County Polo, a regular feature for novice players at both the Beaufort and FHM polo clubs, is set to go up a gear this season.
Claire Tomlinson and Francis Matthews from their respective Gloucester and Sussex clubs, have been working together to produce a set of guidelines that describe the concept, and they are keen for more clubs to get involved.
Most clubs offer instruction and some offer instructional chukkas. The idea of County Polo - a seperate entity to Country House Polo - is to create a safe environment for players under instruction (maximum handicap -1) to enjoy the thrill of inter club competition in a controlled environment, where they are not necessarily the worst player and constantly being told to 'leave it!'.
It is played on a reduced size field, three on three, with an experienced umpire who communicates with the players throughout to help prevent infringements and help players learn the structure of the game.
the emphasis is on fun, safety and learning, and the environment, with no pressure from better players, is set up to improve skills at a slower pace. The three on three format enables everyone to get more of the action and makes team play easier to understand.
Incoming members with a limited budget can compete on one horse, playing two chukkas and sharing a place with another player. There are no professional fees, but increased involvement for everyone.
One club that is already keen to get involved is Ascot Park, which has been running academy polo for many seasons and has strong links with FHM. The clubs are in talks to arrange some inter-club dates for this summer.
Francis Matthews has also discussed expanding County Polo with David Woodd, chief executive of the HPA, who is eager for the idea to be adopted by more clubs across the country.
Claire Tomlinson has offered the Beaufort Polo Club as the venue for an end of season County Polo championship.
(Polo Times, Volume 14, Issue 3, April 2009)