Can you play a match of polo for the same price as a game of golf? (Okay you can stop laughing now!). The answer is: plus or minus a few green backs – yes.
Let’s do a local comparison. Eighteen holes at Sandpiper on the weekend will set you back $159 – cart not included (that’s an extra $16). There is also a spectator fee of $25. Total tab with no cheerleaders: $175.
Four chukkers of polo in the Santa Barbara Polo Club arena: $175 – horses included. No charge if you want to bring friends to cheer you on – champagne not included. At the end of a fun day with happy spectators polo is cheaper!
Neither one will keep you up at night worrying about vet bills, horse shoes, or alfalfa. Granted the liability waiver you have to sign for polo is a bit heftier than golf.
You’ve probably figured out that this is a bit different than Sunday afternoon polo during the summer on the grand stand field.
Sixty-five percent of the membership of the United States Polo Association is rated at negative one. (Polo handicaps start at negative 2 and go up to ten.) This is the core of polo – people who love horses and the sport. It has nothing to do with Sunday afternoon field side luncheons, big hats, high heels or sports cars. Sunday afternoon is pretty and the other five days of polo are dirty (Monday is a day off in polo for those of you who think I can’t count seven days in the week.)
Leigh Brecheen who is the patron for Film Finances says, “The only thing glamorous about polo is that the outhouses have seat covers.”
Club chukkers are played on Tuesday afternoons through Sunday mornings. It’s a fun, low maintenance way to play polo. You can e-mail the polo manager and say, “I’d like to play four chukkers please.” The manager then creates a schedule of all the people who want to play. Some people only play one chukker and others play eight. She divides up the teams by handicaps so they are evenly balanced. One team will be told to wear red shirts, the other blue. Nothing fancy – blue jeans are okay.
After getting to know lesson horses you will find that a certain horse suits you well and you will want to take it home and put it in your backyard with the dog. The relationship a person can have with the right polo horse for them is the most powerful relationship you can even imagine. With the right horse you don’t even think about the horse – it becomes an extension of you – it makes you feel powerful and fast. This is when you might want to think about leasing a horse so you get to ride the same horse all the time.
John Westley runs the Santa Barbara Polo School where you can take a lesson for $100 – horses included. He will provide all of the equipment; all you need to do is show up with a pair of boots or shoes with a heel on them.
Some people play polo for decades and never buy horses. You can travel the world playing polo and never own a horse, feed a horse, clean up after or a horse or worry about vet bills.
The eight goal season continues and some of the players on the field also played in the spring twelve goal season and in the 20 goal summer season. What’s the difference? The eight goal does less damage to the patron’s pocket book. Since the professionals that play on the team are paid more if they have a higher handicap, sponsoring a twenty goal team is much more expensive than being the patron of an eight goal team. Some patrons co-sponsor a team and spit the expenses.
Steve Crowder of International Polo Connection leases horses (and sells -them should you fall in love). He will find pros to play on your team and even build a polo field for you…but that’s going a few steps farther than polo costing the same as 18 holes at Sandpiper.
The ball is made of hard plastic and is 3 inches in diameter. When polo is played in sand (in the arena) the ball is five inches in diameter and similar to a volley ball in that it is inflated and soft. The ball is bigger in a game in the arena because the horse hoofs will make a bigger divot in the soft sand. A larger ball is less likely to get stuck in a divot. In snow polo the ball is a bright color. Point of interest it hurts a lot less to get hit with an arena ball!
Current standings for the Harry East Memorial Tournament
Film Finances/Grant’s Farm: 1 0
Dark Horse : 1 0
Mansour: 1 1
Casa Sombres: 0 2
The battle for the Harry East Memorial trophy continues at the Santa Barbara Polo Club, Sunday, September 16th. At 1:00 Dark Horse will play Film Finances/Grant’s Farm and at 3:00 Casa Sombres will go up against Mansour. Lunch and drinks are available for purchase at the events. The club is located at 3300 Via Real in Carpinteria. For information call 684-6683.
On Saturday, September 15th Dark Horse will compete against Mansour at 11:00.
On Saturday, September 15th at 1:00 the Bella Vista Polo Club in Summerland, home to Ursula and Pat Nesbitt, will be the site of “Under the Harvest Sun” an event sponsored by Summerland Winery (owned by polo player Bilo Zarif) to benefit the Summerland School. For ticket information call 565-9463.
The Polo Set is appears on Saturdays in the News-Press and is written by Santa Barbara resident, Julia Michelle Dawson, a member of the United States Polo Association who has been writing about polo for the past ten years. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org