Bill Dugdale has a passion for a game, and he’ll play it anywhere he can set up a nine-hole course. He comes by it honestly—he’s been around the game all his life, and then some. “My father, Glen Dugdale and uncle, George Laird, really started this game when I was still in my mother’s belly,” he says. “My dad and uncle were in Ligonier, Pa., visiting my grandparents, and they were just killing time. They took the croquet set and kind of decided to set up a golf course.”
With this stroke of inspiration, croquet golf was born.
“My Uncle George thought it was really cool,” recalls Dugdale. He was a Boeing engineer, and he went home and built the first two mallets.”
And they had to have a specialized design. “These rugged croquet golf mallets applied the best technology and materials available and had to be engineered to withstand a full golf swing, unlike regular mallets,” he says.
Laird and his brother-in-law were joined by friends Ron Maroney, Ernie Rivet and Randy Barton, and they’ve played the game nearly every Sunday since 1969. They refined the mallets, even teaching Bill Dugdale to make them himself. “I started playing with friends, and everybody always wanted their own,” he says. “You can’t just go out and buy a set. So, about 15 years ago, I decided it would be fun to make some sets for my friends. I made 10 sets for some of my closest friends—many of them my groomsmen—and gave them as gifts.
They began playing on vacations with other friends. “Word spread, and I started getting calls from people asking for sets of their own,” says Dugdale.
Dugdale and his wife, Sydney, formed a company, Nine Holes AnyWhere, launching the only outfitter of bespoke croquet golf equipment. The original standard croquet golf set includes four 33-inch black gripped mallets, six balls, and set of nine numbered flag pins. Each comes in a heavy-duty, easy-to-carry canvas bag with embroidered logo. NHA sets are numbered and marked with a brass tag in the order in which they were produced. There’s even a glow set for the dark.
Dugdale organizes charitable events both at his home course and elsewhere. He recently hosted The Third Advisors Tournament, a networking and fundraising event that raised $12,000 for St. Michael’s School and Nursery. Still, his day job in finance doesn’t allow much time to grow the company. “I think it would be neat if it turned into something, but if it just continues to be a fun thing locally, where I can raise money for nonprofits, that’s fine, too.”
Dugdale has garnered national attention. Bill Murray, of Caddyshack and Saturday Night Live fame, bought several sets, and Dugdale was invited to the Murray Bros. Caddyshack Charity Golf Tournament.
Today, Dugdale’s workshop is full of material used to create the tools of the game. “I’m carrying on that tradition of the game. I’m tinkering, and I like to make cool stuff,” he says. “I do feel lucky from the standpoint that it’s a family tradition—it’s time tested. I know people love it, and so I feel fortunate to have something that’s so much fun. It’s pretty cool that I’m the keeper of the game.”