Interest in the “sport of kings” is as high as ever, but options for watching polo in the Coachella Valley have changed and became somewhat more limited in the last year. While the options are different, the opportunity to enjoy this face-paced game makes it worth any challenge. This handy guide should help you navigate both the game and remaining local venue, Eldorado Polo Club, where two matches take place every Sunday afternoon from January 8 through March 26.

Curious about what lies ahead when you attend your first polo game? The basics are pretty straightforward, with the whole point being to move a ball downfield by striking it with a mallet, scoring a goal by knocking it through goalposts. Beyond that, here are a few fun facts that might help you demystify the sport.

Polo is the second fastest team sport (after hockey) with the ball traveling at speeds up to 110 mph. At one point, the mounts used for polo were restricted in height and were indeed “ponies.” Those restrictions were removed from the game, and now polo ponies are actually horses, usually thoroughbreds or thoroughbred crosses, and they’re fast!

Teams comprise four members, men and women alike, and their jerseys indicate the position they play. The player wearing #1 is the forward, and most likely to be taking shots on the goal. The #4 player is a largely defensive player. In between it all, #2 and #3 tend to control all the action, so you may see the #2 player race up the field, expecting a passing shot from the #3 player. That #3 player is strong on both offense and defense, acting as team captain and determining the strategy.

Players can only hit the ball from a right-handed position. Once a ball is struck, the “line of the ball” (the trajectory from where it was struck to where it is going), becomes a right of way for the player who has the ball on his or her right. Interfering with that right of way will incur a penalty.

And, speaking of penalties, there are no time-outs except for injuries or penalties. There are six periods of play known as “chukkers.” Each chukker is seven minutes long, after which the players change horses. There’s a 15-minute halftime when spectators go out onto the field to stomp divots back into place.

Now that you know a bit more about the game, you should be ready to plan your trip out to the polo grounds. For the 2023 season, that entails both advance planning and reservations.

Due to construction in the area, General Admission is not currently an option. Tailgating spaces were limited and made available on a reservation-only system for the entire season, and all are now sold out. Fans still have the opportunity to enjoy the action from the comfort of the tented clubhouse, where they sit at a reserved table and can order food and beverages from the kitchen.

It makes for a comfortable fan experience, but it does come at a bit of a price. Seats are $20 for one match, or $30 for both matches. (Parking is an additional $20 per vehicle.) A minimum of four people are needed to reserve a table. A variety of menu items, including sandwiches, salads and small plates, can be ordered to enjoy while watching the action. A full bar is available, as well. Reservations are required, and it is suggested that they be made several weeks in advance because the clubhouse routinely books up about two weeks before each Sunday’s matches.

Ready to enjoy some world-class polo, but still have questions? Visit the Sunday Polo page of the Eldorado Polo Club website for more information.

If you’re interested in learning more about this fun and fast-paced sport, there’s a great primer on the Polo America website that we found useful in compiling this post.

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