A standard polo match involves two teams competing to drive a ball down the field and through the opposing team's goal posts with a mallet. Play begins with players lined up at the center field, when a mounted umpire bowls the ball between the teams. Teams switch directions after each scoring goal to equalize field conditions.
A match is divided into seven minute periods called chukkers, with a horn sounding at the end of each chukker. Players then have four minutes to change horses and return to the field.
The ball used in matches is made of high-impact plastic covered in leather that is about 3-3/4" in diameter and clocks in at around 90mph while in play.
A polo team consists of four players, who wear jerseys bearing the numbers 1 - 4. A player's number refers to his or her position on the field.
Player #1: The lead offensive player who runs for the opposing team's goal. He or she remains close to the opposing team's goal and waits for a pass from teammates in order to score.
Player #2: Plays an important role in offense by running through and scoring themselves or by passing to the Number 1. Defensively, they cover the other team's Number 3.
Player #3: Feeds the ball up to the Number 1 and Number 2 but also maintains a solid defense. He or she hits long balls and sets up plays and strategy.
Player #4: The most defensive-oriented player, this Number 4 prevents the other team from scoring, enabling the Number 3 to make aggressive offensive plays.
The ground must be flat and covered with grass.
The polo ground is 300 yards long, 160 yards wide if boarded (our ground for the Greenville Polo Classic is slightly smaller). Being boarded means the field has a 12 inch upright board bounding the perimeter which stops the ball rolling out of play easily. If the ground is unboarded, it is 200 yards wide and marked with a white line. The goal posts, positioned at each end, are 8 yards apart.
All horse breeds are allowed to play Polo, but Polo Ponies are a mix of thoroughbred and quarter horse breeds. They are specifically bred and trained to be fast, energetic and docile. Polo Ponies can play two chukkas in an afternoon with a rest of at least one chukka in between.
Tailgating is one of polo's oldest traditions. Spectators use their cars and extravagant tents to create a lively environment to enjoy the match. Formal tailgates include elaborate decorations, champagne, and fine cheeses. Many polo events hold competitions for the best tent decorations.
A polo match is casual and fun with a wide range of attire. You'll see everything from sundresses and seersucker to pants or stylish jeans. Of course, wearing extravagant hats and fascinators for the ladies is a long time polo tradition. A women's hat competition is typically held during the half. If you plan to participate in the 'stomping of the divots' flats are recommended.