One of the oldest known sports, polo is thought to have originated in Persia in the sixth century BC and has been enjoyed in many parts of the world ever since. It was introduced to England in 1869 by the 10th Hussars in Aldershot.
Known as ‘the sport of Kings’ – but in reality open to a much wider public – polo is now played in many countries but professionally in only around a dozen. It is played by both men and women.
A brief guide to the game
Field polo is played by two teams of four players on a field ten times the size of a football pitch. The winning team is the one which scores the most goals by hitting the ball through the goal.
A game has periods of play, known as chukkas. A game may have four, five or six chukkas. Normally, each chukka lasts seven minutes, but some games are played in shorter chukkas. Players switch to fresh ponies between chukkas.
At the start of the game, the two teams of four line up forming two rows facing the umpire in the centre of the field. There are one or sometimes two mounted umpires on the field and sometimes a referee on the sidelines, on foot. The game starts with one of the umpires bowling the ball in hard between the two teams. Teams change ends after a goal is scored, which overcomes any wind or slope advantage and also provides equal opportunity to start off with the ball on their right side (all players must hit right-handed).
Games are often played with a handicap, where the team with the lower group handicap is given the difference in handicaps as goals before the first chukka.
The polo season extends from the beginning of May to the end of September.
Arena polo is played all year round on a field 100 yards long by – in the case of The Berkshire – 40 yards wide by two teams of three riders. Ends are changed after each six minute chukka, and not after a goal. Arena polo also uses a smaller ball.
Polo in the UK and Ireland is governed by the Hurlingham Polo Association, which also licenses players and supervises handicaps.
Learn to play
One of the country’s leading polo schools is based here at The Berkshire. Cool Hooves is fully licensed, staffed by highly experienced professional players and offer tuition at all levels as well as corporate events, travel and related services. Clients of the school may take advantage of all of the Club’s facilities.