Humans have played a version of a lawn game for thousands of years using devices as diverse as cow intestines, pig bladders, sharp sticks, and loose stones. There are exciting regional variations like the Swedish kubb, the German hammer blow, and the Italian ruzzola, a game played with a wheel made from aged pecorino.
But the games suggested here are less esoteric (no cheese wheels required) and none require their own space, just a reasonably flat piece of grass, dirt, or gravel. In most games, players take turns, which makes distancing a breeze. Other than the shuttlecocks, there is little reason for many hands to handle the same items that are needed to play. Lawn games are a low-key, inexpensive, and health-friendly way to add structure to an afternoon. Whether or not you break the open container laws while playing is entirely up to you.
The origins of croquet are disputed. Some historians attribute it to a French game called Paille Maille, while others attribute it to an Irish game played with broomstick mallets called Crookey. Croquet as we know it today rose across the UK in the 1860s and was soon exported to its various colonies.
Part of croquet’s popularity was due to its status as a rare sport that men and women could play together, making it a preferred way of flirting. (Some clergymen denounced it as immoral, a good indication that it was probably a lot of fun.) “Women would wear special croquet dresses that were a little shorter than regular dresses so they could see ankles and so on,” Ms. Boddy said. Nowadays, sets can be found for under $ 30, though equipment from Jacques of London, who has been making sets since the 19th century, costs a bit more.
Jane Austen knew how to have a good time – quilting, gardening, whist – and in 1808 she wrote to her sister that she and her nephew had recorded a game of lawn, battledore and shuttlecock, a forerunner of badminton. “He and I practiced together two mornings and improved a bit. We did it three times and six times once or twice. “