Dubbed the “sport of kings” in Argentina, polo is the ultimate playing field for the ultra-wealthy, a game where the most talented horse riders of the world get to showcase their skills. This is why more and more estancias now offer polo days where beginners can also get in the saddle and swing a mallet.
The British Heritage and Rise of Polo in Argentina
British immigration brought polo to Argentina during the 19th century. The Hurlingham Club is among the most important clubs in the local game’s development. Four Brits – Robson, Ravenscroft, Campbell, and Fortune – founded the club in 1888 named after London’s Hurlingham Club.
The club became the first champion of the Argentine Open Polo Championship which is currently considered among the most prestigious global interclub tournament. Seven out of eight global players that have the best handicaps today are Argentine, and one of them is the top player, Adolfo Cambiaso.
Where and When to See a Polo Match
La Triple Corona, or triple crown, is the elite Argentine polo season that runs from the month of September through the end of the year.
It is made up of three popular international polo tournaments, namely the Tortugas Open, Hurlingham Open, and Argentine Open, the most important one is held in November or December at the momentous Palermo polo ground, famous across the globe as the Cathedral of Polo.
You won’t have a hard time finding affordable tickets for all of these three tournaments as well as luxury serviced boxes that offer the best views of the game.
The Passion for Argentine Polo
While polo has long been considered a luxury sport for those investors with fat wallets, the Argentine people have a genuine passion for it that breaks this stereotype.
The players don’t just participate in local competitions for the sake of money. Instead, they do so because of their love for the sport and the tradition and importance of the yearly events that make them spend four months in Argentina annually.
A Spectacle Outside the Field
The admiration for the great sportsmen of polo and the tradition and skill of the game attract a long list of celebrities every year to Buenos Aires to witness the Argentine Open.
A-list actors including Tommy Lee Jones, Robert Duvall, and Will Smith, as well as models and sportsmen such as Sebastián Vettel, the four-time Formula 1 champion, have all been seen at field no.1 in Palermo. The match itself is followed by a glamorous after-party filled with stands from top sports brands offering cocktails and snacks.
Quick Pointers to Understand Polo
Here are a few basic pointers to help you understand the polo game:
- Every team has four players out on the field.
- In La Triple Corona matches, teams play chukkas or eight 7-minute periods. Seven or six chukkas may also be played in other tournaments.
- Team exchange sides when a goal is converted.
- When a ball goes outside the field, the umpire will throw it back to the pitch between the teams. Time will be added to declare a winner if the match ends as a draw after the normal time.
- Each team has a handicap, the numerical score for its quality of play.
- Players must use their right hand to hold the mallet.
- While athletes themselves are indispensable in polo, the horses’ quality can make a big difference.