How to Play Polo

Anybody can learn how to play polo. Once known as the sport of kings, polo has evolved into an everyman's kind of game. A team sport, players ride horseback and try to hit a wooden polo ball into a goal by using a long-handled mallet. It's a fast-paced game played on a large grass field. Four players comprise a team, and each player needs his own polo horse.

How to Play Polo
A polo match pits two teams of four players against each other. The field measures 300 yards in length and is at least 160 yards wide if the field has sideboards. Otherwise, a full-sized field is 200 yards wide. The sideboards must be at least six inches high. Goalposts are positioned at the each end of the field and a player's objective is to knock the ball through the goal. Once a goal is scored, teams switch ends.

Time Limits
The play period is known as a chukka or chukker. Tournament or league rules determine the number of chukkas per game. Some play four; others six or eight, with six chukkas a common rule. Each chukka runs seven minutes. Players may switch to a new horse during the time between two chukkas.

Add the Handicap
To keep games on an even level, a handicap may be applied. Each player is given a handicap and these numbers are totaled. The team with the lower handicap receives the difference as goals prior to the start of the match.

Define the Positions
Each player is assigned a number and these numbers have defined responsibilities.

  • Number one is the strongest offensive person on the team. Generally, this player covers the opposing team's number four.
  • Number two spends time passing to the number one player or scoring on his own. He covers the opponent's number three.
  • Number three must be a strong hitter. He feeds the ball to numbers one and two.
  • Number four establishes the defensive attack. He can position himself anywhere on the field. His main goal is to stop any scoring attack from the opposition.

And…They're Off
To begin a match, each team lines up with each player in number order. The teams face the umpire in the center of the field. The umpire bowls the ball between the teams to begin the game. Players attempt to hit the ball into the goal. After a goal is scored, teams switch sides. It's only fair since all players are required to hit with their right hand. The team with the higher point total at the end of the chukkas wins the match.

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