The rules of the game
The rules of beach polo are slightly different to that of grass polo, with adaptations largely due to the smaller size of the ground.
Beach polo is played between two teams each made up of three players. The players in each team are numbered 1 to 3. Player 1 is the attacking position, player 2 is the midfield position and player 3 is the defence. There is only one umpire in beach polo. No player is allowed to approach the umpire during play.
The ground is a fenced area 100 yards long by 50 yards wide. The goal posts, positioned at each end of the ground, are six yards apart. This is similar to arena polo which is played in the winter.
Duration of Play
The full game is played over four chukkas. First three chukkas are seven and a half minutes long. The last chukka is played for seven minutes dead, unless there is a draw, in which case a knock out chukka is played. The clock does not stop when the ball goes out of play – in beach polo the clock is only stopped when a foul has been committed. There are intervals of three minutes between chukkas and five minutes at half time, to “tread in” the playing surface. Ends are changed at every goal scored. This has been found fairest when there is a strong wind and because of the direction of the sun.
Each player is handicapped from -2 for novices up to 10 goals for the top professional players, they are rated annually by their local polo associations. Currently there are only a dozen polo players in the world with a 10 goal handicap, in the UK the top handicapped player is 8 goals. The aggregate handicap of the three players in a team is the team handicap. For example, if all players have a handicap of two goals each, the team handicap is six goals and is referred to as a ‘six goal team’. In handicap tournaments, if both teams do not have an equal aggregate handicap, one team is given a number of goals start which is calculated as follows: the number of goals start is obtained by multiplying the difference between the two teams’ handicaps by the number of chukkas, and dividing by 6, any fraction counting a half a goal.
In 2012 team Joules and team First Great Western had a handicap of 15 goals to 14 goals respectively. Should the teams remain the same for the 2013 match Veuve Clicquot Polo on the Beach will be the highest ranked beach polo match of the year, with team Joules having a handicap of 16 goals.
Ponies can play a maximum of two chukkas in an afternoon with a rest of at least one chukka in between. There is no limit to the height of ponies. In total, around 26 to 28 horses are used for beach polo.
A player following the ball on its exact line has the right of way over all other players. Any other player who crosses the player on the right of way close enough to be dangerous commits a foul. Penalties vary according to the degree of danger and closeness of the cross. No player may hook an opponent’s stick unless he is on the same side of the opponent’s pony as the ball. Dangerous play or rough handling is not allowed – a player may ride an opponent off, but must not charge in at an angle.
The following penalties may be given:
- A goal is given if the cross is dangerous or deliberate in the vicinity of the goal. The ball is then thrown in 10 yards in front of the goal without ends being changed.
- Free hit from 15 yards opposite the centre of the goal – defenders to be behind the back line and outside the goal posts but must not ride through when the ball is hit.
- Free hit from 25 yards, same conditions as above.
- Free hit from 25 yards. Defenders to be 15 yards from ball.
- Free hit from the centre of the ground, none of the defending side to be nearer than 15 yards when the ball is hit.
- Free hit from where foul took place, no defender to be nearer than 15 yards.