Are you ready to immerse yourself in the exhilarating world of polo? Look no further than Buenos Aires, the vibrant capital of Argentina, where this captivating sport has a rich history and an undeniable presence. Whether you’re a seasoned polo enthusiast or a curious traveler seeking new experiences, Buenos Aires offers the perfect opportunity to witness the skill, power, and glamour of this ancient game. Join us as we delve into the fascinating world of polo in Buenos Aires, exploring its origins, the renowned tournaments, and even the chance to play the game yourself.
Table of Contents
- A British Heritage and Argentine Polo Ascendancy
- The Triple Crown: Argentina’s Elite Polo Season
- Witnessing the Drama: Where and When to Watch
- Passion and Glamour: Polo Beyond the Field
- Understanding Polo: A Brief Primer
- Exploring Beyond the Spectator Stands: Play Polo Yourself
- Embrace the Polo Fever in Buenos Aires
- Watching Polo in Buenos Aires
- Playing Polo Yourself
- Learning The Polo Rules in Argentina
- Also Read: WHAT IS THE NATIONAL SPORT OF ARGENTINA?
- The Polo Seasons in Argentina:
A British Heritage and Argentine Polo Ascendancy
Polo arrived in Argentina with British immigrants in the 19th century, and it quickly took root in the fertile soil of the pampas. The Hurlingham Club, founded in 1888 by four British expatriates, played a crucial role in the development of the local game. Named after its prestigious London counterpart, the Hurlingham Club became the first champion of the Argentine Open Polo Championship, now considered the most prestigious international interclub tournament.
Over the years, Argentina has emerged as the undisputed polo capital of the world, producing the best players and horses in the sport. Today, seven out of the eight international players with the highest handicaps are Argentine, including the legendary Adolfo Cambiaso, widely regarded as one of the greatest polo players of all time.
The Triple Crown: Argentina’s Elite Polo Season
If you’re planning a visit to Buenos Aires, make sure to schedule your trip during the spring season, which runs from late August to December. This is when the most significant tournaments in the polo world take place, collectively known as the Triple Crown. The Triple Crown consists of three renowned international polo tournaments: the Tortugas Open, the Hurlingham Open, and the Argentine Open.
The Tortugas Open kicks off the season, taking place from late September to mid-October. It sets the stage for the thrilling polo action to come, as teams from around the world compete for glory. Following the Tortugas Open, the Hurlingham Open takes center stage from mid-October to early November. Finally, the Argentine Open, the pinnacle of the polo calendar, arrives in mid-November and concludes in early December. Held at the historic Campo Argentino de Polo, also known as the “Cathedral of Polo,” the Argentine Open is a spectacle not to be missed.
Witnessing the Drama: Where and When to Watch
To experience the exhilaration of live polo matches, head to the Campo Argentino de Polo in the Palermo neighborhood of Buenos Aires. This iconic venue, located across from the Hipódromo Argentino de Palermo, provides an ideal setting to witness the athleticism, precision, and intensity of the sport.
Tickets for the Argentine Open and other major tournaments can be purchased in advance or at the event itself. While premium seats and luxury boxes offer the best views, affordable tickets are also available, allowing everyone to enjoy the excitement of the matches. Additionally, qualifying matches and youth tournaments leading up to the main events often offer free admission, providing a fantastic opportunity to immerse yourself in the world of polo.
Tickets here: https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=&ved=2ahUKEwiy-vTWj6-CAxVCRKQEHf_4A9oQFnoECB4QAQ&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.palermo.com.ar%2F&usg=AOvVaw2V_XDa7b4haEPh_EBB4QfZ&opi=89978449
Passion and Glamour: Polo Beyond the Field
Polo is known as a luxury sport, attracting investors with deep pockets, but in Argentina, it’s more than just affluence. Polo embodies a deep-rooted passion and a sense of tradition that transcends financial status. Argentine players participate in local competitions not solely for monetary gain but out of love for the sport and a reverence for the annual events that bring them back to their homeland.
The allure of polo extends beyond the field, drawing a diverse array of celebrities and enthusiasts to Buenos Aires. From actors like Will Smith and Robert Duvall to sports icons like Formula 1 champion Sebastian Vettel, the Argentine Open attracts a star-studded crowd. After the matches, the festivities continue with glamorous after-parties, featuring stands from top sports brands offering delectable snacks and refreshing cocktails.
