The basic rules of polo

The objective of the game is to carry the ball the downfield trying to score through the goalposts. After each goal the team swap sides, this makes it fair as weather conditions are compensated for. The rules largely apply to the players and their ponies. The line of the ball The basic rule is the line of the ball, which is determined by the course of the traveling ball. The line is set for the safety of the players and their ponies.

The line of the ball

When the Player has the line of the ball on his Right Side he has the ‘Right of way’. No Player shall cross the line unless it is at such distance that the slightest risk of collision or danger to the Player and horse involved. However the line can be ‘stolen’ by other players - this can be done by moving the player of the line shoulder by shoulder, in a so-called ‘ride off’, to steal the ball.

Fouls in field polo are penalized by penalties and spots. The more dangerous the foul is the harsher the penalty will be.

  • 1. 25 yards (penalty one) a. It can be defended by the fouling team
  • 1. 15 yards (penalty two) a. This penalty is undefended by the fouling team. The moment the shot is released one Player can run up and defend the goal.
  • 1. 25 yards (penalty three) a. This penalty is completely undefended. A player may hook an opponent’s mallet/stick, push him of the line of the ball shoulder by shoulder. The player who last struck the ball has the right of way which no other player can cross - unless the distance is so great that any possible collisions can easily be avoided.


Polo matches are divided up into time periods called ‘chukkers’. Usually, there are 4 chukkers in each match however in the ‘high-goal’ there are 6 to 8 chukkers.

Each Chukker is seven minutes and thirty seconds long, sometimes the chukkers can be six minutes and thirty seconds, after those seven minutes a Bell is rung to indicate that thirty seconds remaining in the game. However during the last thirty seconds, if the player fouls, the ball goes out of play or hits the boarding, the chukker ends. The last chukker is played until the first bell at seven minutes. Breaks between chukkers are three minutes long with a five-minute halftime.

Polo Players Handicap Rating

Polo Players are rated yearly on a scale of -2 to 10 goals, by regional and national handicap committees. All players male and female are rated under the same handicap system. A player's handicap is based on the net worth to the team play, hitting skills, anticipation, and overall understanding of the game and its rules. The rating given to players is termed in “Goals”. For example, if 4 three goals players formed a team, it would be a 12-goal team. If the opposing team's handicap is totaled 10 goals, there would be a goal advantage (difference in goals divided by 2) to the 10-goal team at the start of the game. Polo Matches are played in three levels(low goal, medium goal, and high goal) depending on a polo team’s total of each player’s handicap.

The term goal does not refer to how many goals the player will score in a match but indicates the players value to the team.

Player handicap range from “Novice” -2 to “Perfect” (10 goal).

During Museumplein Polo Amsterdam we play with 6 polo players (3 aside) with a team handicap limit of minimum 8 goals and maximum 14 goals.



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