BMW International Polo Series 2013: Your Guide to Polo101


The sound of pounding hooves, the clashing of the mallets and tinkle of toasting champagne glasses can only mean one thing; it’s time for an encounter of sportsmanship, glamour and style at the 2013 BMW International Polo Series.

The much anticipated annual event will see Chile and South Africa play it out for victory. The two countries have an almost 40-year rivalry on the polo field; a fitting co-incidence since BMW South Africa also celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.

Whether it is your love for horses or the speed and sporting appeal of polo, the BMW International Polo series is an event to experience. In preparation for the Tests which will take place at Shongweni in Hillcrest, Durban on Sunday 18 August Waterfall Park in Sunninghill, Johannesburg on Sunday 25 August, we thought we would give you a basic grounding in Polo101.

Questions you have always wanted to ask

How many players are on a team?

There are four players per team in outdoor polo.

How long is the game?

A polo match lasts about one and one-half hours and is divided into timed periods called chukka. Each chukka is seven minutes long.

Concept and rules of Polo?

The basic concept is based on the ‘line of the ball,’ a right-of-way established by the path of a traveling ball on which strategic plays are made. The line of the ball defines rules for players to approach the ball safely.

The rules of polo are written and used to provide for the safety of both players and horses. The rules are enforced in the game by the umpires who blow whistles when a penalty occurs.

How are goals scored?

Players score by driving a small white plastic or wooden ball into the opposing team’s goal using a long-handled mallet.

Why are the polo horse’s manes clipped and tails tied?

Free flowing manes and tails are a danger in polo because they can become entangled with players’ mallets or with the reins as the rider tries to control his horse. Manes therefore are shaved and the ponies’ tails are wrapped or braided to prevent the hazard.

Why are there no left-handed players?

Lefties were officially banned from polo in the mid-1930s for safety reasons, but the restriction was relaxed after World War II when polo players of any persuasion were a scarce lot. The USPA reinstated the lefty ban again in 1974 and it’s stuck: there are no more left-handed polo players.

What do the positions of each player 1-4 mean?

The Number 1 is a forward, and attacking offensive player similar to a wing in hockey or a forward in soccer. The Number 2 is also primarily an offensive player who is expected to be able to turn quickly and follow the lead of the Number 1 in order to be in position to pick up a drop pass or take advantage of a missed or blocked shot. The Number 3 is usually the strongest player on the team and the field general. The Number 3 attacks the opposing defence and turns the ball up-field, usually with a pass ahead to his Number 1 or Number 2. The Number 4 or “Back”, as he is often referred to, is the most defensive-minded player on the team. His responsibility is to defend his team’s goal and he should be able to turn opposing shots at goal aside, or completely reverse the direction of the ball with a powerful back-shot.


Mallet: What a Polo stick is called. Mallets are made according to the player’s preference.

Pull: A stroke that is hit at an angle and crosses in front of the pony and their line of advance.

Approach Shot: This is a long shot taken with the purpose of getting the ball close to the opponent’s goal.

Centre T: A T-shaped symbol in the middle of the field with the top of the T running parallel to the side-lines. To start a game the two teams will be on either side of the T facing the same side-line. An umpire will be facing them and throw the ball between them and the game will begin.

Change of Ends: After a goal has been scored, the two teams will switch sides.

Cut: When a player makes a stroke that is at an angle to the direction they are riding.

Forehander: When a player hits the ball forward.

Topping: When a rider hits the ball too high.

Now, all that’s left is the outfit.

Be sure to bring along your families and a picnic basket to enjoy an afternoon of outstanding horsemanship and patriotic support of our South African polo team.

Public tickets for Shongweni and Waterfall are pre-sold on the South African Polo Association website ( and tickets are also available at the gates on the day. Shongweni tickets cost R80 per person (West Bank) and R50 per person (East Bank). Waterfall tickets are R100 per person. Children under the age of twelve are given free access.

Please refer to or for further information

Follow BMW on Twitter and join the conversation using #BMWPolo or on Facebook.


Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.