The Scene: Polo in Palm Beach
Picnics, parties and ponies, oh my! Before the season kicks off in January, we’re taking you on the scene of Palm Beach’s favourite sport.
There’s a reason polo is called “the sport of kings.” Genghis Khan played it. So did Alexander the Great. And Winston Churchill, who had an affinity for horses, lauded the game long after he had retired his mallet. Even contemporary royals compete from time to time. That’s more than two millennia of aristocratic fun, and although polo neophytes may be thinking, Isn’t that enough? it’s not—not by a 300-yard long shot.
It’s easy to see why this stick-and-ball sport has such enduring appeal: It’s fast yet graceful, physical yet technical. The field is the size of nine American football fields, which allows for hearty galloping and skilled mallet twirling. There are pre-game picnics and post-game cocktails. And, of course, there’s half-time, when blue-jeaned billionaires stomp divots alongside pretty ladies in pastels and pearls. That last part may sound clichéd—and certainly there are aspects of the game that don’t conjure images of Richard Gere and Julia Roberts—but at its core, polo is ritualistic.
The game’s popularity transcends culture, gender and age, and during the winter season, nowhere is it more prominent than in Wellington, Florida. A 30-minute drive west of Palm Beach Island, this epicentre of equestrian sports was the world’s largest strawberry patch until the early 1970s, when the farmland began to transform into the blue-blood horse country it is today.
Among Wellington’s gentle pastures, multimillion-dollar homes and private airplane hangars, polo and hunt clubs seem like urbane answers to society demands for entertainment. In fact, the opposite is true: These clubs helped build the community around them, and solidified Wellington as the world arena for polo’s winter season.
International Polo Club Palm Beach is one of the most renowned of these venues. The club is home to the highest goal season in the U.S., meaning that the teams who come to play are among the world’s elite, with handicaps of 20 or higher. During the 2014 season, which runs from January 5 through April 20, the club will host a series of tournaments including the USPA Piaget Gold Cup and the 110th U.S. Open Polo Championship, both 26-goal tournaments.
In partnership with International Polo Club, Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach is celebrating the season with the Polo in Paradise package. The package offers experiences ranging from a polo lesson with a pro to a sideline picnic to a VIP experience on polo’s biggest day of the week, Sunday.
So put on your fancy hat and pop the Champagne. Cliché or not, it’s polo in Palm Beach, and in this noble game, ritual is king.
Jessica Kenny contributed to this article.