Also read our blog about: Best Bars in Buenos Aires: Discover Argentine Party
Understanding Polo: A Brief Primer
To fully appreciate the thrilling action on the polo field, it helps to understand the basics of the game. Here are some essential points to grasp:
- Each team consists of four players, mounted on horses.
- Matches are divided into chukkas, typically lasting seven minutes each. The number of chukkas can vary, but the Triple Crown matches usually consist of eight chukkas.
- Teams switch sides after each goal is scored to account for any advantages due to wind or other factors.
- If the ball goes out of bounds, an umpire throws it back onto the field between the two teams.
- Handicaps, similar to those in golf, are assigned to each player based on their skill level. The sum of the handicaps determines the overall team handicap.
- Polo players traditionally hold their mallets in their right hand, even if they are left-handed. Adaptation and versatility are key to success in the game.
- While the players’ skills are paramount, the quality of the horses also plays a crucial role in the outcome of matches.
Exploring Beyond the Spectator Stands: Play Polo Yourself
For those seeking a more hands-on experience with polo, Buenos Aires offers the opportunity to learn and play the game firsthand. Numerous estancias, or large private properties, located just a short drive from the city, provide polo excursions for beginners and enthusiasts alike. These immersive experiences allow you to interact with horses, receive coaching from professionals, and even participate in friendly matches.
Argentina Polo Day, Puesto Viejo Polo, El Venado Polo, and Polo Elite are among the establishments that offer one-day polo programs. These experiences typically include transportation, a crash course in the rules and techniques of the game, watching club members play, indulging in a traditional Argentine asado (barbecue), and, of course, getting in the saddle and playing polo yourself. It’s an incredible opportunity to embrace the Argentine culture, practice your Spanish with locals, and create lasting memories.
Embrace the Polo Fever in Buenos Aires
Coming to Argentina to discover polo can be an incredible experience, and Buenos Aires provides the perfect backdrop for this thrilling adventure. Immerse yourself in the passion and tradition of this beloved sport, whether you choose to witness the high-stakes matches of the Triple Crown or try your hand at playing the game yourself. Don’t forget to explore this vibrant city, taking Spanish classes in Buenos Aires with native teachers to enhance your understanding of Argentine culture. From the spectator stands to the polo fields, let the spirit of polo captivate you in Buenos Aires.
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Watching Polo in Buenos Aires
The Campeonato Argentino Abierto de Polo (Argentine Open Polo Tournament). It is one of the most important international championships at the club level and is the fifth-oldest polo competition in the world (founded in 1893).
The tournament is held right here in Buenos Aires in the Campo Argentino de Polo (across from Hipódromo Argentino de Palermo, the race track in Palermo, at the intersection of Bullrich and Libertador) and begins this coming Monday, November 23rd (it was originally scheduled to start on November 20 but the dates have been moved due to heavy rain condition). It is a great way for students who want to stay in the city to get a taste of this Argentine sport while getting outdoors in the nice Buenos Aires summer! Interested?
An Up Close and Personal Polo Tournament: Going to the Campeonato Argentino Abierto de polo
There is seating on both sides of the field. One side has all of the expensive numbered seats, sponsor tents and most of the restaurants at the stadium. The other side has cheaper numbered seating in the middle and then a set of bleachers on each side. The bleachers do not have assigned seats so seating was a bit chaotic but was well worth the money saved. We were also on the “Ellerstina” side which meant most of the people in our section were devoted Ellerstina fans.
The match itself took just over two hours and was very exciting. Well La Dolfina, the favorites, had a sizable lead a majority of the match, Ellerstina came back in the end only to lose by 1, 13-12. This was La Dolfina’s third championship in a row which was an incredible feat!
After the match the stadium turned into a party atmosphere. Most people stayed to socialize, eat and drink with friends and fellow polo fans. It reminded me of the Kentucky Derby where the actual competition is second to the socializing and partying that takes place after. People were very well dressed and many people appeared to know each other. One nice part was it was of all ages – with adults, young-adults and children all commingling – so had a family feel.
I would definitely recommend attending a match at next year’s tournament! Even if you are not a fan of polo (yet) it is worth checking out. And be sure to stay after and partake in the partying!
Playing Polo Yourself
On the other hand for students who want to get a first hand experience in polo, you can go to nearby estancias (large private landholdings, similar to ranches in the U.S.) and learn to play the game yourself. I recently went with three friends to give it a try and absolutely loved it.
