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Digby C. Bridges

Digby Bridges

From South Africa, to the United Kingdom, to the lush green lawns of the NCC in West Palm Beach, Florida, Digby Bridges was destined to design and supervise the construction of the Charles P. Steuber National Croquet Center (NCC) early in the 21st Century. For its fifteen years in existence since 2012, the NCC has continued to be the largest and finest facility in the world dedicated to croquet. It is a place of prominence that the United States Croquet Association (USCA), the Croquet Foundation of America (CFA), and croquet players everywhere can finally call “home.” It is “The jewel in the crown” of croquet venues!

How did a croquet player with roots from halfway around the world come to create such an impressive facility in southeast Florida? Here’s the story.

Digby is a long-time member of the world-renowned Hurlingham Club in London, having played croquet there since he was a young man — and he continues to retain his strong attachment to the English version of the game. An especially proud moment for him came in 1995, when he introduced the late Archie Peck to the Association game, and they won the Hurlingham Cup Silver Jubiliee Singles Championship (aka the Queens Cup).

Bridges was introduced to the American game by Bill and Joan Luke and Tommy Dyer — local Florida friends and players. Upon moving to the United States, Digby was initially confounded by the more complicated American rules, but he soon took up our variant of the game with gusto, becoming a member of the Palm Beach Croquet Club (PBCC) in 1989, and enlivening the courts at the Breakers and at the Beach Club with his cheerful and spirited play. He also served on the club’s board of directors. In 1994, he won Championship Flight of the USCA Seniors Singles Tournament.

The PBCC will be forever grateful to Digby for the coveted, carved-verdite animal sculptures that he purchased and imported from South Africa for many years, and meticulously mounted them on wood bases to convert them into trophies. These trophies became a major feature of the Palm Beach Croquet Club’s premier invitational tournaments, and doubtless played a role in encouraging players at all levels and from across the country to participate. The unique and beautiful trophies were his generous gift to the Club and to the sport. In addition, he designed the PBCC’s Coat of Arms for their blazer patches and the club’s official tie. He also designed and supervised the building of the present lawns at the Beach Club in Palm Beach.

Digby’s major and unparalleled contribution to the sport, however, was still to come. Charles P. (Chuck) Steuber, a longtime croquet player and enthusiast, saw the need for a truly impressive national center to act as a focal point and resource center for the sport, instead of simply having a collection of disparate croquet clubs around the country. He decided to purchase a former garden nursery and to largely fund construction of such a center for the Croquet Foundation of America.

When he made that commitment, he turned to his friend Digby to design the building, the grounds, the fast draining courts, the “dry retention area” courts, and the machine shed. Digby was also called on to provide architectural supervision of the work – another huge commitment of his time and expertise.

This was a project that Digby loved, however, and to which he devoted himself with tireless and countless volunteer hours, as well as financial support. As a fine croquet player himself, his architectural talents and true love of the sport melded together like no other layman’s skills could have.

Today, the National Croquet Center is, unquestionably, the largest and finest dedicated croquet center in the world! It resides on ten beautiful acres featuring a 19,000 square foot, finely-appointed, Caribbean-Colonial-style clubhouse, with wide verandas overlooking four acres of lush lawns. The inside welcomes guests with wide entryways, gracious space for dining, an elegant lounge, a ballroom that seats over 200, a pro-shop, and a large kitchen to serve guests’ needs.

As players and guests enter the building, all appreciate the well-conceived wrap-around veranda for shaded dining and socializing as well as sharing stories and relaxing in the handsome lounge/club room. It is an ingeniously designed, multi-functional structure, housing the croquet museum and providing needed office space for the United States Croquet Association and the Croquet Foundation of America. Digby’s special architectural flourishes and attention to detail are evident throughout, and they make visiting and using the Center a memorable experience for all.

The twelve, fast-draining and fast-playing courts are among the best in in the world for speed and true-play, allowing the USCA to host very large local, national and world competitions and training. The Center also hosts local croquet clubs and CFA-sponsored promotional and developmental tournaments and events.

Outside of croquet, Digby has been involved in the design of many homes in Palm Beach, Gulf Stream and Delray Beach. He also designed Delray’s Tennis Center, Police Station and Town Hall. Currently his firm, Bridges Marsh and Associates, is the official architect of Palm Beach, and its projects include redesigning the South Palm Balm Beach Fire Station, Palm Beach Town Hall Renovations, and Worth Avenue and the design of its landmark clock tower. He resides in Ocean Ridge with Gay, his wife of twenty years.

Digby also embraced and served his local community. He was a member of Delray Beach’s Community Appearance Board for four years, and then was chairman of Delray’s Planning Board for five years. He sat on the Board of the Town of Ocean Ridge Planning for three years before he was elected a Council Member of Ocean Ridge, where he served for six years – including two as Mayor.

Digby’s lifelong personal and professional contributions to the sport, culminating in his conception and execution of a facility that is unmatched in continuously promoting and supporting the sport, make the CFA proud to welcome him as our 2017 inductee to the United States Croquet Hall of Fame.

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