Rules of Polo | How it is Played?

A bit of hockey, a bit of horse riding and altogether they form a game called “Polo”. Polo is an exciting game, it’s not a typical running game that requires athletic fitness level but riding skills and how well you manage the polo stick while riding. It is believed that the game originates from India, back in the 1800s when British were ruling the sub continent, they used to enjoy playing Polo.

Rules of Polo

The game was later brought to Britain and rules were established, and with the passage of time the game continued to make decent progress in the international sports world. The game is highly popular in Argentina, USA, and a few other neighbouring countries.

Object of Playing Polo

The object is simple, you have to score more points than your opposition. Each team tries to move the ball into the opposition’s half of the pitch and try to hit the ball through the goal score. Each team has their own goal posts to protect. Remember, everything is to be done with the help of a polo stick, you cannot touch the ball with hands or legs.

How to Play?

Polo is played with a Polo ball and a Polo stick. Each team’s players have their own sticks which they use to hit the ball towards the opposition’s goal post. There are separate goalposts to protect for each team and goals are scored by sending the ball in the opposition’s goal post.

There are some strict rules – given that a Polo stick can easily hurt any player – for tackling and goal scoring which you need to know if you wish to become a professional Polo player in future. You can read all the rules in the section below.

General Rules of Polo

  • Each team consists of four players.
  • Goal is scored whenever you send the ball through the opposition’s goal post.
  • Whenever a goal is scored, teams change ends.
  • Players can hook an opponent’s polo stick when they are trying to hit the ball, it’s legal.
  • Intentionally trying to injure an opponent is not allowed, neither you can touch the ball with any means except the polo stick.
  • All players can use their right arm only when hitting the ball.
  • Non-possessive player cannot cross the line of the ball, that means, they can only get the possession of the ball from either side but can’t run across him. Doing so would be called a “foul”.
  • A foul can be punished in the form of a free hit towards the goal.
  • The team with the most goals at the end of the match is declared winner.
  • If there is a draw, then the winner is decided in extra time. The first to score in extra time is deemed the winner. The extra time can vary between 1 to 7.5 minutes.


A coin toss takes place under the supervision of a referee, and the winner gets the chance to choose a side for the initial phase of the play. These sides are later exchanged after every goal.

Time Duration of a Polo Game

A Polo game can last for up to 2 hours and is divided into periods called chukkers. The number of chukkers per game can vary, while 7.5 minutes makes one chukker.

Polo Field

The game of polo is played on an outdoor grass field 300 yards long by 160 yards wide. At the center of each, there are lightweight goalposts 8 yards apart from each other.

Polo goal posts are approximately 7.3m wide in length and 3m high.

Playing Equipments in Polo

The game of Polo is played on horses. A polo stick is used to hit the ball while a polo ball. Players can wear helmets for protection which don’t have any such specification as they are for protection of the player and doesn’t have anything to do with the game.

Polo stick: Commonly used polo sticks are 52” and 53” long. They can weigh up to 205 grams. However, if one wishes to play with a smaller and less heavy stick, he has the right to do so.

Polo ball: Standard level polo balls are inches (7.6 cm) to 3 1⁄2 inches (8.9 cm) in diameter and weigh 3 1⁄2 ounces (99 g) to 4 1⁄2 ounces (130 g).

Playing Positions in Polo

Polo has attacking and defensive playing positions on which 4 players play from each side.

  • Position 1 is the striking position, a player who is most likely to score a goal. They are usually hard hitters of the ball. Position 1 player also has to be on the defensive side when the opposition has the possession and is near to their goal post.
  • Position 2 player is like position 1 player’s assistant. They can interchange positions when they want to or when it’s part of their plan.
  • Position 3 is an attacking position usually occupied by a player who has excellent aim and power.
  • Position 4 is a defensive position, they are supposed to stop the opponent when he is near to the goal post and the only way to do that is get possession of the ball and pass it to other teammates.

Types of Penalties

Here are 6 types of penalties that you may have to face if you make a foul:

Penalty 1: The non-offending side is awarded a foul when a player commits a dangerous foul in the vicinity of goal. In these instances, a team is awarded a penalty hit from the center of the play.

Penalty 2: This is the penalty hit by a non-offensive side fouled from the center of the 30-yard line nearest the fouling team’s goal or from where the foul took place.

Penalty 3: It is hit by the fouled team from the center of the 40-yard line nearest the fouling team’s goal.

Penalty 4: This is the free hit, hit by the team fouled from the center of the 60-yard nearest to the fouling team’s goal.

Penalty 5: It has two types of designations. One is hit from the spot where the ball was when the foul occurred while the other one is hit from the center of the field.

Penalty 6: This penalty is hit when a player hits the ball over their own end line. In this instance, a penalty will be hit from a spot 60 yards from the end line opposite where the ball crossed the end line. But it should be no more from the center of the 60-yard line.

Famous Polo Tournaments

Though Polo isn’t played much at international level, some competitive tournaments take place on yearly basis that contribute to the rapid growth of this game.

  • US Open Polo Championship
  • Cartier Queen’s Cup
  • Argentina Open Polo Championship

Governing Body for Polo

FIP (Federation of International Polo) is the international federation that takes care of the international polo games and tournaments all around the world. The federation was created in 1982 to enhance the status of the game of polo internationally.