The day began with our guide picking us up in Palermo for the hour drive to the estancia. The transportation was seamless and our guide, Pablo, spoke both Spanish and English. This presented a great way to practice Spanish outside the Vamos Academy classroom in a real world setting! Upon arrival, we began drinking the first of many bottles of red wine, and learning the basics of the game. Shortly thereafter, we watched the members of the club play a recreational match and learned high-level strategy.
Once the club members game finished, we had a classic Argentinian asado (an Argentinian barbeque). The food was fantastic and included empanadas (savory wrapped pastries), plenty of different cuts of meat and of course, much more vino tinto (red wine). While the focus of the day was on polo, it was also a great way to get introduced to a traditional asado which I hope every student can experience once while in Argentina!
It was after the meal when the real fun began! We were given our equipment, introduced to the horses and began playing ourselves. We spent the first hour or so practicing hitting the ball while riding (with a pro riding behind us and passing up as we missed, which was incredibly helpful). While it was difficult, the horses were very well trained and followed the ball themselves, approached the ball on their right side and even slowed down to allow us to give a good swing. After an hour of practice we played a thirty-minute game amongst ourselves. It was definitely the highlight of the day as everything we learned culminated into a scrimmage. While we weren’t the best, we were competent enough to pass around and even score a few goals! By the end we were all wiped out from riding, swinging and even a little contact during the game (and probably from the wine too…).
There are many estancias just a brief hour or so away from Buenos Aires and they all offer some kind of one day polo excursion. We went through Argentina Polo Day. There are also Puesto Viejo Polo, El Venado Polo and Polo Elite, just to name a few.
Learning The Polo Rules in Argentina
4 horses on a side. 4 men on horses. The idea is to hit the ball through the goals. The team with the most goals wins. After each goal, the teams change side to compensate for wind and other interferences. The boundaries are marked by six foot high wooden fences.
The polo game is divided up into parts known as chukkas (or chukkers) A game might have 4,6 or even 8 chukkas. In-between these chukkas, which last 7 minutes each, the players have a few minutes break to switch to fresh ponies. The poorer leagues will alternate between two horses. Each player could ride up to eight ponies in a game of eight chukkas.
Also Read: WHAT IS THE NATIONAL SPORT OF ARGENTINA?
Handicaps such as those used in golf are often incorporated into the games: all the riders’ handicaps (assigned individually based on previous performance) are combined for each team. The difference between them will be divided by 6 and multiplied by the number of chukkas of play in the game and that number will be given as the number of goals to the side with the weaker handicap. This is done even before the teams begin to play. And so the game begins, the two teams of four line up smartly, sticks in hand. They line up in the order of 1,2,3 and 4 all obediently facing the umpire in the centre of the field. There are also two unmounted (without horses) that stand on the sidelines avoiding being hit by the balls, sticks and horses. The start is marked by one of the umpires ceremonially throwing the ball in hard and fast between the two teams.
The Polo Seasons in Argentina:
Spring season goes from late August through the end of December and a fall season, from early February through early May. The spring season is the one you don’t want to miss because during these key months the most important tournaments in the polo world will take place right here in Argentina. These tournaments are the Tortugas Open (end of Sept.-mid Oct.), the Hurlingham Open (mid Oct.-early Nov.), and the Argentina Open (mid Nov.-early Dec.). Together, the three of these constitute the Triple Crown of Polo, and teams compete year after year to see if one can emerge as the victor of all three. These open tournaments are open to all teams throughout the world, and since Argentina has so many excellent players that many times all of the qualifying teams are Argentine! For the fall season, the 2 main ones that happen yearly are Serie Internacional de Polo (April) and Copa de Las Naciones (April).
Although the Tortugas and Hurlingham Opens are held outside of the city, the Argentina Open is held right in the neighborhood of Palermo at the famous and historical Catedral del Polo. While it is necessary to buy a ticket in order to attend the Argentina Open and similarly big tournaments, other events like youth tournaments and qualifying matches of the major open, held at the “Polo Cathedral” are typically free to anyone who would like to come, watch, and get an idea of what polo is all about. These games are usually held from September to mid-October, although there are also a few free matches in February and March. To find out when and where the tournaments will be held, you can check the Asociación Argentina de Polo website.
As with the high stakes races and derbies in horse racing, this is an event where people go to both see and be seen. At these major events, like the finals, many people will dress to impress and will aim to be both trendy and comfortable. If you’re going to catch a free qualifying match or one of the smaller tournament games, then you don’t have to worry about dress code – just head out in your casual clothes!