Sotogrande - Polo

Polo in Sotogrande. © Santa Maria Polo Club
Polo in Sotogrande

Polo in Sotogrande

by Saskia Mier

Polo came to Sotogrande thanks to two Filipinos, Joseph Rafael McMicking y Ynchausti and his wife Mercedes Zobel de Ayala y Roxas. Manila born McMicking, who had British heritage on his father's side, was the heir to a Filipino multi-national, Ynchausti y Compañía, while Mercedes was a member of the prestigious Zobel de Ayala family.

The McMicking family created Sotogrande and in 1965, the nephew of Mercedes, Enrique Zobel built the first polo field known as The Beach Ground (the beginnings of Santa María Polo Club). A couple of years later, in 1967, the ground began to be used for private and family tournaments.

The famous grounds of Sotogrande have been dubbed the 'Wimbeldon of Polo Pitches', they are renowned as the best in the world. This is partly due to their location; flanked on various sides by a tropical nursery, the Guadiaro River, extensive blue skies, sun and distant mountains. Yet they are close to the main A-7 highway, so greatly accessible. Field polo is very much still classified as a sport for the wealthy, with players from the international jet set visiting from all over Europe to play throughout the year in Andalucía’s matchless climate.

 

Polo Origins

Polo originates from ancient Persia in the sixth century BC. The game was modernised in India and became an anglicised form. More >

Ponies and Players

The polo pony ranges from 14.2-16 hands (147-163cm) in height and are usually thoroughbreds. More >

Game of Polo

Each polo team consists of four riders and their mounts. The game lasts two hours and is divided into periods called chukkas, More >

Polo Valley

Polo Valley offers their guests the opportunity to learn to play polo from scratch, without any need of previous experience. More >

Polo in Andalucia

There are several Polo Club's in Andalucía that offer training and hold tournaments. More >

CLUBS

There are four local Polo Clubs in the area. These include; Santa Maria Polo Club dominating the fields with its three sites and top facilities on and off the field. Ayala Polo Club (now in San Enrique), presided over by Iñigo Zobel son of Enrique Zobel the founder of polo in Sotogrande. Read Sotogrande History. Polo Valley, a new fully equipped complex, read about Polo Valley. Other clubs are Club de Polo Dos Lunas in San Martín del Tesorillo. Club de Polo La Capilla in San Martín del Tesorillo. La Querencia Polo Club in Sotogrande. Tres Rosas Polo Club in Sotogrande. Iridike Polo Club in Jimena de la Frontera.


Polo Tournaments

A number of tournaments take place throughout the summer months ( June to August) at the polo clubs in Sotogrande.  The most important tournament is Torneo Internacional Polo at Santa María Polo Club which in 2017 celebrates its 46th year. This is divided into three touraments Bronze, silver and Goold.  The tournnamets are free event open to the public, with the exception of the final of the Gold Cup which has an admision charge. During this period, a number of bars as well as the Santa Maria polo field's 'shopping village' will be open to visitors. There are also a number of hospitality area only open to invited guests. 

August is the peak season, with as many as ten games daily during the month on the five pitches around Sotogrande. Some tournaments are played from time to time in the Spring and Autumn.  Here is the 2017 Calendar PDF of the 'Copas de Bronce', Copas de Plata and Copas de Oro.

In matches played by handicapped players (as opposed to open competition, where handicaps are not considered), the handicaps of all four players are totalled. If the total handicap of a team is more than that of the team against which they are playing, the difference is added to the scoreboard and would begin the match with a two-goal advantage.

The handicap of a player will be written as HCP. The word Alto, Medio or Bajo will be put before the HCP to determine the handicap of the player, Alto meaning high (professionals), Medio meaning medium and Bajo as low (novices).

For a tournament, the total team handicap is counted and teams must have the same total handicap to compete against each other. Usually, a Copa de Bronze is for novices, with Copa de Plata being for higher handicaps, until you reach Copa de Oro tournaments which will be professional players with high handicaps.

AfterPolo

The 'Afterpolo' area is open every evening of the tournaments at Santa Maria with special events or 'fiestas' running each Friday and Saturday night. Each of these events features various different DJs and musicians as well as an appearance from some special guests. This area is cleverly located in space between the polo fields at Los Pinos. There is plenty of free car parking available, but be prepared for a little walk to the facilities.   

How To Get To the polo fields

To reach the main arena, Los Pinos, take the A-7 coast road towards Estepona. Take Exit 133. The entrance is a little hidden so one must take care. At the roundabout, take the 1st exit towards Torreguadiaro, but onto the service road as if going to the fruit stalls. On the right is a narrow entrance to a track with signage to the Polo Club. There is also an entrance from Sotogrande Marina which is opened at match times. There is ample parking.

The Rio Sotogrande (Los Pinos) fields receive the Medium Goal level in the International Polo Tournament among others in the fall, spring and summer polo season. They are located within Sotogrande Costa next to the A-7 coast road.

The Puente del Hierro fields I and II are usually reserved for the low goal International Polo Tournament and other tournaments of this level in winter and spring. The field III is used for practice. They are located on the west bank of the Guadiaro River, north of the famous 1929 iron bridge. From Sotogrande via Pueblo Nuevo take the A-2103 north and follow the small POLO signs.

    

 

Learning to play polo

After watching polo, you will be intrigued to get on a horse and try out the majestic sport for yourself, and now you can. Anyone, even if they have absolutely no riding experience, can have a great polo experience at Polo Valley. There are courses and training available for both the absolute beginner to the seasoned player.   More info about Polo Valley.