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.
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 2021 celebrates its 50th 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 €). Premium areas are avalable and day prices range from 15€ for a shady terrace to 90€ for a premium seat. 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 11.30 hrs until 14.00 hrs.
Spring Polo Festival takes place almost every weekend from late March to mid July. Weekly tournaments typically start on Thursday or Friday and run until Sunday.
Summer International Polo Tournament takes place almost every day from 26th July to 28th August 2021 The world's best polo players will once again be in Sotogrande competing in the Copas de Bronce 26th to 31 July 2021), Copas de Plata (2nd August to 15th August) and Copas de Oro (16th to 28th August). In each of the three Copas tournaments there are are three different tournaments for the Low Medium and High handicap teams, making nine tournaments altogether.
Here is the 2021 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 2021 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. 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 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. Plans to redevelop this ugly section of road junction and service roads have rested 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.
Today the Santa María Polo Club is split into three grounds; Los Pinos, Río Sotogrande and Puente de Hierro.
Los Pinos polo field
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 field
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 field
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.