Why We Love L.A. Summers: Polo at Will Rogers State Park
Summer has arrived, and we're ready to celebrate all that screams 'tis the season in Los Angeles. From sand to summit, from sips to snacks -- we love L.A. summers.
The beach is an expected and traditional summer hangout for Angelenos, but it's not the only go-to destination available on a picture-perfect L.A. weekend. Will Rogers State Park, nestled in the Santa Monica Mountains and seemingly ages away from the mind-sucking traffic of the city, offers up a great outdoor diversion during the summer months without all the sand and sweat: polo.
Never watched a polo game? Chances are you're not alone, but it's not too late to gather up some fellow polo virgins and head to the sidelines to learn what the game is all about. The horses and jockeys of the Will Rogers Polo Club play nearly every Saturday and Sunday in the summer for your viewing pleasure. It's free to be a spectator—just pay the $12 park entry fee. Picnicking with a gaggle of friends (and a few drinks) on the lush, green grass makes the event feel a lot like your old college tailgating days (minus the rowdy frat guys).
We put together some general information below to help you prepare for your first visit to the field.
The History: The Will Rogers Polo Field is the last man standing, so to speak. Though L.A. was home to over 25 polo fields in the 1930s, none exist today but this one. The field and the land surrounding it once belonged to Will and Betty Rogers, and after Betty's death in 1944, the land was gifted to the state of California on the condition that polo continue to be played.
The Basics of the Game: Polo is a lot like football, just with horses and mallets thrown into the mix. Two teams of four polo players compete on a 300-yard-long field, and the object of the game is get the ball into the opposite team's goal using mallets. The players have six periods, or "chukkers," to outscore their opponents, and each chukker lasts seven minutes. Which ever team has the most goals at the end of the six chukkers wins.
The Players: Like other team sports, each polo player has a certain position and job. The forward attacks the opponent's goal, the defensive back protects his or her team's goal, and two mid-action players act as assistants to the forward or the back. However, as the chukkers roll along and the horses gallop up and down the field, the players may pick up any visible slack and play the part of other positions.
Fouls: The safety and fair play of all involved is monitored by referees, who also ride horses. It is legal for one player to use his or her mallet to block another players swinging mallet, but players are not allowed to cross the line of the ball in front of a galloping offensive player. This is highly dangerous, as it may cause a collision of horses and riders. Penalty shots are awarded to the opposing team when a player fouls, and serious fouls can lead to game ejection for the offending player.
Your Day: Because one game usually lasts around only 45 minutes, multiple games are scheduled in a row, allowing visitors to catch lots of action on horseback. Go on a Saturday and root on the players from 2pm until 5pm, or go Sunday and watch from 10am until 1pm. The games hustle along, so viewers that stay for the full playing window will most likely see four complete match-ups.
Vary your summer fun and help support these awesome athletes and animals by making a trip to the polo field a regular summertime outing. Prospective visitors can check the club's season schedule for when to go.
You never know, all the action may inspire you to take a riding lesson or two.