many sports, polo has a special language. Its characteristics blend
the words of ancient Pakistan and the British Empire, modify by
American and Argentine slang. Underling that language, while not
crucial to the enjoyment of the game, adds yet another dimension
So here it goes...the 7th Chukkar’s guide to the language of polo.
A period of play. Known as a chukka in England and in India.
There are six chukkers of play in the usual game—each lasting seven
minutes, thirty seconds. A horn sounds at seven minutes to
warn the players. A second horn sounds thirty seconds later to end
play. Last chukker ends at seven minutes with no extra time.
An infraction of the rules. Polo play is governed by rules set forth
in the “Blue Book" of the USPA
A score. It is tallied any time a ball travels en the goal posts,
whether hit in by attacker ,
defender, or pony.
Comparative rating of polo playing skills awarded by the USPA
and its committees. Handicaps are expressed as goals and range from
- 2 (minus two) to 10 (ten), with ten being the best. There are only
five 10-goal players in United States. Most amateur players rate 2
goal or less.
One of the two the two defensive maneuvers allowed under the rules.
A mallet may be used to block player’s shot at the ball, although it
must be used in an approved manner. Unsafe hooking or hitting into a
pony is a foul.
A knock in takes place when the ball goes over the back line, wide
of the goal mouth. The defending team hits the ball back into
play from the back line. This gives the defending a free hit and can
often change the momentum n of play.
Line of the Ball
The imaginary line created by the ball in its travel. This is
the crucial concept which is the basis of play on the polo field.
Also known as a stick, this is the tool used to hit a polo ball.
The shaft of the mallet is usually made of bamboo, although graphite
and fiberglass are sometimes used. The head of the mallet is
hardwood, usually ash or maple. The ball is hit with the side of the
mallet head, not the end.
Out of Bounds
When a ball is hit over the side-lines, it is out of
bounds. The clock continues to run. Teams line up at that spot and
the ball is thrown in. Deliberately hitting the ball out in the
closing seconds of a match can be an excellent strategic play.
Designated 1 to 10, penalties are awarded depending on the
severity of the foul. The most comnion awarded are the 3, 4, and
5. in a penalty 5, the ball is hit by the fouled
team from midfield; in a 4, from the 60 yard line; in a 3, from the
40 yard line..
Number1-The most offensive player. This is similar to the
forward position in hockey or soccer. The number I player should be
an accurate hitter, but need not necessarily hit a long ball.
Number 2—Primarily an offensive player but also responsible for
defense, interchanging with the number 3 player. The number 2
player is often the second highest rated player on the team.
Number 3—The quarterback and play maker. The “3’ is usually the
highest rated and most experienced player. The number 3 player must
be a long accurate hitter but capable of close-in stick work and
THE BACK . This is a defensive position but a good back must
not only be able to hit a good backshot, he must also be able to
turn the play from defense to offense in a flash. The number 4
player is the last line of defense.
Approximately 3-1/2 inches in diameter an 4 ounces in weight, the
ball is made of hard plastic. At one time it was made of wood of
third official usually stationed on foot at midfield. Sometimes
known as the third man his decision is final in cases of disputes
When the ball rolls over the back line wide of the goal mouth as
a result of being touched by a defending man, the attacking team is
allowed to hit a safety from 60 yards out to a defended goal. The
clock is stopped and the ball is placed on the 60 yard line
approximately in line with the spot where the ball crossed the back
Back Shot—Hitting the ball in a direction opposite to
that in which the player is traveling. Neck Shot—A
ball hit under the neck of a pony. Tail
Shot—Hitting a ball behind the pony.
Off-side—The right side of the pony. Near-side—The
left side of the pony.
The throw-in begins play at the start of the game,
after each goal, and after the ball goes out of bounds. The ball is
bowled in between two lines of players.
The on-field official. Two umpires are on-field during the game
and usually wear black and white, vertically striped shirts.
United States Polo Association. The Governing body of polo.
Cloth bandages used to wrap the pony’s ankles for
support and protection.
They are usually in color and one player will often wrap all of his
ponies in the same color.