So let me just start by saying that an afternoon at Ham Polo Club in Richmond costs £5 per person. Yep, thats right – £5. Forget the stereotypes of Cartier jewellery, cocktail dresses, high heels and magnums of Veuve, we went along in jeans and trainers, armed with a picnic blanket and a bag of sushi that we picked up at Wholefoods. I’m not saying that the Cartier/ Cocktail/ Veuve version isn’t up my street too (it really really is), but I want to make it clear that Polo is accessible and down to earth too (forgetting for a moment that the club’s website has a whole section on how to access it via helicopter…).
Ham Polo Club was founded in 1926 and occupies a delightful spot next to the River Thames. Matches are held every Sunday at 1pm and children under 13 go free. There is plenty of space to park up and settle down for the afternoon. If you don’t fancy taking your own food, the Chukka Tukka food van serves hot food, beer and Pimms.
Polo is a really fun sport to watch. It’s fast paced – those horses bomb from one end of the field to the other at lightning speed – and utterly fascinating. I couldn’t get over the huge horseboxes ferrying 20 odd ponies to and from the club.
Each Polo team has four players. A player can change horses several times in a period – the game is broken into seven-minute time periods called chukkers. There are six chukkers in a high-goal match. Breaks between chukkers are three minutes long, with a 15-minute halftime.
The whole atmosphere is brilliant, we met some lovely people – everyone goes onto the polo field at halftime to stomp down the divets (the tufts of grass from the ponies’ hooves).
The club offers Polo lessons if you’re really keen – be warned though, those ponies are pretty expensive and you need 4-8 per player. Plus the transportation costs for the international games, the feed and upkeep, and let’s not get started on how much a pair of leather Polo boots cost…! It’s nice to say hello to the ponies and players though, everyone was super friendly (if you’re really serious about having a go, check out this link – you can apparently rent ponies and find cheaper lessons outside of London).
The clubhouse is for members only, it does look very civilised (we’re hoping to persuade our Richmond friends to join so we can go back next summer!)….
There are lots of Polo clubs around the UK and they all offer visitor access. I’ve named a few near London below but a Google search will show you whats in your area.
And finally, this article has some top tips on Polo lingo and what not to do…. 😉