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In Central Park, Lawn Athletes Really Get Into The Swing of Things

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Everyone knows about Central Park's famous grassy areas like the Sheep Meadow or the Great Lawn but there's another far less famous "lawn" that draws dozens of people to the park everyday for friendly competition that's been going on for decades. NY1's Jon Weinstein filed the following report.

Perhaps it's the all-white clothes the players are wearing, or maybe it's the funky mallet they're swinging. Or for this group of lawn athletes, maybe it's the oddly shaped orb they're rolling. Whatever it is, the New York Croquet Club and the New York Lawn Bowling Club tend to draw lots of attention.

"I think it catches the imagination of people walking past, they stop and look and wonder what on earth we're doing," said George Blake of the New York Croquet Club.

The two clubs share a pair of "greens" which are finely manicured lawns in the heart of Central Park. They've been there for decades honing their skills. The sports, and yes they are considered sports, are fairly simple.

"You've got this target here called a jack and what you need to do is you need to get your bowl, which is not a ball, this is a bowl you see it's kind of lopsided. You have to get the bowl close to the jack," explained Alan Winson of the New York Lawn Bowling Club.

As for croquet, it too seems remarkably simple though tougher to execute than it looks.

"Croquet is a game that is played with four balls and a mallet and wickets. Wickets being the hoops you see on the courts. The idea of the game is to run the balls through the wickets, scoring points," said New York Croquet Club President Sara Low.

For both games, anyone can play and they're fairly simple to pick up. The players say being outdoors in an unparalleled setting like theirs is among the biggest benefits.

"Beautiful views, beautiful trees," said one croquet player.

"It's just like paradise to me because you're out, even though you're out in the middle of Central Park, you're very isolated. And you get that feeling of isolation, but you can still enjoy that energy of Central Park that's around you," said Ryan Hastu of the New York Lawn Bowling Club.

There are small membership fees to join the clubs, but every Monday the lawn bowlers and the Croquet club run a free clinic teaching people how to play. The greens are on the west side of the park right by 69th Street.

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