The Rules of the Game of Polo

by Charles Kim

As far back as 2,000 years, a team of up to 100 riders on horseback faced another team of similar size, across a great field. With long mallets in hand they played a version of polo that was actually training for war. Today, polo is considered one of the most dangerous sports in the world and has a reputation as a pastime among the rich and famous. 

In a modern day polo match, riders on horseback chase down a ball travelling over 100 miles per hour, across an area as long as three football fields. With mallets held high, their aim is to ultimately thwack the ball further and faster toward the goal for a score.

Why Polo?

The sport of polo is very much part of the Engel & Völkers brand. There’s an Engel & Völkers Polo Cup tournament held in Mallorca, Spain every year and sponsorships of polo events throughout the world. The sport is a personal passion of the company’s founder and CEO, Christian Völkers, who believes that top real estate agents, like polo players, can only succeed through teamwork and a strong competitive spirit. If you’ve ever wanted to enjoy the thrill of polo, here are the basics to help you get started.


The Teams, Terminology and Equipment

There are four polo players on each team, sitting atop polo “ponies”. Each team is made up of “attackers” and “defenders” however these designations are thrown to the wind in pursuit of a point. The players are equipped with helmets, knee guards and armed with polo “sticks”. The goal of each team is to score as many points as possible by “knocking” the ball across the line between goal posts on opposite ends of the field, whether by player or by horse.

The Time it Takes to Play 

A polo match lasts one and a half hours. Play is divided into seven-minute periods called “chukkers”. There are breaks between each chukker that last three minutes long and there is a 15-minute half-time as well. The sport is demanding to both rider and horse, so each player has at least two polo ponies to switch out between each chukker.


The Divot Stomping Tradition

At half-time, spectators are invited to enter the field to “stomp the divots”. Divots are pockets in the field that are formed during play, and fixing them helps keep both players and ponies safe for the remainder of the game. 

Polo, An International Sport

In the 1920s and 30s, polo was at the height of its popularity and the U.S. teams were considered the best in the world. Up until 1936, polo was a Summer Olympic game. Countries where polo remains popular include Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Dominican Republic, France, Germany, Iran, India, New Zealand, Mexico, Pakistan, Jamaica, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.