Influential Clubs
by John Leicester, Editor, “Great Polo Clubs of the World”

Over the last 150 years, the sport of polo has grown by leaps and bounds thanks to legendary players, patrons and eye-catching tournaments. However, it is the strength of an increasing number of polo clubs that has provided the influential base to enable the sport of expand so much.

Launched in June 2008, a new coffee table book “Great Polo Clubs of the World” features vignettes in words and photographs of 63 polo clubs around the world, selected by author Roger Chatterton-Newman for the influence they have had – and continue to have – on the development of the “galloping game”.

The clubs are a mix of the oldest and the newest, beginning with Calcutta Polo Club where the modern game had its formative beginnings, enticing British military officers into playing this dynamic game. Before long, groups of officers were challenging each other to polo matches, taking this addictive sport with them when they returned to the British Isles, transitting Malta, and in the process helping to establish some of the oldest clubs in Europe – Malta, Beaufort and All Ireland polo clubs.

From there the game spread out to the British Commonwealth – Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Nigeria and Kenya, all homes to clubs with long histories – and into Continental Europe, France and Germany in particular. Even South America felt the British influence: Lima Polo Club in Peru was founded by George Lockett, one of a famed polo dynasty from Liverpool, while Irish settlers and their offspring (such as the first 10-goal star Juan (Johnnie) Traill and Roberto Cavanagh) were pre-eminent in the great early teams in Argentina. 

Chatterton-Newman, a former editor of PQ International and noted polo historian, brings the clubs to life through fascinating, brief histories that highlight how much influence each club has had on the development of polo in their respective countries.  

Not all the clubs listed have great history at their fingertips. Pioneering clubs in China (Nine Dragons Hill), Mongolia (Genghis Khan), Sweden (Stockholm) and Russia (Moscow) have only recently sprung up, showing the spread of polo in hitherto virgin regions and auguring well for the sport’s future development. 

However, all the clubs have one thing in common – they were founded by dedicated patrons, whose enthusiasm for the sport ensured the establishment of clubs, which in turn provided a setting for players to hone their skills and tournaments to raise the competitive edge. 

Two such patrons are responsible for bringing this wonderful book to publication in Thailand. Harald Link and Nunthinee Tanner were so enthused about playing polo that they built their own club, Thai Polo Club, in the beach resort of Pattaya to bring back to life the game that had remained dormant in Thailand for over 50 years. This beautiful club in its lush tropical setting is featured on the book’s cover, with young professional Matt Evett playing on front of the Thatched clubhouse. 

The club opened in 2004 and has hosted teams from Royal Selangor, Royal Pahang, Singapore, Nusantara (Indonesia) and Hamburger in competitive tournaments, with Royal Barcelona likely to be present in the coming season’s tournaments.  

Nor has Link’s and Tanner’s enthusiasm dimmed. At the end of 2007, they added a grade 1 eventing course within the club’s massive grounds, created by noted Australian designer Wayne Copping, to stage the eventing competition for the Southeast Asian Games and to host future events. And in October 2008 will open the first Rege Ludwig Polo School in Asia at the club, with the great man offering personal training from October to December to help raise polo standards in Asia. 

To give something back to the sport they loved so much, Link and Tanner conceived the idea of a book that focuses on great polo clubs instead of players and tournaments, something that will demonstrate how far their beloved game has spread. Roger Chatterton-Newman was commissioned to write the text. 

However, getting photographs from the clubs proved a time-consuming – and at times, seemingly impossible – task. It is difficult to believe how such a book could be achieved without the benefits of Internet and email. For instance, how could you get photos from Genghis Khan Polo & Riding Club, located a 7-hour drive into the Mongolian plains from the main city of Ulan Bator? Fortunately, Internet provided a connection and a link to Kathmandu, from where photos began to arrive. 

One by one, the clubs fell in line, with someone – club official or professional photographer – holding up their hands full of photos. There were some disappointments along the way. Irish photographer Bunny Parsons gave the editorial team palpitations at the last minute when he announced the demise of the Herbertstown club, only to become saviour in the next breath by pointing to Bunclody as the new driving force in Irish polo – and providing photos as well.  

Unfortunately, Internet proved a hindrance in attempting to contact Lima Polo Club. All emails and websites met with failure. It took a letter to the club to gain a response and Ezio Piaggio, a former club president, saved the day with information and photos of this renowned old club. 

Finally the design of the book was completed in March 2008, consisting of 176 pages in coffee table format, with two pages devoted to each of the 63 clubs featuring both text and photos, an historical introduction from the author and a foreword from His Royal Highness the Sultan of Pahang, Patron of the Royal Malaysian Polo Association.  

Copies of the book can be obtained from the Thai Polo & Equestrian Club at a cost of US$ 50 plus postage. Further information and purchases can be made through Santiago Bachmann, Manager, Thai Polo & Equestrian Club. Email: santithaipolo@yahoo.com



H.R.H. Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Cup Final (Mer
cedes Benz – Credit Suisse Thai Polo Open 2008) []

L'Occitane One Day Event 2008 []

Thailand Polo wins Royal Selangor International League Tournament []

Influential Clubs []