There’s a whole culture that surrounds the game of Polo. From the outside, it can seem a little difficult to break into, but, in fact, the game and traditions of the sport aren’t all that mysterious. Once you understand what’s going on, and why ladies in heals are kicking mud around, the polo world can be a lot of fun. Here’s everything you need to know to enjoy watching a match and to make your way into the polo set.
What are the basics?
The basic aim of the game is for each team of four to hit the ball with their mallet through the opponent’s goal to score. Complication arises over who’s allowed to hit the ball when, but this is determined by a system deciding who has the right of way. Within the rules, players can bump each other, push each other off line, or hook each other’s mallets in order to try and gain right of way, but the player who is travelling along the line of the ball is the one most likely to be able to hit it. If the rules are broken, penalties will be given to the opposite team.
Why does it keep stopping?
Polo is very demanding for the ponies, so the game is divided into six 7-minute periods, also known as chukkers, of which any pony can only play 2.
Why does everyone walk onto the field at halftime?
The players’ mallets dig up chunks of the turf during play, so at half-time it is tradition for the spectators to participate in divot stomping, to help even out the field for the second half. If you think that means you need to come in wellies, think again. You’ll see ladies in delicate heals stamping muddy tufts back into the ground. It’s all part of the fun.
What should you wear and bring?
If you have binoculars, they can be very useful for watching, as a polo field is large. Dress codes vary, but if you’re going to one of the big games, and you want to fit in, you better be dressed in your finest. Going to a polo match is as much about being watched as watching.
Where can you watch?
There are regular matches on the weekends at most polo clubs, many of which are open to the public. But the best polo games to see are the big annual fixtures. Polo In The Park at Hurlingham on 7th, 8th and 9th June is one of the biggest polo events, and promises so much more than just the matches. The kids can enjoy specially organised events, as well as shows from magicians and street performers, and you can appreciate all the delicious food and luxurious hospitality provisions. This is the perfect event for a jug of Pimm’s and an afternoon of watching the ponies. Book a room in our Fulham hotel for the weekend to make the most of the visit.