Sotogrande Polo

Cooler than the mint with the hole!

Sotogrande polo

The Mistress of Sizzle enjoys a bit of horseplay

There’s only one place to be in with the ‘in’ crowd in summer on the Costa del Sol (and it’s not Nikki Beach). It’s Sotogrande polo.

More specifically, get yourself to Santa Maria Polo Club for the Landrover International Tournament. It’s cooler than the mint with the hole!

Hang out with the hoi polloi at the beach clubs of Marbella if you will. Horses for courses …

… but if it’s a choice between watching

a) Premier League p***heads taking vintage champagne showers


b) four-horsemen teams displaying Apocalyptic skills on a field triple the size of a soccer pitch

… I know where I’d rather be.

For one, you get a better class of spectator.

Although I had to check the pages of ¡Hola! to realise I’d been mingling with the Duke of Anjou, the Duchess of Alba’s son and his Missus, plus various heirs to the Hermès and Domecq dynasties!

Sotogrande polo

Gladiators on horseback with Russell Crowe bodies

There’s a gladiatorial splendour to polo …

  • the serried ranks of equestrians built like Russell Crowe
  • the scent of new-mown grass and musky horseflesh 
  • enough ponies to shoot the remake of Ben-Hur…

Ask Jilly Cooper. She partially researched her blockbuster novel, Polo, from the sidelines of Sotogrande polo club’s nine manicured fields. She was so smitten by the world of ‘bankable patrons and bonkable players’, she’s writing a sequel.

The International Tournament’s 43rd edition featured a white-tented shopping village selling must-haves at go-without prices, Apres Polo parties awash with Grey Goose Vodka and players from 17 countries including five, 10-goal handicappers (and there are only seven in the world).

That’s the soccer equivalent of Messi, Ronaldo, Suarez, Ibrahimovic and Bale all at once. You’d never see that at Ocean Club!

The Sotogrande Polo Scene

(click, then click again to enlarge)

Except for Finals days, the Bronze, Silver and Gold Cup matches are FREE TO SEE, so it won’t cost you a mint. Although with an iced expresso at €4, wads of cash are required to see you through a long night of Gold Cup-winning drinking.

Sotogrande Polo Etiquette

There’s an art in not making a horse’s ass of yourself – and not only the ability to tell one end from the other after a pitcher of Pimms (they’re ponies, b.t.w., not horses).

With the Andalucia Polo Championship coming up (September 12-21), may I suggest a few pointers?

Sotogrande polo


By all means swat up on polo-speak (goal, ball, mallet) but on a need-to-know basis, you only need to know this:

a chukka has nothing to do with throwing up.

It’s a period of play in a match. There’s a three-minute break between each chukka, for players to change ponies and spectators to recharge glasses.

The Sotogrande polo set can put it away but they don’t do ‘drunk’. ‘Tiddly-poo’, yes. ‘Legless’, neigh, neigh and thrice neigh. Having to be carried out comatose? Social suicide!

Polite clapping between chukkas is encouraged. Chanting and screaming is not! When in Sotogrande, speak sotto voce: a simple ‘bravo’ or ‘jolly good show’ at normal decibel level works best.

(If from Essex, practice with a plum in your mouth.)

Sotogrande polo

Boho chic

Sotogrande polo

Trendy titfer

The dress code is studied casual. You want to create the impression you’ve come straight from the beach (the real one, not Nikki’s). Although it takes hours of meticulous grooming to achieve this haven’t-even-stopped-to-brush-my hair-dahling, boho chic look.

For ladies, anything goes so long as it’s not Polyester, accessoried with your poshest aviator sunshades and gladiator sandals/wedges (killer heels are a no-no on the hallowed turf and, in stilettos, you’d be rooted to the spot like a pegged tent).

For men, what else but a polo shirt! Well, trousers of course. Chinos in raspberry tones are very ‘in’ this season. Or shorts,  if you’ve the legs for them, worn with loafers (but never socks).

Locks should be stylishly ruffled or topped with a Panama hat, worn at a rakish angle, à la Johnny Depp.

Complete your look with a cute dog (on a leash). Four legs are better than two – and not only because the horsey set loves animals…

P.O.L.O. is also an acronym for something rather naughty but I won’t spell it out. This is a family blog.


OK, if you really want to know what P.O.L.O. stands for, you can do one of the following:

a) Ask an aficionado (but avoid those with a title and please be discreet)

b) Get Polo by Jilly Cooper (but I don’t have the page number)

c) Read my unexpurgated version in the esteemed, late-lamented Costa del Sol magazine, The Reporter. Photograph courtesy of Robin Chapman.

polo Reporter

How to Get To Sotogrande Polo

  • The main action takes place at Los Pinos grounds, near Torreguadiaro, but signposting isn’t great and there’s a nasty hairpin bend at a roundabout to negotiate. Here’s a Google map reference. Parking’s plentiful and free.

Tips and Timings

  • The International Tournament is held annually,  from the last week in July until the end of August.
  • Most matches start in the late afternoon, around 5.30pm but be warned –  Spain and horses don’t always run to time.
  • The Sotogrande polo set generally treat the matches as an aperitif to a very long night. If they’re not dining at the VIP restaurant on site, they return close to midnight for the after-parties, which carry on until the wee small hours.
  • Entrance is free except on Finals days when a fee is charged. In 2014 it was €20, but it goes to a good cause.
  • Bring the kids – they’ll love practising with a mallet and ball (no ponies) in the children’s garden.

Action 11Useful links:

Sotogrande International Tournament

Santa María Polo Club

About Sotogrande (the resort)

Property and lifestyle in Sotogrande 

Meet polo’s pukka pin-up player (even better than Russell Crowe)!


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