SANTA MARÍA POLO CLUB
by Saskia Mier
The Santa María Polo Club is by far the most well known polo club in Spain and also considered one of the best clubs in the world, providing exclusivity and glamour. It was the first polo field to be built in Sotogrande around 1965 and has since been improving the installations and reputation of the club.
A few of the club's polo fields have already been classified as World Class, with facilities dedicated to providing the highest quality of hospitality along with private and corporate events throughout the year. We cannot forget to mention the spectacular landscape with more than one million square meters of landscaped areas.
Dubai polo team won the 2022 Copa de Oro in the six team High-handicap, beating Marqués de Riscal by 12 to 9. This was a double win for team Dubai (promoted by thre Emirates family Albwardy) wned by who also won the silver cup. The Dubai team was captained by Camilo 'Jeta' Castagnola, and supported by Carlos Maria Ulloa, Matt Perry and Rashid Albwaedy. Dubai overcame a 1-2 poor start in the opening chukker and went into the long break with a three-goal lead, 7-4. Marques de Riscal worked doggedly to get back within striking distance of victory, and even pulled level at 9-all in the sixth and final period, with a 60-yard penalty from their best man, Sapo Caset. It seemed like Marqués de Riscal's were making a strong comeback much to their clear support from the Sotogrande spectators. Matt Perry from England scored three successive winning goals.
The medium and low handicaps of the Gold Cup were won by Ayala and Estancia Lamar respectively.
In 2022 the 51st International Polo Tournament - the principal three summer tornaments were organised by the Ayala Polo Club instead of the traditional Santa Maria Polo Club. There was no mention of the summer tournament on the Santa Maria Polo Club website or social media feeds.
Most of the matches including the finals still took place at the Santa Maria Polo Club's Los Pinos grounds in Sotogrande. Some of the matches were at the Ayala Polo Club grounds in San Enrique, so check the fixtures that we publish here just before the start of the 2023 tournament.
2023 dates are not likey to be published until early Summer. The 2022 dates as a guide were Copa Bronce - 25th to 30th July, Copa Plata - 1st to 13th August 2022, Copa Oro - 15th to 27th August 2022
Watching the Polo at Los Pinos ground
Spectators are welcome to attend the tornament matches which take place during the summer late afternoons evenings; admission and parking is free. Pre 2019 there was a entrance fee for the finals, this was not the case in 2021 or 2022. Probably the reason for the larger than normal attendence at the 2022 Gold final. Europa press reported 6,000 spectators, which seemed correct, 20% more than 2021 which did not; it was a lot more than 2021, leading to long queues the refreshment stands. Bring you own water in 2023.
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. This is the one to head for and from 17.00 hrs includes the main bar, and retail areaof about 10 stalls for panama hats, dress, costume jewelery, handicrafts. Entrance is by walking though the downstairs of the main pavilion which is devoted to sponsors stands and retail outlets. Upstairs is reserved for the VIP ticket holders.
The second area is officially called Area A at the Santa Maria Los Pinos ground is located 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.
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 evenings are the most lively. Sunday afternoon is also very popular. There are front-line free bench-seating terraces overlooking both Field III and 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. Vistors may walk around the field 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, summer hats are popular particualrly Panama hats.
The upstairs lounge of the main pavilion is no longer called 7th Chucker Club, the Sotogrande equivalent of the 19th hole. It is the upper hospitality terrace with premium seating. In 2022 acess was sold as 'VIP Daily Pass' costing 150 € per day including an open bar of soft drinks, water, wine and beer. Alongside the fielld are picket-fenced shaded terrace 'boxes'. Theses overlooking Field III and Field IV in Main Area A. These also available for hire with hospitality included to groups, tending to be corporate hospitallity rather than private parties.
The 'Afterpolo' in Santa Maria Los Pinos 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.
The live band starts after the Polo match has finished. The terrace serves drinks during the maatches and opens for dinner after the matches finish.
How To Get To the Los Pinos 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 ceramic shop or 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. Plans to redevelop this ugly section of road junction and service roads have been with the authorities for years.
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.
Santa Maria's Three Polo Grounds
Santa María Polo Club has three separate grounds known as Los Pinos, Río Sotogrande and Puente de Hierro.
Los Pinos polo fields
Los Pinos is the main ground to the polo club, offering two unique and exceptional spaces surrounded by twenty hectares of parkland for the celebration of unique events. It is here where the high handicap matches of the International Summer Tournament and most of the winter tournaments are played. The ground has four playing fields and one warm up field. (Location)
Río Sotogrande polo fields
The grounds of Río Sotogrande are located on the west side of the Guadiaro River, opposite to the grounds of Los Pinos, and used in the International Summer Tournament and other winter and spring tournaments for high and medium handicaps. Its construction began in 1984 and became the main area of the club, due to the destruction of the fields of La Playa (read Sotogrande history), until the creation of Los Pinos. The facilities consist of two playing fields and a multipurpose tent prepared for all events. (Location)
Puente de Hierro polo fields
The grounds of Puente de Hierro are situated further north of the Guadiaro River and have three playing fields, two of them reserved during the International Summer Tournament for use in medium and low handicap matches. It was inaugurated in 1992 and it is here where the new five star stable blocks for 39 horses are found. There is ample parking, extensive landscapes measuring 10 hectares and grounds to hold events and banquets. This ground was used as a film set for the popular Polo Scene in the season four episode six (Terra Nullius) of The Crown featuring the Prince Charles and Lady Diana 1983 tour of Australia. (Location)
Santa María Polo Club has a total of 160 stables in different areas of the estate, designed in an open form with front folding doors from the German company Rowe & Rub.
In addition, there is a state-of-the-art arena, with automated surface hardness control and innovative flood control system. The concept being that the horses will always work and train on an optimum surface.
The stable area has a video surveillance system allowing its control by private security personnel. This newest generation of stables were inaugurated in July 2010.
The Polo Club also offers educative clinics for those to enjoy an extraordinary day feeling the passion of the polo.
A unique experience based on theoretical lessons and basic practices where professional polo riders explain the rules of polo, the game and some basic tips. Participants are able to practice tackling with some of the professionals.
The polo manager will explain everything you need to know about the polo horse and lastly participants will be able to practice on a mechanical horse.
The day ends with a polo exhibition and the possibility of organising a spectacular Argentine barbecue.