Sotogrande - Polo

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

Polo in Sotogrande

by Saskia Mier

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.

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 (read Sotogrande history), 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.


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 in sotogrande

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

Tournaments take place throughout the spring and summer months at the polo clubs in Sotogrande. The most important tournament is Torneo Internacional Polo at Santa María Polo Club which in 2019 celebrates its 48th year. This is divided into three tournaments Bronze, Silver and Gold. The tournaments are free events open to the public, except for a few major match days when it is 5 to 10 €). Food and drink available. On Sundays there is also extra foodie options, entertainment, kids play area and VIP areas. Matches typically start at 16.00h and run until 19.30h Sundays from 11.30h until 14.00h.

Spring Polo Festival takes place almost every weekend from 28th March to 14th July 2019 (excl. May 1 to May 16 and May 27 to June 2). Weekly tournaments typically start on Thursday or Friday and run until Sunday. 

Summer International Polo Tournament takes place almost every day from 25th July to 31st August 2019 The world's best polo players will once again be in Sotogrande competing in the Copas de Bronce, Copas de Plata and Copas de Oro. 

Here is the 2019 Calendar PDF including 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. More about the game of Polo. 


Watching the Polo

The Santa Maria Polo Club welcomes spectators during the summer late afternoons evenings; admission and parking is free.  

The main area is officially called Area B at the Santa Maria Los Pinos ground is between Polo Field LP III and Polo Field LP IV is the one to head for and includes from 17.00 hrs the bars, gastro garden (sushi and pizza, lolipops, ice-cream, pick-and-mix, and shopping village for panama hats, dress, costume jewelery, handicrafts. The downstairs of the main pavilion is open and devoted to sponsors stands. 

The other area is officially called Area A at the Santa Maria Los Pinos ground is between Polo Field LP II and Polo Field LP III and includes outside viewing terraces, kids area, and the 'After Polo' nightclub from 22.30 hrs.

The polo main matches typically starts at 19,00 hrs and lasts about an hour and a half. Consult the 2019 Calendar to see when and where matches are played. Those played on LP III or LP IV will be better ones to attend. 

Main Area B offers plenty to entertain and socialise. There is live music after the polo, typically funk, soul, jazz, and Cuban and at the end of the night is a Discoterraza. Naturally Friday and Saturday nights are the most lively. Sunday afternoon is also popular. There are front-line free bench-seating terraces overlooking Field IV. If the Polo is being played on  Field III, Area A offers a quieter and better public terrace to watch the polo with the evening sun behind for better photos.  Visitors may cross the Los Pinos III field from main Area B to Area A in the interval or after the match or walk round at any time. There is also a supervised childrens play area in Area A for a small fee

Dress is smart casual, typically for men Bermuda shorts and Polo tops, for ladies summer dress.  

The upstairs lounge of the main pavilion is well named 7th Chucker Club, the Sotogrande equivalent of the 19th hole, with access to the Premium Seating upper hospitality terrace and costs 150€ per evening. Reserved terraces alongside the field in Main Area A are also available for small to medium sized groups with hospitality included, and this also gives access to the 7th Chucker afterwards.



The 'Afterpolo' in Santa Maria Area A is open every evening of the tournaments at 22.30 hrs. There are 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.  

There is also a VIP hospitality area open to guests with Premium tickets located in the Central Pavilion. The live band starts after the Polo match has finished.  

How To Get To the polo fields

To reach the main arena, Rio Sotogrande (Los Pinos) fields, take the A-7 coast road to Exit km 133. The entrance is a little hidden so one must take care. If leaving the A-7 travelling east, at the first roundabout at the bottom of the slip road, take the 1st exit towards Torreguadiaro, but take the service road to the right as if going to the fruit stalls. 50m further inmediately after the old Bar la Parada on the right is a narrow entrance to a track with signage to the Polo Club. Continue down and after 300m on the right is the gate and security post to enter the Santa Maria Club.  There is also an entrance from Sotogrande Marina which is opened at match times.

Continue into the club with practice Polo field I on the left hand side, park in one of the several car park as directed by staff. There is plenty of free car parking available, but be prepared for a little walk on a unmade surface to the facilities which are split in two areas (A and B see above) between the three main Polo fields II, III, IV.  It is more than a little confusing for fist timers. As you arrive head for main area Area B with the main Pavilion which is to the left (coast). Area A for the 'After Polo' is to the right (A-7 road) .

There is further parking and access to the facilities on the river side by driving right around the narrow perimeter 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.