The “sport of kings” is not just for royals and the über affluent. One of the biggest misconceptions people have about polo is that it’s an elite sport far beyond their reach. True, most of us can’t afford to play polo but believe it or not, an afternoon watching a match is an affordable and unique outing with friends or family. Pack a stylish picnic and wear some stylish clothes and then head to Conyers Farm in Greenwich, CT where tailgating is not only permitted, but whole-heartedly encouraged. And the only cost involved is $40 per car no matter how many passengers in it.
“But,” you say with trepidation, “I know nothing about polo – it’s intimidating. Won’t I look like an idiot?”
Absolutely not. I have put together a Polo Primer that will get you up to speed on the basics of what to expect to make your experience effortless. Phrases like “After this chukker we’ll stomp the divots,” will soon fall trippingly off your tongue. You will look and sound like you’ve been around polo all your life.
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT POLO:
BASIC GAME PLAY: Four players on each team use long-handled mallets to get the ball between the goal posts of their opponents. Of course there’s a bit more strategy involved but that’s basically it.
WHO GOES: Groups of friends, families, children in cute outfits, couples, nice dogs on leashes.
WHY ATTEND: Put it this way, on Monday morning when someone asks you what you did on the weekend, wouldn’t you rather say, “I went to the polo match in Greenwich…” instead of, “I cleaned the garage and watched a Duck Dynasty marathon.” Polo is a unique, cost-effective outing.
WHEN: There are only two matches left this season: Sunday, September 1 and Sunday, September 8. Gates open at 1:00 p.m. and the game starts at 3:00 p.m.
WHAT TO WEAR: Don’t overdress but don’t underdress either: khakis and a button-down or polo shirt for men, a simple sundress or smart casual for women. A statement hat is optional but always fun and this is one of the few places where you can wear one and not seem pretentious. If you’re experiencing wardrobe anxiety, even nice jeans are fine but make an effort, okay? Learn from my mistake and DON’T wear heels or you’ll sink in the grass and ruin your shoes.
VIBE: The game itself is exhilarating and fast-paced, the overall atmosphere is relaxed, refined, and fun.
POLO PONY: The term polo pony is common but they are actually full-sized horses selected for their temperament, speed, and agility. Polo “ponies” are trained to respond to leg cues, weight shifts, and only one-handed rein commands. They are at their peak by age 6 or 7 but if not seriously injured, horses can play until they are 18 or 20 years old.
CHUKKER: The game is divided into 7-minute periods called “chukkers” (and not “chukkas” as some people believe) with 4-minute intervals in between to allow players to change horses. There is a break at half time.
STOMPING THE DIVOTS: a half time polo tradition where spectators literally stomp on the field to tamp down patches of sod loosened by horse hooves. Everybody gets into the spirit. Don’t hesitate, just do it.
PICNIC: Bring your own. It can be as simple as a loaf of bread and some cheese and grapes, or something more elaborate. When I go with a group of friends we do a potluck picnic where everyone brings something. My standby is the delicious curried chicken salad from Meli-Melo in Greenwich (just thinking about it makes me salivate…) but a quick stop to your local deli, Whole Foods or my other favorite, Aux Delices will provide you with scrumptious fare. I also bring along the New York Times, folding chairs, my camera and just the right amount of attitude.
PEOPLE WATCHING: Excellent.
FUN FACTS: It was an Olympic sport in the early part of the 20th century. The last Olympic match was in 1936 between Argentina and Great Britain and drew 45,000 spectators.
OBSCURE TRIVIA TO DROP INTO CONVERSATION: Originally, the ball was made of bamboo or willow root but is now made of high-impact plastic.
Rating: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
For more information go to: http://www.greenwichpoloclub.com
FROM THE MERRITT PARKWAY
Take the Merritt Parkway to Exit 31 North Street. At the end of the exit ramp, follow the sign “To Banksville, NY”. Continue for approximately 2.8 miles on North Street. Turn left onto Hurlingham Drive at Conyers Farm. Security will direct you from there.
FROM INTERSTATE 95
Take I-95 to Exit 3 Greenwich CT. At the light, take Arch Street heading north. Turn left onto Sound View Drive. Go up the hill and turn right onto Field Point Road. Proceed to the intersection with Putnam Avenue and go straight through onto Dearfield Drive. Continue north around the rotary onto Lake Avenue. Go north 1.5 miles and turn right onto Grahampton Lane. Continue east 1/2 mile and turn left onto North Street. Continue for approximately 2 miles on North Street. Turn left onto Hurlingham Drive at Conyers Farm. Security will direct you from there.