How To Speak Fluent Polo At The Heineken Urban Polo

Here’s everything you need to know for when the Urban Polo comes to Auckland on Saturday March 16

Experience this year's Heineken Urban Polo at Ellerslie Racecourse on Saturday March 16. Photo / Supplied

Hook, striker, worker bee, string and mount… all sound like terms reserved for a weekend spent in the great outdoors, not a day at the Heineken Urban Polo.

A clear highlight on the late summer social calendar, March 16 marks this year’s Heineken Urban Polo at Ellerslie Racecourse.

READ: The Rise of the Polo Shirt

While we’ve been fastidiously planning our polo-approved ensemble for weeks, we’re also brushing up on our polo knowledge so all that outfit prep is not in vain.

Here, we unpack a few key phrases to help the unfamiliar engage in some elevated polo tête-à-tête over Champagne and canapés at this year’s festivities.

Traditional polo dates back to 6th century Persia and is considered one of the most ancient team sports the world over.

Polo grew in popularity throughout the Middle Ages, where it was used to training cavalry for battle in the East. British tea-planters in India cottoned on to the notion, and took the sport back to England.

Today, Urban Polo is thought of as the new-wave iteration, which offers punters a fresh format to follow and gives faster pace than the original.

This year’s event will see six teams compete throughout the day, which translates into three short games of polo — two qualifying games and a final. Traditionally, each polo game comprises between four and six 7-minute periods of play, known as chukkas, during which four players hit the ball across the field using bamboo mallets, with the aim of their ball landing in the opposing team’s goal. There are four different positions on each team — a playmaker who is the tactical leader; the striker who plays offence; the back who plays defence; and the worker bee who switches between both. Polo ponies are technically horses, but in the field of play they’re known as the former. Each pony is permitted to play a maximum of two chukkas, and players will ride between 8 and 10 ponies per match.

If you’re still struggling to make the distinction between chukkas and mallets, then let us demystify some other polo-centric terms.

Mallet = This is the bamboo stick used by a polo player to hit the ball, which can only be held in their right hand. Bad news for the left-handed among us.
Hook = When a player hooks the mallet of their opponent to prevent them from hitting the ball.
Divot = The chunk of dirt or grass carved out of the ground by the ponies’ stops or turns.
Ride off = When a player pushes another off the line of the ball using their horse and body.
Handicap = Similar to golf, each player has a handicap of -2 to 10 goals. The highest ranking of 10 goals is incredibly rare. The country’s top player has a handicap of 8 goals.
Mount = Also known as a polo pony.
String = If a player is lucky enough to be mounted on a good string, it means they have a great selection of ponies to play, their ‘string’.

Keep your eyes peeled for Kiwi Sam Hopkinson — he’s played polo professionally for the last 15 years, even sharing the field with Princes William and Harry. The three-time New Zealand Open winner will be joined by top-ranked polo players from New Zealand and all over the world. In order to enter the field, players must wear the proper uniform — including a collared polo shirt emblazoned with their position number, white jeans, brown polo boots, knee pads, a helmet, goggles and a mouth guard.

You’ll want to mindful of the terrain and temperature when dressing for the polo — it should come as no surprise that high heels are best left at home. For the ladies, lightweight dresses or skirts paired with comfortable wedges or sandals should be the order of the day. For the lads, a tailored shirt with dress shorts or chinos, together with loafers or boat shoes is just the right level of summer casual.

Viva has an exclusive 15% off discount for tickets to the Heineken Urban Polo. Simply visit to secure your tickets to this unmissable event.

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New Zealand Herald

New Zealand Herald

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