Rules of Polo

Basic Polo for Beginners


There are six chukkas in a ten goal game and four chukkas in a four goal game, each lasting 7 minutes, plus up to 30 seconds in overtime. During the 30 seconds overtime period, if the ball hits the sideboards or goes out of bounds, or if the umpire blows the whistle, the chukka is over. There is no overtime at the end of the last chukka unless the score is tied, at which time an extra chukka will be played until the first goal is scored. A player usually returns to each new chukka on a new horse, although he may rest a horse for a number of chukkas and play him again.


All registered players are rated on a scale of -2 to 10 (the higher the better). Although the word “goal” is often used after the digit, it bears no relation to the number of goals a player might score - only his ability. The handicap of the team is the sum total rating of its players and in handicap matches the team with the highest handicap gives the difference in rating to the other team.


Also knows simply as a “stick”. The shaft is made from a bamboo shoot and the head from either the bamboo root or a hard timber such as maple. These vary in length from 48-54 inches and are very flexible in comparison to a golf club or hockey stick.


Near-side is the left-hand side of the horse, off-side is the right.


Each of the four team members plays a distinctly different position. Since polo is such a fluid game, the players may momentarily change positions, but will try to return to their initial assignment. No 1 is the most forward offensive player. No 2 plays an equal part in offence but plays deeper and usually works harder. No 3 is the pivot player between offence and defence and tries to turn all players to offence. No 4 or the Back is a defensive player whose role is principally to protect the goal.


Any time a ball crosses the line between the goal posts it is considered a goal regardless of whether a horse or mallet caused the ball to go through. In order to equalise turf and wind conditions, the teams change ends after every goal scored.


A player is permitted to ride into another player so as to spoil his shot. The angle of the collision must be slight causing no more than a jar. The faster the horse travels, the smaller the angle must be. A good bump is a very unnerving tactic.


A player spoils another’s shot by putting his mallet in the way of a striking player. A cross hook occurs where the player reaches over his opponent’s mount in an attempt to hook. This is considered a foul.


Should a team, in an offensive drive, hit the ball across their opponents back-line, the defending team resumes the game with a free hit from the back-line. No extra time is allowed for knock-ins.

Out of bounds

When a ball crosses the sidelines or goes over the sideboards, it is considered out of bounds and the umpire throws in another ball between the two teams at that point. No extra time or time-out is allowed for an out of bounds ball.

Please see the Australian Polo Federation for the Australian Rules of Polo.