Rules of Polo

The Specatator’s Guide

Here are just a few of the basic rules of the game of polo.  On our main spectator days we usually have a commenator who will help to explain what is happening, but by all means, do pose any unanswered questions to our commentator in between chukkas and he/she will provide an explanation for everyone over the loudspeaker system to help everyone.

How many players in a team?
There are 4 players in a team, but at the lower levels, some players might share a ‘shirt’ and play 2 chukkas each.

There are two mounted umpires and sometimes a ‘third man’ on the sidelines. 
Captains of teams are the only players who can discuss questions arising during a game with the Umpires.  No player shall appeal in any manner to the Umpire for fouls, however many players have a short memory where this rule is concerned!

What is a chukka?
A chukka is  the name for a period of time – in this case 7 minutes with up to 30 seconds ‘overtime’ for all but the final chukka.  Play ends after the first bell when:
     1.  A goal is scored
     2.  A foul occurs
     3.  The ball goes out of play
     4.  The second bell rings
The term chukka is derived from the Indian word for circle or ’round’.

How many chukkas in a match?
Typically the polo matches you will see here at Sussex Polo are four chukkas long.  If you watch the Gold Cup at Cowdray or the Cartier International at Guards Polo Club then these matches are 6 chukkas long.
If you see a match in Argentine then you can expect eight chukkas.

Players return to the field with a fresh pony after each chukka.  Breaks between chukkas are three and a half minute and five minutes at half time.  Some players use the ‘Argentine hop’ to jump from one saddle to another to change pony.

How big is the pitch?
The main pitches here at Sussex Polo are full size.  A full sizeboarded pitch is 275m x 183m – that’s over THREE football pitches!

How tall are the goal posts?
The goal posts need to be a minimum of 10 feet high (3 metres) & light enough to give way if collided with.  They are 8 yards (7.3 metres) apart.

What is the ball made of?
The ball is now made of resin, although historically it was made of wood.
It is 3 – 3.5 inches in diameter (76 – 89 millimeters.
It weighs no more than four and a half ounces (120 – 135 grams)
The balls do get mis-shapened after being hit with the polo mallet – when hit by a polo pro at speed and with a heavy mallet head the ball can reach upto 190 miles per hour!  So it is prudent to be concious of where the ball is as it can change direction very quickly!

How long is a mallet or stick?
Typically a mallet or stick is 52 inches long but this can vary depending on the height of the pony or the length of the players arms!
Most popular lengths are 51 – 53 inches but sticks used for Pony Club ponies can be much shorter e.g. 47 inches.

What is the mallet made of?
The shaft is made of bamboo cane which gives it the flexibility to bend.  The mallet head or ‘cigar’ as it is called by trhe Argentines is made of ‘Tipa’ wood.