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A Polo Primer

What you need to know to enjoy the season, even if you’ve never heard of a chukker.


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Photo courtesy of Craig Fineman


For some people, the game of polo evokes little more than images of designer golf shirts and British princes. Sure, British military officers first played the sport in the Islands in the 1880s, but its present-day guard is primarily kamaaina. And spectators are more likely to be mistaken for UH football fans, rather than socialites.

This month, Oahu’s premier polo organizations—the Honolulu Polo Club and Hawaii Polo Club—kick off their 2008 season. For the uninitiated, here’s a quick guide to all the local mallet-swinging action:

The Sport:

Spectators will see two teams of four mounted players galloping full-tilt in up to eight different seven-minute periods, or chukkers. Their objective? To score by driving a 3½-inch wooden ball into their opponent’s goal with long-handled mallets. Ponies are limited to a certain number of chukkers in a match, due to the strain of almost nonstop galloping.

Photo courtesy of Craig Fineman


The Season:

Every Sunday from May through October, the Hawaii Polo Club holds its games at 2 p.m. at the Mokuleia Polo Fields (Farrington Highway, three miles past Waialua, 637-8401, www.hawaiipolo.com). Honolulu Polo Club matches take place at 2:30 p.m. at the Waimanalo Polo Fields (Kalanianaole Highway, across from Bellows Beach, 521-6927, www.honolulupolo.com).

The Cost:

Admission is $8 at Mokuleia and $3 in Waimanalo; both are free for children under 12. 

How It’s Like That One Scene from Pretty Woman:

If the turf is wet or particularly torn up, the crowd is invited onto the field to stomp divots back into place, a polo tradition.

How It’s Not:

A few traditionalists may don a blazer and slacks or sundresses, but shorts, T-shirts and slippers are more common.   

Where to Park It:

Although stadium seating is available at both polo grounds, many spectators park and tailgate around the 300-yard field for a view of the fast-paced competition. Gates open at least two hours before the game starts.
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