and fling yourself around the open space accordingly. Would definitely play with a six-pack of sours stashed nearby.
Shuttlecocks! Smashes! I love everything about badminton’s vocabulary, but I’ve always found the actual experience of swinging a racquet at a shuttlecock to be deeply frustrating. I know plenty of amateurs enjoy badminton, but I’d like to note that this is in fact an active Olympic sport. (Side note: Croquet was included in the 1900 Olympics and promptly banned. It was the first Olympic event to feature women, but TIME reports that only French competitors signed up to participate and only one spectator ticket was sold.) Learning this sent me down a major professional badminton Youtube spiral, which I’d highly recommend, but watching the speed of their volleys left me feeling seriously intimidated. Maybe I need coaching lessons?
I understand that cornhole and horseshoes are not the same. I went to college in the Midwest! Cornhole was a tailgate prerequisite. But honestly, the act of tossing one object into/around another object feels pretty identical, so here we are. I’ll give horseshoes the win for the dangerous possibility of accidentally nailing someone with a metal projectile.
Really, I’ll happily play any of these. Warmer weather is coming, and we should find fun however we can. If you have more lawn game recommendations or other warm weather pursuits to share, please email me!
Before you go! It’s been a while since I shared some of my work here, which I hope to do more regularly. Here are a few recent-ish favorites:
6 Tools to Make the Most of Dispersed Camping (Clever/Architectural Digest). If you read my hiking newsletter and left wanting more tips on the great outdoors from my highly capable sister Chloe, you’re in luck. We co-wrote this piece on how to thrive away from campsites, which was so fun.
Sick of Those Panic-Bought Beans? Try Sprouting Them (Eater). Worth reading for Korean cooking icon Maangchi’s tips on growing soybean sprouts alone.
I’m Still Wearing Sweaters, But Current Cassis Is My First Taste of Spring (Bon Appetit). A quick hit about an herbaceous, low-ABV distillation of black currants, which were banned (!) in New York until the early 2000s. Makes for an excellent spritz.
Flourless Chocolate Cake Is a Simple, Indulgent Passover All-Star (Eater). An ode to the deliciousness and Jewishness of flourless chocolate cake.
I Don’t Know Many Farmers Who Have the Kind of Relationship I Have With This Restaurant Group (Bon Appetit). The second installment in my six-part interview series with Kristyn Leach of Namu Farm in Winters, CA. I’m always so impressed with Kristyn’s motivation and honesty, and you should read her thoughts on how we need to support farmers who take on serious risk growing food in midst of climate change.