For the moneyed classes, there are genteel diversions such as Steeplechase, Swan Ball and golf at Belle Meade Country Club. But for us gentlemen—and ladies—with baseball-cap budgets and top-hat taste, our leisure options are more limited.
One of the more refined local low-budget activities is snooker at Sportsman’s Grille in Hillsboro Village. Never mind the riffraff—in this case, drunken Vandy undergrads oozing all over each other—snooker has been a dapper diversion for British military officers since the 19th century.
The game itself is simple. Like pool, it’s played on a green felt table with pockets in each of its four corners and another one on each side. But a snooker table is longer and narrower than its more common cousin and the pockets are smaller.
And then there are the balls: 15 red ones, a white cue ball and six others of various colors.
Like all gentlemanly parlor games—whist, euchre, that one with the little pegs in the wooden board—snooker is a game of points. The red balls are worth one point, while the other colors range from two to seven points each. As long as there are red balls on the table, you must sink one before you can take aim at a ball of higher value. Also, you don’t “sink” the balls, you “pot” them. It’s all very jolly, innit guvna?
Aside from the drunken undergrads, Sportsman’s provides the perfect redoubt for a snooker tourney. Before your match, you can feast on roasted quail or pan-fried trout while surrounded by giant stuffed and mounted animal heads, just as they do in the English countryside (or so I’ve read).
After your meal, climb the formidable stairs—once referred to in these pages as smelling like a YMCA locker room—make your way past the glassy-eyed sorority drones queuing up by the loo, grab a cue and chalk up.
On some nights there will be music. On one recent evening, a jazz trio burned through some straight-ahead standards. Another night a bluegrass band kept the commoners distracted with whatever one does to a mandolin while the snooker-loopy nuts potted balls to their hearts’ delight.
In all, snooker at Sportman’s is a smashing good time, and the price is right, which is to say, free. So polish up your monocle and iron your ascot. Pocket a few quid for pints and catch a livery to the Village. It’s a cracking good time.